Computerization of work over the last two decades has led to a major increase in the number of people who use a computer to accomplish everyday tasks. In fact, from 1989 to 2000, the percentage of those using a computer for work has jumped from 33% up to 57%. Most of these users work in front of a computer on a daily basis (IRSST, 2008).
These changes have inevitably led to physical health problems associated specifically to office work, most notably in the upper limbs and spine. This article will guide you in choosing the right ergonomic chair and will help you understand the impact this choice has on your work posture.
There are multiple elements to consider when choosing an office chair, however these guidelines will simplify the task. It is important to analyze the user’s shape and size, the tasks involved and the specific work environment. Here is a description of the key elements to consider before purchasing any equipment:
1- Anthropometric measurements of the user
The average size of an adult man or woman is used as a reference when designing an ergonomic chair. However, many people are not average in size or shape which means many components of the chair must be modified.
For example, a very tall person needs a deeper seat to ensure proper support of the lower limbs. An overweight user may need a larger seat and a short person a narrower seat to ensure proper ergonomic positioning. In short, each person’s unique anthropometric measurements are essential to make the right office chair choice.
2- Pain or particular user conditions
Many scientific studies regarding the effects of office work unfortunately report many cases of discomfort and pain. Although pain may be caused by improper workstation layout, other underlying circumstances can also lead to specific problems. In such cases, special attention must be taken in choosing an office chair.
If a person suffers from back pain due to a herniated disc for example, it becomes important to choose a chair with sufficient lumbar support. A worker suffering from tendonitis in the upper limbs on the other hand may need the support provided by armrests.
3- Adjustment of different chair components
These elements must be considered when choosing an ergonomic chair:
- Adjustable height, depth and angle of the SEAT to ensure an ergonomic posture for users of different sizes;
- Adjustable height and angle of the BACKREST to provide lumbar support;
- Adjustable width and height of the ARMRESTS for proper shoulder positioning;
- Removable or articulating armrests to allow worker the possibility of moving closer to the work surface.
Office desk choice
Choosing the right office desk also requires careful attention. Consider the following elements:
- Available space and layout (rectangular desk, L-shaped, individual or open work space, etc.);
- Main tasks involved (computer, clerical work, client meetings, etc.);
- Placement of keyboard and mouse based on size of user and tasks required (keyboard-drawer or on work surface);
- Possibility of investing in adjustable work tables to allow alternating between sitting and standing.
The importance of healthy work habits
Although the use of specialized equipment and optimal workstation layout are important to ensure worker health, these elements alone do not suffice.
In fact, all office workers must pay particular attention to their posture and take regular micro pauses every 15 to 20 minutes. These micro pauses should include stretching and warm-up exercises aimed at stimulating circulation and preventing pain.
Proper organization at work is also important. In effect, there is strong evidence demonstrating that many hours in front of a computer screen, lack of variation in work tasks as well as stressful work environments all contribute to the development of musculoskeletal disorders.
Choosing the right office chair may seem like a daunting and complex task when faced with all the choices available. Ideally, for a chair to be considered ergonomic, most of its components must adjust to adapt to each user’s size and needs. It is therefore necessary to carefully analyze the user’s anthropometric measurements and work environment. Do not hesitate to contact an expert to discuss your unique needs!