How to select the best ergonomic chair for me

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how to select the best ergonomic chair

So you want to buy a new office chair and 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 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.

what does ergonomics mean

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?

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).

An ergonomic chair is designed to reduce the impact on your body, of the above sitting-related health issues.

sitting can effect your body. Why ergonomic chairs are important

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

Before deciding on the ergonomic features you want for your chair, be clear about the type of work you will be performing when sitting down. This will have an impact on the ergonomic features you require not only for the chair, but for the workstation as a whole. 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?

Ergonomic chairs 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 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.

how to select the best ergonomic chair

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.  

Note: 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. Conclusion

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

Author: Joachim Roetger
Director at Karo Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd

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