Which is the best Ergonomic Office Chair for me?

what is an ergonomic chair

So you want to buy an Ergonomic office chair in South Africa? The selection on offer is huge. How do you make the right decision for your needs? Learning about ergonomics and how to select the best ergonomic office chair, can help address health issues, improve your posture and allow you to stay comfortable throughout your working day.

1. What does “Ergonomic” actually mean?

Ergonomics is sometimes known as human factors engineering. Ergonomic products are designed to have a minimal physical and mental impact on our bodies. Your height, weight and build are just a few things that must be considered when designing an ergonomic product like an office chair.

ergonomic office chair

Computers and related products, such as computer desks and chairs, are frequently the focus of ergonomic design. Many people use these products for extended periods during their normal working day. If they are poorly designed or incorrectly adjusted, the person using them may suffer unnecessary fatigue, stress, and even injury.

2. How does Ergonomics relate to sitting and your office chair?

At the beginning of the last century, people realised that the wellbeing and efficiency of employees could be improved, and fatigue reduced, if workers were allowed to sit down while performing their tasks. This contributed to the study of ergonomics and a focus on designing seats for work. Today more than 75% of employees in industrial countries have seated jobs.

Unfortunately, our bodies are not designed for sitting, and doing so for long periods can have a negative impact on our long-term health and wellbeing. The most common health-related issues caused by sitting for extended periods include:

  • Neck pain
  • Backache, both lower and upper back
  • Shoulder pain
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Indigestion and excess body fat around the waist
  • Constipation 
  • Weakening of the large leg and gluteal muscles
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).

3. How does Ergonomics effect the selection of your office chair?

To determine what ergonomic features you require of an office chair, you need to consider these three element first:

a. Your body shape and size

Every one of us is physiologically different. We are not all the same height, we do not weigh the same, our arm and leg lengths are different, and so the list goes on. With this in mind, purchasing a chair for yourself becomes a very personal matter as the chair needs to meet your physical requirements. As an example, if you are very tall, a ‘standard’ chair may not be suitable for you.

ergonomic office chairs south africa

Not only must the chair meet your physical size and shape, but it should also take into account any special requirements that you may have. For example, if you have had a recent back operation, or you are suffering from Muskuloskeletal Disorders (MSD) such as lower back pain, muscle strains, tendonitis, etc. Does the chair suit these special needs? Do you require an Orthopaedic office chair?

b. Workstation setup

Your workstation is critical when selecting a chair. How high is the workstation? Can the chair be adjusted accordingly? Is there sufficient space below the desk or table to accommodate your legs? Can you place for feet in a comfortable position? Is your movement restricted?

c. The task you perform

What work do you perform at your workstation? For example, will the chair be used in an officelaboratoryfactoryhome office or a 24/7 call centre? Will it be used by a single person or will there be multiple users? What desk or table will be used? Do you have to perform physically demanding tasks like lifting objects at your workstation?

Only once you understand your physiological shape and size, workstation setup, and finally the task that you need to perform, can you select the correct ergonomic chair for you.

Ergonomic office chairs in South Africa and elsewhere, are adjustable and are designed to accommodate most people, viz. 90% of the population. The shortest and tallest 5% of people may need custom-made chairs. When it comes to chairs, there is no one-size-fits-all.

The greater the number of adjustable features a chair has, the greater the number of people that will be able to set it up in an ergonomically correct manner.

4. Features of an ergonomic office chair

  • Controls that are easy to adjust from a sitting position. This is especially important if different people use the same chair, for example hot-desking or shift work on an assembly line. The same applies if you use a common chair for different applications, for example, using your computer chair to also operate your sewing machine at home.
  • A seat with a front edge that curves towards the floor.
  • A seat that is height adjustable. (Simple guidelines on how to set up a chair for my height)
  • A seat that does not put pressure on the back of thighs.
  • Breathable, non-slippery fabric on the seat. Leather is a no-no.
  • A backrest that supports the lumbar region of your back.  A height adjustable backrest and/or an adjustable lumbar support is ideal.
  • A stable 5-star base.
  • Wheels or castors suitable for the type of flooring. Hard rimmed castors for carpets and soft/rubber rimmed ones for tiles, concrete or wooden floors.
  • A swivel mechanism. Synchro or Free-float mechanisms offer additional features and are the preferred option.
  • Adjustable armrests that do not interfere with free movements within your work area.

ergonomic office chair setup
Ergonomic office chair setup

With all the possible adjustments, there is a chance that the chair may be setup incorrectly. Unless you have some prior knowledge, correctly setting up a chair that has all the adjustable features like seat height, backrest height, backrest angle, lumbar support, seat depth, armrests, etc, can be quite daunting.  

Get professional help to setup your chair if you have an underlying medical condition. An incorrectly adjusted chair may aggravate the condition, or cause additional complications.

sitting at your desk

5. Ergonomic office chairs from Karo

We have a broad selection of ergonomic office chairs that we sell to clients throughout South Africa. Our products can be split into two main categories, namely executive and task chairs. In general terms, the executive chairs have a higher backrest than the task chairs. To be classified as ‘ergonomic’, our office chairs meet the following important criteria:

  • All controls allow you to quickly adjust the chair from a sitting position. Naturally the seat height can be adjusted to suit your height and your workstation. Find the correct height for your desk, computer monitor and ergonomic office chair.
  • All seats have a front edge that curves towards the floor and they are upholstered with a breathable, non-slippery fabric.
  • The backrests provide lumbar support for your back. In many cases, the lumbar support is adjustable.
  • Most backrests are mesh which improves breathability and allows them to ‘mould’ into the shape of your back, so providing greater ergonomic comfort.
  • All our ergonomic office chairs are fitted with a synchro swivel mechanism that promotes dynamic sitting.
  • Height adjustable armrests are standard. In many cases, for example on the Alya and Firefly, we offer multi-adjustable armrests that also provide width and angle adjustability.

For more information on our ergonomic office chairs, contact us or visit our online shop.

6. Conclusion

How to select the best ergonomic office chair from all those available in South Africa, requires a basic understanding of office ergonomics. The chair must have the necessary adjustment features you require for your workspace setup. An ergonomic office chair will only be of benefit to you if it has been adjusted correctly for your specific needs.

A chair becomes ergonomic only when it specifically suits a person’s size (body dimensions), their particular workstation, and the tasks that they have to perform.

Author: John Karle
Director at Karo Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd
1 June 2021 (rev 1)

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