Everything You Need To Know About Office Ergonomic Chairs
The Brief History of Ergonomics Office Furniture
Ergonomics is the study of designing equipment and devices that fit the human body and its cognitive abilities.
The term ergonomics, from Greek Έργον, meaning “work”, and Νόμος, meaning “natural laws,” first entered the modern lexicon in 1857 and was popularized by the British psychologist Hywel Murrell in 1949. It arose out of scientific studies performed during World War II to minimize pilot error by carefully designing cockpit controls to be logical and differentiable, instead of confusing.
After the War, the science of designing the work environment to fit the worker and take his limitations and capabilities into account continued. The multidisciplinary science of ergonomics incorporates contributions from psychology, engineering, biomechanics, industrial design, graphic design, operations research and anthropometry (the study of the measurement of the human individual). Today we can benefit from the knowledge gained from this interdisciplinary approach to how we work.
Much of what we know about workplace ergonomics comes from studies commissioned by major American office furniture manufacturers like Herman Miller, Steelcase, Allsteel, and Humanscale who’s insights form the basis for the information in this article.
The Idea of Office Ergonomics in Workplace
Based on a report compiled by office furniture manufacturer Haworth, the scope of traditional office ergonomics is limited to individual work within the primary workspace. Active ergonomics is a new approach in which good ergonomic principles are applied to all elements of workplace planning, group and individual workspaces, furnishings, and technology.
It builds upon a foundation for expanding the scope of ergonomics. Active ergonomics offers organizations the opportunity to better support the health and performance of their employees—regardless of their work location.
As you plan your workspace, work with designers and space planners who think ahead of current trends. They will be able to forecast your needs a little better and anticipate your growth patterns based on where you are now.
Office seating remains the best place to start with ergonomics around the office. If you have an Occupational Health and Safety program on-site, enlist their help to research and implement these programs. Educating your staff about the proper benefits of adjusting and using ergonomic products is essential to the benefits of office ergonomics.
The Importance of Ergonomics in Workplace Design
The importance of designing a workplace to benefit the physical needs of all employees, who spend a large part of their day at work, is often underdeveloped in worklife.
Studies of the interaction of the human body with the surrounding environment have achieved a balance between workplace design and the human physical demands of the work itself. Ergonomic furniture design aims to achieve better productivity with a higher level of environmental interaction.
By taking into account people’s capabilities and limitations, an ergonomically designed workplace design strives to be effective in fulfilling the functional requirements of all users.
A well designed office space should aim to propagate intuition, teamwork, and more importantly, provide a safe and comfortable environment.
Workplace design has a profound impact on the productivity of workers. Making the best use of space through optimum placement of equipment, integrating the human factor into workplace design, and effectively aligning the workplace into the surrounding environment are important aspects of ergonomics. Performing an assessment of your office, what works and what doesn’t, is the first step toward improvement.
The integrative principles of human well-being into workplace design has become critical for ensuring the workers perform productively. Although a person sitting at a desk doesn’t outwardly give the impression of performing a toiling task, sitting has been known to contribute to hidden stress disorders that can have adversely effect overall productivity.
The amount of time that we spend in an office, will determine the extent of ergonomic impact on our daily well being. An ergonomically compliant office should address these needs:
1, Is the position of your keyboard and mouse right?
2, Are you able to use your laptop or notebook in the most optimum way?
3, Do you have an adjustable monitor to reduce eyestrain?
4, Are there noise control mechanisms within your open plan office?
5, Is the office temperature, lighting and accessibility right?
6, Are you able to maintain the recommended height and reach distances while at your seated or upright workstation?
The importance of ergonomics cannot be over-emphasized. Organizations should use the specialized services of space plan/design CAD Services to gain a assess and better understand how office interiors are able to integrate ergonomics into workplace design more effectively.
The imbedded comfort of an ergonomically designed workplace will go a long way toward creating a positive difference in the attitudes of workers while maintaining an atmosphere that is conducive to meet organizational goals.
“Back pain is second only to the common cold as a cause of work loss.” — University of Missouri study
Niels Diffrient, is known as the father of contemporary ergonomic seating. He was an industrial designer who coined the phrase “human factors engineering” which is what we know today as “ergonomics.” Mr. Diffrient designed, over the course of half a century, all kinds of equipment, computers, trucks, and airplane interiors. He worked on designing the iconic tractor seat for John Deere, the Princess telephone and the Polaroid SJXJ-70 camera.
He spent much of his professional life systematically researching how the user interacts with his surroundings and incorporating his findings into practical user friendly designs.
Niels Diffrient pioneered the use of ergonomics in dozens of office furniture designs, mostly in ergonomic seating. He won 24 awards, including the Chrysler Award for Innovation and the Smithsonian Cooper-Herwitt National Design Award for Product Design. The Knoll Diffrient Chair (1979) and the Humanscale Freedom Chair (1999) are perhaps his most famous chairs.
Knoll said his chairs were “early examples of seating thoroughly informed by anatomical research and quantitative studies of workplace behavior. The chairs responded to the human body - increasing comfort and ensuring user well-being” and that he “pioneered numerous breakthroughs, from pneumatic cylinders for seat height adjustment to weight-activated automatic recline.” These features are used in most contemporary ergonomic chair design, to this day.
Led by Diffrient’s work, other major chair manufacturers have created their own ergonomic chairs based on his research and combined with their own findings.
Why Buy Ergonomic Chairs?
It is a fact that improper seating can lead to injured and unproductive employees and cost companies a huge amounts of money in lost work days, ineffective use of time and worker compensation claims. Specifically, per OSHA, it can cause these known ailments:
1, Back, neck and shoulder pain
3, Restricted circulation
6, Neck pain
What You Should Consider When Choosing An Ergonomic Chair?
Some important features to look for in ergonomic office, task and conference room chairs include:
Casters: It is important that you can easily position your chair to be in the correct relationship with your desk. If not, reaching and bending to access computer components can lead to muscle straining and fatigue.
Strong, five-legged bases: To provide adequate support and minimize tipping.
Adaptable chair height: Most chairs have a pneumatic hydraulic cylinder that allows them to sink down and then rise back up again with the touch of a lever. These parts are easily replaced at low cost.
Ability to recline: As recent research demonstrates, a 135° angle is the best sitting position for a body at a desk performing work. Such an angle can be facilitated by a task chair only if it can recline. Humanscale
takes this further and recommends for best function in critical use task chairs that they have a self-adjusting recline, so the adjustment it happens automatically.
Adjustable lumbar support: The ability to regulate the chair’s support for the lower back. Humanscale takes this further and recommends for best function in critical use task chairs that they have self-adjusting lower back support.
Adjustable armrests: Studies have shown that people move around in their task chairs quite a bit as they work and this is actually a good thing. When sit- ting, a user’s soft tissues are compressed. This pressure prevents the natural distribution of blood flow and waste products through the body’s soft tissues. Your body’s physiology relies on your natural movement to properly circulate bodily processes. Moving around in your chair and having armrests that can re-configure to properly support you while you shift are very useful.
Armrests made of soft material with rounded edges: To avoid nerve and blood vessel irritation in the forearm, which can cause pain or tingling in the fingers, hands and arms.
Armrests attached to seat back: This feature ensures that your armrests are naturally configured to match the position of your back support.
Moveable seat: This is particularly useful for individuals who are not as tall as the average user. For shorter individuals, a seat that can move backwards and forward with respect to the backrest, will allow the backrest to properly align and thereby more evenly distribute their body weight.
Gel seat support is recommended by Humanscale, but is not considered by all manufacturers. Some still use mesh in the seat construction.
A rounded “waterfall edge” seat reduces that blood circulation will be reduced by pressure in the back of your legs.
Self-adjusting headrest: Humanscale recommends this and it is an option on several of their chairs, like the Diffrient. Many companies’ ergonomic chairs
do not have headrests at all, leaving you to decide whether this feature is something important to your comfort!
A seat pan properly sized for the user: Larger than average-sized people need larger seat pans.
Provide a footrest if needed to ensure that the entire sole of the foot can rest on it (or the floor) with the back of the knee slightly higher than the seat of your chair. If you can’t do this, you are liable to lean forward with your back unsupported to reach your computer or desk. These awkward postures can lead to fatigue, restricted circulation, swelling, numbness and pain.
Materials of Ergonomic Chair
Most ergonomic chairs have been made of foam covered with fabric. Foam has sometimes been replaced by gel in higher quality chairs. Studies have shown that making seat covers out of gel rather than foam improves a chair’s overall ability to evenly distribute the body’s weight by a factor of 28%.
When Herman Miller invented the Aeron chair in 1994, it caused a sensation with its pellicle mesh seat. Mesh was touted as being more comfortable than foam or gel because it better distributes weight and also minimize build-up of body heat between the user and the chair’s surface. This chair has become a fashion icon and is still in high demand. However, a recent study has shown that pellicle mesh is not superior to traditional office chairs in weight distribution unless the support structure is broken up into three sections.
While mesh has a visual appearance that suggests it might be helpful in dissipating body heat, it does not actually perform this function since it is primarily the clothes of the user that trap body heat. Personal preference should decide if it’s comfortable for you!
Ergonomic Chairs For Big & Tall Users
It is very important that heavy workers have chairs specially designed for their unique biomechanics. With obesity affecting a third of all Americans, this niche of workers cannot be ignored. The biomechanics of obesity create more discomfort and this discomfort increases by degree. The oversized dimensions of all parts of the physique can obstruct the neutral (safe) postures recommended for office work. Attempts to perform basic work tasks (like typing on a computer) put them in an ergonomically unsafe position, causing up to a 66% rate of lower-back pain discomfort in obese call center workers. Extra fat in the buttocks and thighs also make a person sit higher in the chair. Which causes:
1, Contact with the chair’s lumbar support to be too low to be effective
2, Puts the spine in a forward position that prevents the upper back from making contact with the backrest.
Obese workers sitting in an inadequate chair then slump, stressing the lower back, pelvis, upper back, shoulders and neck. Excess fat in the abdomen prevent contact with the edge of the worksurface, causing strains in the effort to reach their worksurface.
Chairs sized and constructed to accommodate extra weight are often referred to as “bariatric” or “big and tall” chairs. They are larger and more heavy-duty to accommodate more weight and have larger/wider-than-normal adjustment ranges to accommodate obese people. Typical chairs usually have a 19” seat, whereas big and tall chairs are made with a 21” seat for lots of room.
Standard office chairs are usually rated for up to 250 lbs; office chairs for the big and tall are weight-rated for 350 lbs, although some chairs are rated up to 450lbs. They are built to last, with seat padding and chair components - like cylinders and frames - designed for more weight bearing.
All good ergonomic chairs provide waterfall (sloping) seat fronts to reduce pressure behind knees, which aids both circulation and comfort. They also have lumbar support with enough depth (outward curve) and/or adjustability to achieve complete contact with the curve of the lower back when set at the proper height above the seat. Additionally, they have armrests which can be set high and wide enough to accommodate abducted arm positions.
With a limited range of choices, big and tall office chairs are available in task, executive, ergonomic and guest styles. They are more expensive than a comparable chairs.
How to Choose An Ergonomic Task Chair?
There are a lot of considerations when choosing the correct ergonomic task chair for each employee. These choices have a measurable impact on your company’s productivity, health and bottom line. Unlike the generic task chairs you find at big-box office-supply stores, a high quality ergonomic office chair is designed to last for decades. A quality ergonomic chair should last a lifetime with minimal maintenance.
Many of the design features engineered by leading manufacturers like Humanscale, Steelcase and Herman Miller are available from lesser known vendors who achieve a top quality chair with a less expensive price tag. It also applied to many Chinese ergonomic chairs manufacturer like Meet&Co, which is one of the best office furniture manufacturer in China, provides the best quality ergonomic chairs with the most competitive prices.
You can purchase a top quality ergonomic chair with very affordable price for major manufacturer’s newest model. Meet&Co offers years of combined experience in selecting great task chairs. We sit in the same types of chairs that we sell and so this functional experience, as well as extensive feedback from our repeat customers, gives us a unique perspective to assist you in choosing your task chair.
Meet&Co Ergonomic Chair Selection: We have such a big showroom with so many available options. Our showroom has an evolving flow of ergonomic chairs from which to choose. We offer brand new and modern style ergonomic chairs and task chairs. You can achieve the same look, comfort and durability you would get from chairs that you already recognize. We have task chairs and executive desk chairs in tiered price and quality categories. We frequently acquire chairs that are made with the same mesh design as the famous Aeron™ chair from Herman Miller. Many of our new ergonomic task chairs resemble designs that you will be familiar with and will easily be able to integrate into any office decor. When you buy a new chair, you have many options from which to choose, from fabric and trim colors to arm style. By choosing a specific fabric color you can customize the look of your chairs to fit your brand. If you have an office area with huge wide open spaces that seems a little boring, you will be surprised by the overall effect of putting in 150 new task chairs with a tasteful, bright color.
The Maintenance of Ergonomic Chair
Chairs are physical heavy use items and eventually, all chairs will need a little maintenance. Like other professional tools, premium task chairs need periodic maintenance. The components of task chairs that may require servicing over the life of a chair include:
Pneumatic gas cylinders are almost universal. The gas cylinder is the device that allows the chair to raise and lower with the touch of a lever. You can purchase a replacement part for it at a reasonable cost.
Upholstery has the most contact with the user and is required to constantly move and flex throughout the day, this can wear down after a while. The best task chair manufacturers mitigate this by upholstering their chairs with high quality leather, wool and vinyl blends. Eventually, with heavy use, these materials can wear down but professional-grade task chairs are designed to be easily reupholstered.
Why To Buy Height Adjustable Ergonomics Desks For Your Office?
There’s a strong trend toward the integration the adjustable height desks into the collaborative workspace. Many studies have shown that sitting all day is bad for you. Scientists have determined that after an hour or more of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat in the body decline by as much as 90 percent. Extended sitting slows the body’s metabolism of glucose and lowers the levels of good cholesterol in the blood. Those are risk factors toward developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. “The science is still evolving, but we believe that sitting is harmful in itself,” says Dr. Toni Yancey, a professor of health services at the University of California, Los Angeles, quoted in a New York Times Article10 published in 2013. This same article mentioned two recently published studies in The British Journal of Sports Medicine and in Diabetologia, a journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, which show that even people who lead an active lifestyle away from work suffer the same negative effects from sitting all day as people who are sedentary all the time.
So, if you regularly hit the gym, you still need to spend some time standing up and moving around while at work.
Studies also show, however, that standing all day isn’t any better than sitting all day. Increased varicose veins and joint stress are just a few of the negative impacts on our bodies. Alternating from sitting to standing throughout the day reduces the chance of back pain and improves circulation, which are essential to productivity. It seems that periodically moving around is what we should do to keep our bodies healthy.
Today many of us sit all day in front of our computers. However, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, office workers, like clerks, accountants and managers, mostly stood. Sitting was viewed as slacking off. And if you stand at work today, you join a distinguished lineage of standing workers, like Leonardo da Vinci, Ben Franklin, and Winston Churchill.
Today there are many options to explore with office furniture designed to help your body and your mind boost productivity! Here are some things you need to consider when selecting the right height adjustable desks or tables for your office.
Specifications To Consider When Choosing Ergonomics Chairs and Desks
Look for the right shaped height adjustable table/desk to fit your workplace. There are tables for stand alone, benching, cubicles and specialized configurations to occupy a corner.
Look for the right sized height adjustable table/desk for the team utilizing them. There is single-occupancy height adjustable furniture as well as groups of tables and desks made to accommodate multiple people. Generally, height adjustable desks are rectangular and range from 24 or 30” deep and 36 to 96” wide.
Look for special characteristics of height adjustable tables and desks that may fulfill a variety of special needs. For example, look for folding/nesting tables if you need to save space or increase the flexibility of a room. Look for modular furniture that is easily re-configured if that is your priority. Nesting/rolling height-adjustable tables can conserve precious space and allow a room to be adapted for a variety of uses for conferences and training programs.
Look for height adjustable tables and desks that fit with the level of employee interaction/collaboration you desire. If you want employees to work together, a pod group might be more optimal.
Look for height adjustable tables and desks that are easy to adjust. There are different ways to adjust the height of office furniture, which will affect the cost. These functions may directly affect how often people actually adjust their worksurface from sitting to standing and back again during the work day.
The easier the height adjusts, the more it will be adjusted. Programmable features are also appealing. If people don’t adjust their sit/stand desk because a hand crank takes too much time and effort, you’ve wasted your investment in a piece of good ergonomic furniture.
Push-button/programmable adjustability may cost more but may, actually get used, making the larger investment worthwhile. Here are the main choices in how sit/stand desks and tables adjust:
The manual crank lift adjusts by manually turning a crank. This table is ideal for applications requiring height adjustment with limited budgets
Operable with the push of a button, electric lifts are available in both single-stage and dual-stage electric. Some controllers are programmable, allowing you to set the exact height where you want your worksurface and can be set to rise and fall periodically throughout the day. This can be helpful if you have more than one person using a table - an individual’s choice can be programmed in.
The gas lift mechanism utilizes gas spring mechanisms for fast and effortless operation. A paddle allows for simple, smooth and seamless adjustment.
Manual lifts can incorporate a pin adjustment. The pin adjustment is perfect for applications that require special heights but are not adjusted on a frequent basis, because making the adjustment is a bit of a pain.
Fixed versions of height-adjustable tables and desks allow for continuity of design. You have the freedom to specify fixed and height adjustable in the same office while maintaining a consistent base style.
Make sure the lift mechanism can accommodate the weight you need to lift. Most tables support about 120 lbs. Some tables are designed to accommodate much more. Be aware that everything on the desk: computers, books, coffee maker must figure into this weight capacity.
Make sure the adjustable height tables/desks can accommodate your electronic devices. In this electronic age, hard drives, monitors, phones, and video screens are only a few of the devices that take up room on a desk or table. Choose a table or desk large enough to fulfill your needs.
Matching Furniture Options
If you want to furnish a whole office, make sure that the height adjustable table or desk you want to buy comes with matching office furniture choices. Many manufacturers make ONLY sit-stand desks for individual sale. These do not allow for good integration into an existing office environment for a cohesive look.
Look for height adjustable tables and desks that fit within your budget. The type of adjusting mechanism will make a table more or less expensive, with crank and pin mechanisms being the least expensive and electric the most. The size, shape and type of metal, surface materials, and colors will all effect price. Like most office furniture, the more custom options, the higher the price and the longer the lead time.
Consider Retrofitting Furnishings Yourself
You can replace stationary desks with height-adjustable ones in some benching/cubicle systems. You can also just buy bases and retrofit your existing worksurfaces with them, particularly if you have modular worksurfaces like those that come with cubicles. A qualified furniture installer should be consulted because specific modifIcations to your worksurfaces probably will need to be made to accommodate the movement of your table. Retrofitting is generally less expensive than buying all new furniture.
People spend about a third of their day at work and technology keeps most knowledge workers at their desks. Without the proper workspace setup, this poses occupational hazards that can lead to several health risks. Luckily, most negative health risks can be mitigated by investing in ergonomic office furniture, which is designed in consideration of the body’s natural shape and movement. But before investing in a new ergonomic office chair or ergonomic office desk, consider the characteristics that make a piece truly “ergonomic”.
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