How long do you sit at work? If you are like the majority of the readers to this blog, we are in jobs that require us to sit for long durations without enough dedicated time for work breaks or even less seated work. But, here’s the thing: research has shown time and time again that long-term sedentary (aka sitting) behaviours are not the best and can actually be risky to our health. That’s where having a good ‘ergonomic’ chair can be a valuable asset and add to that it’s usually the first thing that we think of when we want to improve how we work. Even with all the available information on the benefits of improving the working environment, one thing that tends to hold many back from getting a better ergonomic chair is their cost. Why the high price-point of many ergonomic chairs? In this post I go into what makes a chair ergonomic and why it is such a good investment. Check out our 4 points below!
4 Reasons Why An Ergonomic Chair Is Worthwhile
1. Discomfort And Injuries Can Cost You
Many tend to overlook the costs associated with discomfort and workplace injuries when deliberating whether to purchase ergonomic chairs. This is because of the their relatively steep price tag. Note: I’ll jump into the cost of these chairs in just a second. That price tag shouldn’t negate the value that an ergonomic chair can bring to an organization’s employees either in retention, injury prevention savings, or productivity improvements. Research shows that lower back discomfort is a leading office complaint and lower back pain is one of the leading causes of work-related disabilities and Workers’ Compensation costs in the United States and other industrialized nations. A standard solution to prevent or significantly reduce lower back pain risks is with a chair that offers superior lower back support – aka an ergonomic chair.
Let’s talk about the cost of chairs. A good quality ergonomic chair may cost upwards of $500. Note: I’ll tell you what to look for in an ergonomic chair in point 4. An injury may cost an organization more than this alone in one week in Workers’ Compensation costs and other lost revenues. It’s very likely that these costs would overshadow the cost of the chair if the person is away from work due to an injury. Something that shouldn’t be overlooked is the value that the chair has over its entire lifespan since most ergonomic chairs offer some sort of warranty that adds value with their longevity. Let’s say you purchase a $1,200 chair with a 12 year warranty. That means that it would cost about $100/year to use the chair.
To those keen observers, I’m not saying that a good ergonomic chair will stop all workplace injuries from occurring, rather a well-made and supportive chair is an excellent investment to mitigate ergonomic risk. For even more ways to reduce ergonomic injuries from occurring, check out this free ebook.
2. An Ergonomic Chair Fits You Like A Glove
When you have a good ergonomic product that means that there is a really good fit between it and you. Just like when your hand smoothly slides into a glove, an ergonomic chair should support and optimize for neutral body positions. Heck, there is even an ergonomic product out there called the Handshoe Mouse, but I digress. Similar to the glove analogy, an ergonomic chair will be designed to fit your body type optimally but you may need to find just the right size to fit you. When you look at all the different body types (see nifty graphic below!) out there it makes sense that one chair (even with the appropriate adjustments made) couldn’t fit the entire working population.
I can give you the bullet-proof strategy to find an ergonomic chair (apart from all the functions and features I list in point #4) that comfortably fits you. Sadly there are no short-cuts here. You’ll have to physically sit in any and all perspective chairs for a certain period of time. My bullet-proof strategy to find a suitable chair for you is to trial all similar feeling chairs for about 20 minutes each to help you decide if it’s right for you (no fancy algorithm required). This is the research supported time allotment required for you to determine if there are any differences between similar feeling chairs so you can pick out which one is the best for you.
3. An Ergonomic Chair Means The Back Is Optimally Supported!
Ergonomic chairs offer superior lower back (aka lumbar) support and this is what sets ergonomic chairs apart from all other chairs! I would consider it the number one benefit of using an ergonomic chair and it’s why they are so valuable to an organization. Ergonomic chairs do this by having just enough backrest pressure delivered to just the right lower back area. There is firm research to support that optimal lumbar support can prevent back pain.
Now, for the ergonomic chair to deliver on this, the lumbar support needs to be optimally positioned for YOU! It needs to fit exactly in the small of your back, so when trying out chairs or adjusting the one already in your office you’ll need to first sit in your chair and then adjust it. How you adjust it depends on the type of chair you have. You can either adjust it by lifting the entire backrest of the chair or just the lumbar support section upwards or downwards. Some chairs even allow you to increase or decrease the pressure of the lumbar support too, this option is usually just on the higher priced ergonomic chairs.
4. There Should Be Other Ergonomic Features Too
When it comes to making a decision to purchase an ergonomic chair, it comes down to that it can be adjusted to fit you perfectly whereas a normal chair simply cannot. The features below outline the ergonomic features that can be adjusted in a typical ergonomic chair.
- Height Adjustability
- Lumbar Support Adjustability (height and perhaps pressure)
- Multi-tilt and Synchro-tilt (for the backrest and entire chair tilt)
- Seat Pan Slider
- Seat Pan Tilt
- Armrest Height and Width Adjustability
ONE MORE PIECE OF ADVICE: An ergonomic chair can easily turn into just a ‘normal’ chair if it has never been adequately adjusted for its user. So, familiarize yourself with the chair features either at the showroom or when you first set-up the chair in your workspace!