Health Benefits of Ergonomic Office Chairs
March 11, 2020 Patrick
One of the closest relationships forged in a workplace is found between a worker and their chair. A partnership which often goes overlooked, chairs are integral to every successful day in the office. They allow users to focus on work over long periods, working best when they go unnoticed. However, nothing is more distracting than an uncomfortable chair; the daily aches and pains adversely affecting productivity. Back pain, neck strain, poor blood flow and restricted breathing are all health complications that can be brought on by a bad office chair.
For decades, experts have been reporting on the dangers of the sedentary lifestyle. They have thrown up some shocking statistics to highlight their overarching point that a poor sitting position has - and will continue to have - negative ramifications. A 2017 NHS survey showed that 1 in 4 UK employees had reported a physical health condition that year. Furthermore, 1 in 10 UK employees reported having musculoskeletal conditions, with The Telegraph estimating the total cases in the space of one year to be around 553,000. Health experts believe rising levels of physical inactivity are to blame for increased MSK reports. MSK conditions now constitute the fourth largest budget expenditure for the NHS say ARMA - the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance. This has seen a ricochet upon the local economy; The Office for National Statistics reporting in the following year that 27.8 million days were lost due to musculoskeletal conditions. The resulting cost of this burden to businesses is incalculable.
The Impact of the Correct Ergonomic Office Chair
Employing ergonomic office chairs is a clear step toward minimising discomfort and long-term health risks. How are standard operator chairs letting us down and how do modern task chairs offer a healthy alternative?
Problem: Spinal Support
Your spine is the pillar propping up your head and upper torso. Part shock absorber, part motor neuron motorway, this spinal column needs to be protected and supported over extended periods.
A slouched or bent over sitting position can wear down the muscles supporting the upper torso. This puts pressure on the spine to compensate for the imbalance, pinching nerves and causing back pain. Poor spinal alignment produces tough and painful knots as well as reduced mobility.
Solution: Ergonomic Backrest
A well-designed ergonomic chair involves a backrest which suits the shape of the user. Effective lumbar support matches the spine’s natural curve and keeps a worker’s posture upright. Either a moulded foam or mesh back will provide both comfort and support over the full workday.
The backrest needs to be adjustable to be able to suit the height and unique shape of a user. Height and tilt adjustment is important as well as a seat slide function to ensure the ideal ergonomic working position. The ability to modify the position of the back of a task chair will help to improve the user’s long-term physical health as well as positively affecting their productivity.
Problem: Neck Pain
The average human head weighs around 11lbs which is more than most new-born babies. And yet it is supported by only the 7 vertebrae and 20 muscles in the neck. The 9-5 workday sees these muscles endure excessive strain for hours at a time. This strain can lead intense pains in the neck and shoulders as well as a loss of cartilage between vertebrae.
Solution: Adjustable Headrest
A good headrest attached to an office task chair helps support and correctly position the head throughout the working day. Headrests help to reduce strain on the muscles most affected by the constant stillness computer work requires. Adjustability of the headrest is essential for providing the ideal working position for all users. Useful adjustable qualities include height management and tilt tension.
Additional solutions to neck pain include lifting the monitors to be just above eye level and moving the neck around a little each hour. Improve the neck’s range of motion by performing small head exercises, stretching the muscles and ligaments. Keeping the neck and shoulders active is key to a healthy workstyle.
A good monitor position is beneficial for suffers of neck, shoulder and eye strain. See our article on the correct monitor position for advice on how to set up a healthy workstation. Also read our notes on the rise of RSI and computer-related injuries for more information on how to resolve these issues.
Problem: Aching Legs and Restlessness
Sedentary workers' biggest struggle is often the restlessness that comes with days in the office. This strain is both mental and physical, often brought on by poor blood circulation and aches in the legs urging you to move around. Many believe there is not much that can be done other than getting your head down and getting on with work, but there is a reason why our bodies are telling us they're unhappy.
Sitting is a restrictive and negative posture which limits the bloodstream. This inhibits the access of nutrients and oxygen to vital organs and muscles in the body. This affects out alertness as well as increasing the risk of blood clots, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Solution: Movement and a Mobile Chair
Getting up and moving about at least once every hour is key to a healthy workstyle. Standing resets not only the body but also the mind, improving attention to tasks and enhancing brain function. Using a mobile chair promotes the recommended dynamic sitting position. Adjusting the height of the chair so that the user's feet are flat on the floor and knees are at a 90 degree angle will benefit blood flow. The armrests of an ergonomic office chair should correctly align with the elbows, allowing for a relaxed arm position. Arm mounted seat controls make the slide and height adjustment of the armrests easy to operate.
Modern ergonomic office chairs have a synchronised reclining mechanism which allows workers to move without restriction. The seat and back are linked offering various angles of recline. The torsion can be tempered to tailor to the user’s specification. Chairs with this advanced feature are able to remain static whilst providing a dynamic seating solution.
Ergonomic Chair Buying Guide
To take full advantage of the health benefits a good office chair can provide, workers must choose a chair which includes multiple adjustable qualities. Ergonomic office chairs include height adjustments, tilt tension, mobility and headrests to minimise the dangers of a sedentary workplace. Chairs often also use a breathable fabric to prevent overheating and guarantee long term comfort.
The Gentoo Ergo Range of Ergonomic Office Chairs
A top of the line office chair which remains budget-friendly, the Gentoo Ergo model has all the qualities a successful ergonomic seating solution requires.
The Gentoo Ergo Click Plus features an auto adjusting lumbar support which moves in unison with the user throughout the work day. The Gentoo Ergo Twist has a revolutionary pivot system and padded supports to ensure comfort and care 24 hours a day. Both offer the option of a mesh or fabric seat and are available in black.
Stylish, subtle and supportive, the Gentoo Ergo range of office task chairs allows those on a budget to reap the health benefits of an ergonomic seating solution. Create a professional and responsible image and accommodate the body shape of multiple users with the Gentoo Ergo collection.