Updated December 2021
The office is a sedentary experience. With the exception of sleeping, it’s the only place where you are likely to be still for as many as 8 hours at a time with few opportunities to stretch your legs. Unless you are using your breaks to run a couple of miles, climb the stairwell, or hit a Crossfit workout, you’re not doing enough to reduce the health hazards that come from 40 hours of work week inactivity. But adding ergonomic chairs can help.
Hunching is Harmful
Humans weren’t built for the modern workplace. Sitting hunched over at a desk in front of a screen, or on the phone, is an unnatural position and it’s causing significant harm to office workers. “Our bodies were not designed to stay in one position for long periods of time,” said Cindy Simmons, a physical therapist with Bon Secours InMotion. “Static postures result in reduced blood flow to muscles that hold the body in a fixed position.” Sedentary work also can result in poor posture, muscle imbalances, pinched nerves, repetitive stress disorders, and visual problems.
Poor posture in the office is such a serious long-term concern that in England, employers have a legal responsibility to address the risk of musculoskeletal pain in the workplace. If a firm fails to protect its staff by incorporating ergonomic chairs, for instance, it can face prosecution. Though purchasing high-end therapeutic chairs seem like an expensive endeavor, the cost has been well worth it. Productivity has risen since better posture leads to happier and more productive employees.
How to Sit Right
Ergonomic chairs come in a variety of styles and price points. However, if you don’t use it correctly, it isn’t worth the money you spent. Your ergonomic chair should be adjustable and you should optimize it to fit your body. Don’t assume that it arrives perfectly suited to your proportions. There are features that need to lowered or raised, or moved forward or backward. Make sure your chair is working for you by checking the following:
- Lumbar support: Sitting for long periods without lumbar support leads to slouching and strains the structures in the lower spine. An ergonomic chair should have a lumbar adjustment (both height and depth) so you get the proper inward curve of the lower back support.
- Armrests: Office chair armrests should be adjustable. They should allow the user’s arms to rest comfortably and shoulders to be relaxed. The elbows and lower arms should rest lightly, and the forearm should not be on the armrest while typing.
- Backrest: A backrest that is adjustable in height is necessary to support the natural curve of the spine with special attention to the curve of the lumbar spine.
- Height: Office chair seat height should be easily adjustable. A pneumatic adjustment lever is the easiest way to do this. You should have your feet flat on the floor, or a footrest, with the shoulders relaxed and the pelvic angle in an open position.
Sit Up Straight
The workweek adds accumulative wear and tear to your body. Long periods of sitting in a slouched position, rounded shoulders and a jutting jaw creates a workplace health crisis. In fact, sitting has been called the “new smoking.” So if a chair can improve our wellbeing and posture on the clock, let’s all take an ergonomic seat and sit up straight.
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