Say you work 9 hour days in an office job, Monday through Friday, five days per week. How much time do you spend in your chair? Take a guess. Perhaps you spend an hour each day on lunch. You also spend time going to the bathroom, looking in your filing cabinet, talking to the receptionist, etc. Maybe, you can reasonably guess that you spend 5 hours of every work day in your office chair. Multiply that by 250 work days per year, and that equals 1,250 hours annually spent in your work chair. That's over 1,000 hours per year spent ruining your back, legs, arms, neck, posture and other various systems of your body--if your office chair isn't ergonomically safe. An ergonomic chair can help protect your body and prevent straining of the arms, legs, back and other parts of the body.
Look for these Adjustable Features
Ergonomic chairs come with a range of features that allow the chair to be adjusted to the needs and body type of the user. A quality ergonomic chair will allow the following features to be adjusted:
- Arm rests. Will move up and down, may move in and out to be closer to or farther away from the body.
- Seat - Will move up and down, forward and back.
- Back - Can be adjusted forward and backward, with separate lumbar support.
- Head - Will move up and down to support the back of the head.
Test the Chair for Neutrality
"A neutral position," as it is referred to by ergonomists, is a common term that refers to the most natural position of the joints and posture of the body. A neutral position involves no straining of the arms, wrists, legs, ankles, back or any other part of the body. Neutral positions are natural and comfortable. To pick the best chair for your needs, find a model that allows you to sit in the most neutral position possible.
To properly adjust an ergonomic chair for position neutrality, adjust the seat height so that the knees are at or slightly lower than the height of the hips. Position the seat pan so that it is a few inches from the back of your legs, and so your back is fully touching the back of the chair. Adjust the arm rests so that your elbows are relaxed at your sides.
Pick a Chair that's Comfortable
Once you've determined that a desk chair can be adjusted to ensure position neutrality, the last thing to consider is your comfort in that chair. Ergonomics is about comfort--long term and short term. In other words, if you don't feel good sitting in a particular chair, it's not the right chair for you. Test out various chairs as you're looking for the right one for your office.