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What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair

Statistics tend to vary but on average people will spend over 7700 days, or 21 years of their lives sitting. Typically, professional office workers with desk bound jobs will spend about 70 percent of their time sitting at their workstation, on average 5 hours and 41 minutes per day.

With some of these facts, figures and statistics, it makes sense to invest in the right ergonomic office chair for you. One that will encourage your natural posture, supporting and reducing stress on the ‘S’ shape of the spine and the pelvis. Allowing ease of movement, being fully customizable and adjustability are key, this helps with proper alignment of the head, neck, shoulders and hips. Reducing strain on the body and preventing harmful positions such as slouching, hunching and over extension of the neck with the head in a forward position.

According to the health and safety executive, ergonomic injuries such as back pain are responsible for 39% of all work-related ill health in Great Britain. It’s complicated because back pain is multi-causal in its nature, with sitting/poor posture, stress, nutrition, hydration and exercise all having an impact on the person’s overall well-being and therefore level of risk of back pain. However expensive and multi-functional an ergonomic chair is, we highly recommend people examine their posture and any bad habits they may have developed over the years, like slouching and their general sitting behaviour, so they become much more informed and proactive.

As mentioned in the accompanying illustration the differences in our body shape, height and weight needs to be taken into consideration. Adjustability is perhaps one of the most important aspects when it comes to choosing the right ergonomic, office task chair. Ensuring that you can adjust it to match the individual user. In order to be considered ergonomic, the chair has to be designed to take in the entire human form from head to toe.

No one type of ergonomic office chair is necessarily the best, you will have to decide what the key, important features are and the precise benefits they will provide for your specific needs. Remember if you feel comfortable it’s easier to focus, so your chair will have a profound relationship with your productivity.

We’ve put together this guide highlighting a variety of features to look out for, we’ve also included four examples from our 2 chair suppliers, Flokk and Corrigo. Two furniture brands that have an exceptional reputation for ergonomic design, style, quality and product range. At different price points, each chair offers different unique features.

However comfortable a chair is, our advice is to always try and get up at least every hour to take a posture break. Because we tend to slip back into bad habits built up over the years, a break allows you to take some time to check in, bring your awareness to your posture, to be mindful and to slowly improve the way you sit.

During your posture break – get up, walk around, move, do a stretch or a simple exercise and make sure you’re properly hydrated. If you’re using a sit -stand desk, set a timer and transition from sitting to standing roughly every 40-60 mins.

Whatever you choose, just make sure if possible that you take the opportunity to user test a variety of different chairs out.

What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair

1. Headrest

This tends to be an optional extra with most ergonomic office chairs. They should have the ability to go up, down and to tilt. If you suffer with neck or shoulder pain you may benefit from the extra support they can provide, but for some people they can take a bit of getting used to. As an aid they’re also helpful in acting as a reminder in helping to improve your posture alignment. In a reclining position, headrests can provide moments of relaxation, allowing you to lean back for a little break. Some people also find this relaxed position comfortable when they are on long phone calls.

What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair
What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair

2. Backrest with mesh or fabric backing

Mesh backed chairs allow better airflow, keeping you cooler through the extra ventilation they provide. Some argue that mesh will mould to your specific body type better. They require little maintenance and are easier to clean. Depending on the quality, over time cheaper chairs can start to sag and lose their durability. By their design and construction they can also be slightly lighter in weight.

Fabric will offer you a vast range of colours and textures, advanced fabrics can be breathable and stain resistant. They come in a variety of materials including wool, acrylic, polyester, chenille and leather. A big factor in how comfortable a chair is over time is the quality of the foam cushioning used. This will go some way to explain the price point, comfort and durability that different chairs offer.

3. Height adjustable backrest with lumbar support

The right lumbar support is a crucial component for your lower back and the natural curve of the spine. This is one of the most important features of an ergonomic office, task chair. Backrests should be adjustable in height, they should also have tilt options at various angles forward and back and also have a locking mechanism. Most chairs come with adjustable backrests, so you can find the right height depending on how much back support you like. As a guide some ergonomists recommend the backrest should reach to the centre of the shoulder blades, or even higher.

What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair
What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair

4. Independent height adjustable lumbar support

Some chairs have an independent height adjustable lumbar support, giving even more lower back support and customisation.

5. Padded seat with breathable cloth fabric

As mentioned with the backrest, the same rules apply to the seat with the quality of the upholstered foam being very important. Over time as the seat gets more wear and tear, durability is important. Inferior foam can lose shape and compress, causing discomfort, imbalance, and potentially hip and back fatigue. Breathable fabric allows the body to remain cool.

What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair
What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair

7. Seat tilt and tension adjustment

An adjustable tilt of the seat tends to be standard on most chairs, the advice can be confusing with some experts recommending a 90 degree angle between the hips and the knees. Some chairs also tilt forward, this allows the chair to tilt past the horizontal upright position. Some ergonomists prefer this position, ensuring that your knees are below the level of your hips. When your pelvis is tilted forward your lumbar spine curves naturally and the rest of your spine follows, providing less stress on the hips and back. The tension feature allows you to increase or decrease the force needed to tilt, allowing you to move freely leaning back or forward so the chair follows your every movement. Depending on the task in hand, whether you’re on the phone, in a meeting or typing. Some people find this rocking/reclining motion comfortable. Whatever your preference, low level movement should be encouraged, this motion is part of the philosophy describing active sitting.

8. Seat depth adjustment

Regardless of your height and body ratio, whether you’re long or short in the thigh, having the ability to adjust the seat depth backwards or forwards allows you to be fully supported by the backrest. The other important factor is to allow a space of 2-3 inches between the back of your knees and the chair, preventing the front edge from cutting into the back of your knees restricting blood flow.

What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair
What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair

9. Seat lock

If you find an angle for your chair that feels right for the work you’re doing, then taking the chair off free flow and locking it in a certain position is fine. Though our advice is not to stay in one fixed position for over 30 mins.

10. Five point base

A five point base will give you all the stability you need, preventing the chair from tipping over, even if you’re in a fully reclined position. The Hag Capisco range of chairs from Flokk has grooved foot plates on the base, another natural place for your feet. Some people even use these to do little exercises – small upward movements where you raise your body very slightly off the chair, this comes under the term active sitting. Foot Bases usually come in high-grade plastic or polished aluminium.

What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair
What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair

11. Recycled materials and sustainable manufacturing

There’s now a recognition that sustainable and responsible manufacturing is increasingly becoming very important and a major issue for the future of the planet. Depending on your list of priorities it’s possible to find companies which have very good eco credentials, issuing bold statements in reducing their carbon footprint and minimising waste generation, but do beware of greenwashing. The major aim has to be to reduce the impact on the climate and the amount of materials and energy consumed. This circular economy is being embraced by businesses where recyclable raw materials are being used and durability is built in. Giving office furniture a second life means replaceable parts are easily available, reusing wasted materials. Regenerating and repurposing makes sustainability a win-win situation for everyone.

12. Castors

Most chairs come standard with hard castors, so it’s important you get the right castors. A soft floor is where the floor is carpeted, a hard floor refers to a hardwood flooring, laminate, tile, or concrete. Soft floor castors are ideal for hard floors and you won’t have to worry about the wheel damaging the surface. Using the right castor will make a difference in how well they perform.

What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair
What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair

13. Chair swivel

Any conventional style or ergonomic chair should easily rotate so the user can reach different areas of the desk without straining or over extending. When working at a desk you often have to stretch to reach the phone, paperwork and stationery etc. An ergonomic chair should enable you to reach all areas of the desk, therefore having a chair that enables ease of movement helps to ensure that muscle strains are reduced. Having the swivel function also makes it easy to turn and face colleagues or customers when talking to them.

14. Pump for lumbar cushion

Some chairs have this special feature, a pump design allows you to customise and change the shape of the lumbar cushion in the backrest to your needs, fitting the curves of your lower back and spine. This also helps to prevent or alleviate a wide variety of muscular skeletal issues.

What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair
What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair

15. Gas lift height adjustment

The seat height is crucial in setting up your chair for a perfect ergonomic set up, this will largely depend on your height. Unfortunately the standard fixed height of most desks doesn’t accommodate tall or very short people, so the ergonomics will always be compromised. Just to recap, the basic rule of thumb that most experts can agree on is to have your feet flat on the floor, thighs horizontal or at a slight incline from the hips down to the knees as already mentioned, shoulders should be relaxed and not raised, arms even with the height of the desk. elbows and lower arms should rest lightly, if you’re typing float your hands above the keyboard, try to avoid resting your forearms on the armrest.

16. Seat width and depth

The average ergonomic office task chair will fit most body types for weight and dimension, usually 17-20 inches wide is the standard to accommodate most people. Unless you’re at the two extremes eg a very small, petite framed individual or very tall with a much larger frame, these average chair dimensions may not work for you. Some chair manufacturers offer a choice of sizes on the depth and width of a chair. This is to ensure that your weight is distributed with the pressure even across both hips. Your seat should be wider than your hips, allowing an extra 2” is ideal. As already mentioned with your back properly supported by the backrest, allow a 2-3 inch space behind your knees to avoid pressure.

What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair
What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair

17. Adjustable armrests

With armrests that adjust and move up, down, forwards or backwards and to the side it’s possible to achieve an ergonomic sitting position that provides the exact support needed for your arms and elbows when resting with the shoulders relaxed and not raised, Some chairs allow the armrests to slide back and out of the way, other chairs have no arm rests at all and this again comes down to how you use a chair and personal preference. See no 10 for more info on posture and alignment.

What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair
What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair
What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair
What to look out for when choosing an ergonomic office task chair

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