Many people seem to be talking about ergonomics. Whether you already have a traditional office chair and are thinking of switching, or you are fresh in the market for a new chair, it is important to know if you should choose an ergonomic chair.
Evidence to support using an ergonomic chair
In 2012, researchers conducted a systematic review of several studies on “the effectiveness of a chair intervention in the workplace to reduce musculoskeletal symptoms” .
The researchers found that there was a reduction in self-reported musculoskeletal pain immediately after the intervention. These studies were based on the fact that prolonged sitting is known to be associated with musculoskeletal dysfunction.
Simply put, these analyses affirm that the wrong workplace setup can be the cause of work-related morbidity. The results also help us to conclude that the right chair makes a noticeable difference.
What makes a chair ergonomic?
In a previous article on what makes a chair ergonomic, we shared valuable details on what to look for in a truly ergonomic chair. Here are some of the points:
- Seat height must be adjustable to allow your feet to rest flat on the floor with your knees at a 90-degree angle.
- Your seat should be wide enough to have a couple of inches of space on either side and deep enough so that the edge of the seat is a couple of inches behind the back of your knees.
- A seat with tilt functionality is a plus because seat tilt promotes a healthy pelvis position.
- There must be good lumbar support and adjustable armrests.
- Efficient wheels and swivelling must be present to make movement smooth and less strenuous.
Check out this video for further pointers on adjusting your chair:
Benefits of using an ergonomic chair
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive deeper to find out how ergonomic chairs make a difference in the occupational health of workers.
Less lower back and neck discomfort
Lower back and neck discomfort are among the most common complaints amongst office workers.
Some blame the poor design of traditional office chairs. Ergonomic chairs often have better lumbar support and adjustable headrests as well. These features will allow you to sit for long hours in a more relaxed, comfortable way.
One major problem associated with traditional chairs is the tendency for users to lean forward. This typically happens because of insufficient back height.
In an ergonomic chair, the backrest comes with full length and is designed with support for the natural curved posture of the back. With these features, an ergonomic chair helps to prevent an office worker from having poor posture and the pain that it can cause.
Reduced hip pressure
The hip joints are found where the thigh bones (also known as femurs) join the body. You can end up with pain in one or both hips because the hip joint bends and supports most of your body weight when you’re sitting.
Ergonomic chairs help provide adequate seat depth that supports the hips. This leads to less hip pressure.
Contrary to what some business operators might think, a happy and stress-free employee will not be idle.
In fact, at the onset of stay-home mandates due to covid19, many companies that had feared a loss of productivity when their employees were working from home noticed the complete opposite: productivity increased and there was an improvement in staff morale .
A similar result happens when a traditional office chair is replaced with an ergonomic chair.
Imagine the relief and joy felt by a worker who was previously battling work-related discomfort and fatigue when he no longer has to face those problems.
That should be motivating, and that’s exactly what several studies have found – choosing comfortable and ergonomically designed office chairs can have a major impact on employee happiness.
As a consequence of being happier, workplace productivity was found to be simultaneously increased.
Increased business profitability
The initial investment in ergonomic chairs is often seen as an expensive choice. Many potential users and companies put off the purchase as a way to save money.
However, choosing to buy an ergonomic office chair can result in long-term savings. As an individual, increased comfort allows you to better focus on your work.
This unlocks greater productivity while improving your overall wellbeing.
For a business, increased productivity will mean higher profits, and healthy workers might mean fewer employee disability payouts. These will eventually offset the first expense of purchasing an ergonomic office chair.
In one study on ergonomic interventions on productivity, one group received a highly adjustable chair and training on office ergonomics.
The study found that the benefits of receiving a highly adjustable chair along with training in office ergonomics were around 25 times greater than costs in the first year .
In other words, ergonomic chairs, along with ergonomic knowledge paid off! Thankfully there are numerous options for ergonomic chairs. With prices ranging from high-end pieces to more affordable choices, there is an ergonomic chair to fit every personal or business budget.
Are ergonomic chairs just a fad?
There is archaeological evidence to suggest that ergonomic considerations are not so new.
Some of the earliest Egyptian dynasties had several man-made devices displaying intelligent ergonomic designs .
The invention of the task chair was a long journey of change that began with Charles Darwin’s “wooden armchair on wheels”.
His rustic office swivel chair was not adjustable as ergonomic chairs should be, but it marked the beginning of a modern era in office chairs.
The introduction of rail transport in the mid-19th century resulted in an explosion of businesses. Consequently, the need for more clerical staff rose.
These workers were spending a great deal of time sitting down every day. They needed new features on their office chairs to improve their comfort throughout the day.
It was Bill Stumpf who, in 1976, would later design what we now know and accept as a modern ergonomic office chair.
His Ergon Chair boasted several features that made his design truly ergonomic: five-point legs with castors, foam-filled seat and back, height and tilt adjustability, and improved spine support.
The iconic (and expensive) Herman Miller Aeron would soon follow, building and improving on Stumpf’s first design.
The journey that had been started by ancient Egyptian ‘designers’ had continued and had become an advanced mix of sciences. The ergonomic chair had proven that ergonomics was a concept that was here to stay.
An ergonomic office chair can greatly impact your life as an individual worker.
Deciding on an ergonomic chair will also positively affect the life of your employees if you are a business owner.
In any case, if you’re thinking about investing in an ergonomic chair, it may seem like an expensive move with few benefits. However, it can turn out to be the most impactful decision you make for the occupational well-being of yourself and your staff.