Choosing The Best Office Chair: An Ergonomic Guide

Choosing the best office chair might be more important than you think. And not just for your productivity. Making sure you are in the correct position for the majority of your workday is crucial in preventing strains and musculoskeletal problems.

Neck, upper limb and above all, back pain are among the workplace ailments most commonly complained of. Unsurprisingly then, it’s also one of the biggest causes of absenteeism in Australia. And for the sufferer, it can cause great discomfort and pain, and hit productivity.

And the no.1 cause of these problems is poor work posture. The tendency to lean over the desk and look downwards places strain on the neck and back muscles and curves the spine. On top of this, most people still don’t correctly align their chair with their desk and keyboard, which can lead to a host of repetitive strain injuries.

All of this happens because, in reality, we did not evolve to be sat in one position all day. Sounds pretty bleak huh? Well, the good news is that 90% of these problems can be prevented. Even in the home office, finding and maintaining the correct posture is the best way of staving off future issues. With the correct office chair and a little understanding of the ergonomics involved, these problems can be prevented.

So how then how do you choose the best ergonomic chair, and what should you be looking for? Below we explain everything you need to know to choose the best chair for you.

Which Chair Is Best For The Office?

To begin choosing the best office chair for you, first of all you need to consider how you use it, and what you use it for. And the answer won’t be as simple as just sitting! Not only do we all have different frames and builds that require a different chair set up. We all have different needs depending on the exact job we do, and even then, we all have our own work styles. And if you have a home office you need to consider the style of the entire house too!

The best office chair will always be the chair that works the best for your frame, your job, and your office. Ergonomically designed chairs take account of all of this, allowing the flexibility to alter your position and find the best and safest position for you. An ergonomic office chair will offer lumbar support to protect your back. They will often come with many other ergonomic touches in the chair design, of course. The subtle slope of the armrests, or the curve of the front of the seat: they might not seem it at first sight, but all of this is designed to keep you in the best position.  

But the type of chair must suit the job. Architects and designers will require an ergonomic draft chair so they can work on drawings, whereas most office staff will be best suited to a task chair. Some people will find they are better suited to a kneeling position, or prefer to use an active stool to keep themselves moving.

What’s not in question though is that whichever office chair you choose, paying careful attention to the ergonomic benefits it offers is crucial. To help, we created this best office chair guide just for you.

What Is The Best Ergonomic Office Chair?

Choosing the best ergonomic office chair can be a complicated business, so we’ve listed the key things you should be looking for when selecting an office chair. 

Chair Seat Material

The material of the support and the seat of the chair itself is important as it affects the amount of padding and support you experience. You also want to choose an office chair made in breathable materials that allow airflow, to help keep you cool during the workday.

Height Adjustable Headrest

Most people have a tendency to lean into their work station. If you work on a computer all day this is only natural. However, it leaves us in a position that is very unnatural for human frames. This leads us to the importance of the headrest. Choosing a chair with a range of options for the headrest setting helps you to relieve the strain on your neck easily.

After all, your head is heavy, so having a headrest that allows you to support or rest your neck, whilst maintaining optimal typing position could save you a lot of pain in the long run. 

Adjustable Backrest

One of the key causes of lower, middle and upper back problems in the office is the leaning posture adopted by many at work. Many of us use our chairs as little more than stools, ignoring our backrests as we lean closer into our screens. However, this is a mistake. Curving the spine can lead to a host of spinal and muscular problems. 

An adjustable backrest allows you to optimise the angle between seat and back, so you can maintain the natural curve of your spine, without placing strain on your back. 

Adjustable Lumbar Support

Lower back pain can be very debilitating. When you consider the amount of weight the lower spine and lower back muscles have to support every day, it’s really no surprise these ailments are so common, or that they’re so painful. 

However, the vast majority of lower back problems can be easily avoided simply by maintaining the correct seated posture, using a chair that supports the lower back. Lumbar support is designed to fill in the natural curve in the lower back, providing support to the muscles that most need it, and maintaining the natural position of your spine. 

And as we are all built differently, the ability to adjust this is crucial to find the best support for your frame. 

Adjustable Armrest

Adjustable armrests are a must if you are to avoid repetitive strain injuries (RSI’s) like the dreaded Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. RSI’s occur, as the name suggests, when the tendons and ligaments in are subjected to the same stresses day after day, week after week. These little microaggressions build up to cause inflammation, tendonitis, and much worse ailments. 

Anyone who has suffered from this will testify to the importance of correct wrist, shoulder and arm positioning. Typing with the arms bent extends the tendons and ligaments in the arm, making them more prone to strains. Selecting the correct seat height is obviously important here: but then you need to support your arms in the correct position. Which is why you need adjustable armrests. 

Height Adjustable Seat

For all of the reasons above, making sure you have your seat height correct is crucial. There’s no point in setting all of your other parameters correctly if your chair height is wrong. A height adjustable chair (and seat) is a must for good posture.

The perfect seat height allows you to move in as close as possible to your desk, whilst keeping your eyes level with the top of your screen. Your arms should be parallel to your body, bent at 90° at the elbow, and be perfectly in line with your keyboard. 

Seat Depth

Choosing an office chair with adjustable seat depth will allow you to find the best position to suit the length of your legs. This relieves strain on the hips and knees. it also directly affects the amount of lumbar support provided, as the correct seat depth will help prevent problems.

Adjustable Tilt

Chairs with adjustable tilt allow you to really fine-tune your position and can be especially helpful if you switch between positions often. Even better, once you’re done for the day, you can lean back and enjoy the warm glow of a hard day’s work safely done. 

360° Revolution

For most of us during the workday, issues come from all angles. Even on a quiet day, we often still need to turn around to access files or papers, or just chat to the intern. That’s why the ability to spin your chair to speak to colleagues, or customers, quickly, and without twisting the spine in the process, is so important. 

Many spinal injuries are the result of sudden twisting movements, so a revolving office chair allows you to change the angle of your seat whilst maintaining your optimum seated position. 

Castor Wheels

As above, you might not be staying in one position, or indeed in one place, for the whole workday. Being able to easily scoot your office chair over to your drawers or files, or wheel it over to team meetings, means you have your optimum set up in all of these settings.

Mesh Back For Support And Comfort

Mesh back chairs offer the same level of support, if not more, to chairs with upholstered backs. The key difference is that a mesh back chair allows for airflow, keeping you cool during the workday. Trust us, this can be a godsend on the hotter days! So you can keep cool even when everyone about you is losing theirs.

Chair Seat Material

The material of the seat of the chair itself is important as it affects your comfort. You also want to choose an office chair made in breathable materials that allow airflow, to help keep you cool during the workday. 

What Is The Best Office Chair For Sitting Long Hours?

The best office chair for sitting long hours will be the one that allows you to find the best position for you, where the neck, back and arms are all correctly supported. So, there’s no one answer to this question. 

Also, this will be defined by the type of work you do. An architect will most likely need a different chair to an administrator, for example. What is certain though, is that you need a chair that is ergonomically designed to provide the support you need. 

That means a chair which is fit for purpose, but allows the flexibility to find the seating position which best suits your frame. If you are seated for most of your workday, correct lumbar support and maintaining the correct angle and level to your desk, keyboard and monitor is crucial. 

Below we have listed some of the different types of chair, along with the best and most common uses.

Different Types Of Office Chairs

ergonomic office chairs

Ergonomic Office Chairs

This describes a wide range of chairs, but lets you know that the chair was designed with supporting the human frame, and ease of use, foremost in the designer’s mind. Ergonomic chairs are the best for supporting your frame and preventing strains and injuries, and make sure you remain healthy and productive. 

Mesh Office Chairs

Mesh backed office chairs look great, and allow you to stay cool. The breathable mesh material allows for airflow, which is crucial on a long day sitting, especially in summer. A mesh backed office chair will also protect your back, so there is no compromise on your long term wellbeing. 

Executive Office and Boardroom Chairs

Often high back, and a little fancier in design, an ergonomic executive chair offers all of the support and ergonomic features of the office chair, but with a little more luxury. Boardroom chairs will most often be found in meeting spaces, but just because they are not technically workstations, doesn’t mean ergonomics are not important. Far from it. 

Sitting all day in meetings can be just as bad for the body. This is why it is important that boardroom chairs are easily adjustable, so everyone using them can find a comfortable position. 

Drafting Chairs

Architects or designers often work in an upright position at drafting tables or a standing desk, but this doesn’t mean they don’t need the same level of support in the office. Drafting chairs provide lumbar support and back support, whilst allowing for a high work position. Draft chairs normally feature a footrest so the user can remain comfortable at higher settings. 

Task Office Chairs

Task chairs are often the most adaptable and flexible chairs, designed for spaces where they might be used by more than one person. In shared workspaces and hot desking environments, the task chair really comes into its own. It allows for nearly anyone to find a comfortable position easy. Although often not the fanciest of chairs, the task chairs awesome functionality means it is one of the most commonly seen workplace chairs.

Is An Ergonomic Chair Worth It?

Ergonomic chairs allow you to easily find your most comfortable position, boosting your sense of wellbeing and your productivity in the workplace (or home office!). They also provide support to the areas of the body which suffer most from extended periods of sitting. So, if you want to protect your health in the long term, and remain happy and productive into the future, investing in an ergonomic chair is definitely worth it.

source https://desky.com.au/blogs/news/best-office-chairs

Can An Ergonomic Office Chair Relieve Back Pain?

Back pain is the number one complaint amongst office workers, and the reason for this is almost always related to poor posture. And that is almost always related to a poor chair. Our seating posture is just as important as when we are standing. In fact, we probably need to pay more attention to it.

The human body evolved for us to be stood upright most of the time. Only relatively recently in our evolution did we even invent the chair. But of course, in the modern world of work, standing is not always possible. This means that we spend much our time throughout the day in our office chairs, in a position which isn’t natural for our body. Unsurprisingly, this can create issues.

Most people who work in an office environment will have experienced some level of back pain. And even if for you it’s only a slight niggle, it is still a sign that something is not quite right. If left to develop, these issues can develop into more serious problems which can become chronic. So many wonder what can be done about back pain, understandably.

It may be that the answer is right in front (or underneath) our eyes. Many claim that with ergonomic chairs back pain can be banished, but can it really be that simple? We looked into it.

Can Your Office Chair Make Your Back Hurt?

The short answer is, yes! A badly designed chair or an office chair that is not fit for purpose can do real damage to your back. The body is not designed to be sat down all day, and to do this the muscles in the lower back or lumbar area are placed under strain. This strain is exacerbated by poor posture, and extended periods seated. In the short term this will cause pain and discomfort, but can quickly develop into a more serious problem.

A badly designed office chair will offer little support and encourage poor posture. For most people, this means they sit leaning into their desk with their back unsupported. This compresses the vertebrae and the disks in between them, which can lead to serious back pain, and a whole host of other long term issues.

Whereas, the best office chair will offer lots of support and promote good posture. A well designed chair will work with your body shape to relieve this strain and provide back support. Knowing exactly how chairs support the back is important to make the right choice of office chair.

How Do I Stop My Office Chair From Hurting My Back?

The first and most important thing you can do is to choose the right chair. You need a chair that is designed to fit the natural curve of your spine in a seated position, especially at the base. This is known as lumbar support, and is the most important feature in relieving back pain.

The best office chairs are not designed just for lower back support though. The rest of the backrest is designed to take the strain off of the muscles supporting the whole spine and the neck. This gives all of the muscles across the back support, meaning no one part takes more than it’s fair share of the load.

For example, many people sit forward as this feels more comfortable on the lower back. However, this refers the strain to the upper torso. The same is true in reverse if you slouch in your seat. Choosing a chair that allows you to maintain the correct posture is the best way of preventing back pain.

To find the correct posture for you at your desk, you can follow these simple steps:

  • Sit at the end of the chair, and allow yourself to slouch completely.
  • Draw yourself up in the chair slowly. Curve of your back as far as is comfortable.
  • Release the position slightly, by about 10 degrees.
  • Sit up, relaxed, with your back straight. Push your shoulders back a little. Your buttocks should touch the chair rest.
  • Bend your knees at a right angle, with your knees slightly higher than your hips. If your feet don’t reach the floor, use a footrest or stool for extra support. It should be high enough that you can keep your feet flat on it.
  • You need to have your eyes level with the top of your screen (ideally lower), with your arms by your side, bent at right angles so they meet the keyboard.

What Is The Best Type Of Office Chair For Your Back?

Only ergonomic chairs can help you achieve this position, whilst also providing the support your back needs. The most important role the chair plays is in maintaining the right posture, and key to this is flexibility. We come in all different shapes and sizes, so by definition, there is no one size fits all ergonomic chair. For all of us though, the correct posture is very important, as is the position of the chair relative to the desk.

And so the best chairs are the ones that allow the greatest range of adjustments, both in the support they offer, and the position relative to your workstation.

Here are the features to look for in an ergonomic chair:

Adjustable Lumbar Support

As the lumbar area is so prone to strains and aches, this is one feature you can’t go without. Adjustable lumbar support means you can raise or lower this area independent of the back, and find the exact right setting for the curve of your lower back, and make sure you maintain good posture.

Adjustable Arms

As we said before, to avoid back pain every part of your posture is important. Being able to rest your arms at a comfortable position will relieve strain on your entire up body, the back included. If bad posture leads to tightening in the neck and shoulders, this can soon move down into the upper back.

Adjustable Seat Height

As above, maintaining the correct position relative to your desk means you can keep your back straight and supported at all times. So being able to adjust the height of your seat is essential if you are to remain pain free. Nearly every chair offers this function.

Height Adjustable Back Support

Most office chairs will allow to change the height and the tilt of the back support, to fit your individual frame . This is generally not hard to find: it’s the most comfortable upright position.

Tilt

Not an essential, but a chair with adjustable tilt just allow for that extra bit of adjustment which can make all the difference to your comfort. A chair that tilts with your weight can also help if you move around frequently, preventing you from overreaching or straining the muscles in the lower back.

Footrest

Believe it or not, where you put your feet is very important in preventing back problems. If you need your chair high in order to maintain the correct position to your desk, and your feet don’t rest flat on the floor, you should be choosing a chair that has an adjustable footrest so you can place some weight on your feet. This helps take the strain off the already overtaxed muscles in the lower back.

What Helps Back Pain From Office Chair?

Back pain in the workplace is normally caused by bad posture, so the best way to help it is to choose a chair that allows you to correct this. They are built with the shape of your spine at the forefront of the designer’s mind. More importantly, they allow you to ‘dial in’ your optimum position, which is essential as we are all built differently.

source https://desky.com.au/blogs/news/ergonomic-office-chair-back-pain

Are Standing Desks Better For Your Health?

Over recent years, it feels like there has been a revolution in the understanding of public health, with the focus falling largely on the health effects of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Numerous studies have confirmed that extended periods spent sitting are contributing to a staggering range of serious health problems. Obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers have been linked. And that is before we even start on more minor problems like strain injuries, back pain and postural issues. 

Even if these seem relatively minor in comparison, for the sufferer they can feel very serious indeed. What’s more, they are a major contributing factor in workplace absenteeism, which in turn means they have serious economic effects for the individual, the employer, and the economy as a whole. For all of these reasons, sitting is now considered to be as harmful to public health as smoking. 

Believe it or not, one study into this area found worrying trends as long ago as 1961. Research conducted in the UK found that bus drivers were three times more likely to suffer “sudden death” than conductors, who spent all day on their feet. This study made the first links between a sedentary lifestyle and heart disease. It also found that standing was potentially the answer. However, it wasn’t after the turn of the millennium that doctors began to revisit this area, at which point studies emerged all over the world confirming what we already knew: sedentary lifestyles are killing us. 

The WHO now lists sedentary behaviour as one of the top ten causes of death worldwide, and there is little doubt in the medical community of the risks. However, what is less clear is what we, as individuals, can do to help ourselves. Of course, increasing your physical activity will help. But finding the time in our busy lifestyles isn’t always easy. And with so much of work now office or computer-based, more and more of us are at risk.

That’s why research into sit stand desks has continued apace ever since they hit the market. With the reality being that many of us will remain stuck at our desks for the foreseeable future, the hope has always been that sit stand desks can help us change our behaviour and embrace a more active work life. But can a desk really improve your health?

Can Sit Stand Desks Prevent Obesity and Heart Disease? 

So do standing desks improve health noticeably? Unfortunately, the outcomes of many studies are unclear. Although there is a body of evidence that standing desks can help with back pain and in the fight against obesity, the small sample sizes and short time scale of the research conducted so far has struggled to find conclusive links that they can offset more serious problems. This was summarised in the Cochrane review of 2016, which sought to compile and analyse the data from 34 studies to find meaningful trends. 

However, the study found compelling evidence that installing a sit stand desk increased standing time, and thus decreased sitting time in the work setting. Although there were definitely no adverse effects on health, the quality of evidence available and the sample size made drawing any real conclusions about the long term health benefits impossible. 

A further review by The University Of Pittsburgh arrived at a similar conclusion. Although many studies had been carried out, the fact that nearly all participants were young and healthy made it impossible to draw conclusions, as problems such as heart disease disproportionately affect older workers. 

And there are studies beginning to emerge which do seek to address these issues directly. An economic evaluation carried out by Deakin University perhaps carries the most promise. This study found that standing desks could have huge benefits if they were rolled out to 20% of the Australian workforce. The study also suggested that adopting this policy would reduce absenteeism, boost productivity, and in the long term save billions of dollars in healthcare. 

And whether the benefits are proven conclusively or not, it appears that many key figures in business are not willing to wait for medical advice. Tim Cook of Apple personally revealed that all workers at the company’s new California headquarters had been given standing desks, describing sitting as “the new cancer”.

With larger and more comprehensive studies underway, it appears to an extent the jury is still out on the long term benefits of standing desks. However, the more recent results and studies, as well as the actions of business leaders, suggest that the standing desk will have real benefits in the fight against obesity and related illnesses. 

What is not in doubt is that a more active lifestyle leads to less of these health issues. And the standing desk has been proven to make employees more active, with results showing that on average workers stood for an extra hour than they would have at a normal desk.

So even though the research into the long term effects is as yet inconclusive, all of the signs suggest that standing desks could be invaluable in the fight against obesity, heart disease and related health problems. 

Is It Bad To Stand At Your Desk All Day?

The consensus is that, yes it would be a bad idea to stand and work at your desk all day long. This would be especially true if you’re transitioning from having been sat down all day previously. What is not in doubt is that you will benefit from spending at least part of your day standing. This helps keep the metabolism working, promotes blood flow, and relieves the strain on the muscle groups and joints that especially suffer from sitting all day. Keeping as active as possible, and changing your position often, seems to be the best way of both keeping active and sharing the load across muscle groups and joints. Not to mention the back. 

However, there is little evidence that standing alone helps to burn calories, so using a balance board or anti-fatigue mat can help you keep moving, as well as alleviating any discomfort you might feel from extended periods of time standing. On the more extreme end of the scale, some people even work from a treadmill, so they can keep moving as they work. 

How Long Should You Stand At A Standing Desk?   

Again, the jury is out on this one. Conventional wisdom had suggested that it was best to stand roughly 20 mins of every hour, or a sitting to standing ratio of roughly 3: 1. However, in this article published by The University of Waterloo, it is suggested that the reverse is true! 

The likelihood is that, although there are guidelines to help, how long exactly you need to spend standing probably depends on you. We’ll all have a slightly different experience, so it’s worth remaining aware of how you feel while using your standing desk and planning your own schedule. But even then, you might not need to be so precise. If you have frequent backaches for example, you may find it useful to stand when you can feel pain to relieve the pressure. 

For those adjusting to their standing desk, it is important that you phase it in at first. The reason for this is that your body is used to sitting all day, so asking it to switch to standing even a third of the time could create more problems that it solves. So for the first week, try 5 mins out of every half hour. The next week, 5 of every 25, and then 5 of every 20. Week 4, do 10 mins out of 30, then 10 out of 25, and finally 10 minutes of every 20. This will allow you to adjust, but as importantly, along the way you will probably find the right balance for you. 

Are Standing Desks Worth It?    

Although there is yet to be any clear evidence on the long term health benefits of the standing desk, this is simply because we haven’t been using sit-stand desks for long enough to know. However, numerous studies have indicated that the potential for these desks to improve public health is huge.

What we do know for sure is that our sedentary lifestyles are having a profound effect on our health and wellbeing. So anything we can do to cut down our sitting time and increase the hours a day we are active is a huge positive. And encouraging an active work life by installing standing desks has been shown to work.

Most of us spend over half of our waking lives at work, Monday to Friday at least. So changing our work style seems an obvious place to start to improve our health overall. For anyone concerned with their productivity, and their long term wellbeing, standing desks are well worth it.

source https://desky.com.au/blogs/news/are-standing-desks-better-for-your-health