Our lives are becoming more sedentary by the day. An unprecedented number of people now work in an office, either from home or in a traditional office setting. The average employee sits for 6.5 hours daily, according to the Washington Post. Teenagers (12 to 19 years old) sit at least 1.5 hours more daily, according to the same research.
How Long Do You Sit?
If the research is true and you sit 6.5 hours daily, then you would have seated for about 2350 hours by the time the year ends. This is equal to almost 100 days of seating per year. For teenagers who the research established seats for 8 hours daily, that is about 2890 hours and approximately 120 days in a 365 days year.
Long Sitting Hours and its Effects on the Body
Sitting for several hours each day is no easy task, especially on chairs that do not have the right support. The increasing rate of certain body pain issues, such as lower back pain, has been said to be largely due to long sitting hours. The following are the effects of long sitting hours on the body:
- Discs in the lower back begin to bulge, bringing about varying degrees of lower back pain
- Hips get weak, leading to increasing mobility issues
- Neck and shoulders pain
- Knee pain
- Poor blood circulation
All the health problems highlighted above have serious implications on the productivity of workers. A 2019/2020 Labour Force Survey in the UK showed that 480k workers suffered from work-related musculoskeletal disorders – 44% (212k) of which have neck or upper limbs issues, 37% (176k) with back issues, and 19% (93k) with lower limbs issues. These problems culminated in the loss of 8.9 million working days in 2019/2020, according to the survey and these figures are for only the UK.
In the US, 400k people are said to be suffering work-related musculoskeletal disorders and injuries. Annual direct costs of these disorders range between $45 to $54 billion – $25B for the UK and $20B for the US.
Ergonomic Office Chairs To The Rescue
Many years of research and technology advancement have gone into the design of support systems that are suitable for body architecture. The incredible result of such commitments includes the manufacture of ergonomic office chairs. They are designed based on the understanding of the human anatomy, ensuring that workers get adequate support for several hours daily. The importance of investing in an ergonomic office chair is far-reaching, bordering on health, productivity, and cost issues.
Benefits of Ergonomic Office Chairs
- Fosters healthy posture: A leading cause of work-related musculoskeletal disorder or injuries is bad posture. Many chairs used in offices do not have the necessary support system causing users to strain or bend in a bid to get a comfortable position for their work. Ergonomic office chairs are designed to provide adequate support for all body parts hence fostering a healthy posture.
- Supports the curve of the back: many office chair designs do not take into account the shape of the back hence forcing the back into unnatural positions. On the other hand, ergonomic office chair design takes into consideration the gentle curvature in the lower back hence the chair conforms to users’ back, allowing users to remain in a natural position. This is a vital reason for its suitability for long sitting hours, check out our article on the top 15 Best Office Chairs For Back Pain. This alleviates the buildup of pressure in the lower back.
- Even weight distribution: high back and water-front seats are some of the features that contribute to the even distribution of users’ weight. This means pressure will not build up in any part of the body hence promoting better health.
- Alleviates stress on the spine: once the natural curve of the back is supported and weight distribution is even, there will be less stress on the spine.
- Enhanced productivity: investing in an ergonomic office chair reduces pain issues, allowing users to focus on their job. Also, the number of workdays missed due to musculoskeletal disorders will reduce drastically. This makes a huge difference in the level of productivity.
- Reduced health cost: increasing musculoskeletal disorders means more time and money are spent on health maintenance. While an ergonomic office chair may seem expensive at the start, it is cheaper in the long run.
- Higher living quality: reduced pain, increased productivity, and lower health cost culminates in a better standard of living. Workers live a life with less pain and spend less on health maintenance.
Features of the Best Ergonomic Chairs
- Backrest: this is very essential to the level of comfort an office chair provides. The backrest makes it possible for you to vertically erect or recline. An excellent backrest design will help to reduce back and shoulder pains.
- Cushioning: another important feature of an ergonomic office chair is thick cushioning. This helps to keep users comfortable for several hours. Thick seat padding ensures that the thighs are not hard-pressed, enhancing blood circulation to and fro the lower limbs.
- Adjustability: the ability to adjust an office chair according to personal needs is arguably the most important feature. We vary in sizes and heights hence it is imperative for each user to be able to adjust the features based on their preferences. The seat height, armrests, and lumbar support are key parts that should be adjustable.
- Lumbar support: this is another extremely important feature. The lower back or lumbar region has a gentle curvature. Ergonomic office chair designs include lumbar support to ensure the structure of the lower back is not strained. Therefore, it alleviates lower back pain and makes it suitable for long sitting hours.
- Seat design: the design of the seat of an office chair plays vital roles in its suitability for long sitting hours. It influences the distribution of weight as well as blood flow. Waterfall seat front design is the best; fosters even weight distribution and enhances circulation.
- Mobility: office activities usually involve a lot of movement or reaching out to get certain things therefore it is important that the chair allows you to move freely. Ergonomic office chairs often come with a swivel and wheels, allowing you to easily reach for items without straining.
- Headrest: this is also an important feature. It helps to align the back hence fostering a healthy posture. It allows your muscles to relax and enhances blood flow. You may not need it in a vertically upright position but will be of great importance when the chair is slightly reclined. People who already have lower back pain problems need this feature more.
- Armrests: these features are often discounted but are also very important. It works in a similar manner to the headrest. It supports at least one-fourth of users’ weight, ensuring that strain does not build up in the spine. It also fosters a healthy posture. If you are concerned about space; many ergonomic office chairs have removable or flippable armrests, allowing users to tuck the chair neatly under the desk when not in use.
Choosing the right ergonomic office chair
All the features of ergonomic office chairs discussed above are important considerations when choosing the right ergonomic office chair, others include:
- Material: how comfortable an office chair will be is significantly impacted by the upholstery materials used. Some of the most popular materials used are mesh, cloth fabric, and leather. Each of these has its merits and demerits. Mesh material is highly breathable; will keep you cool for several hours irrespective of temperature. However, it may be too firm for many users. Leather looks more luxurious and feels great on the skin but it is not very breathable. Cloth fabric feels great and is quite breathable but the maintenance is more difficult. Therefore, choose the best for your circumstances.
- Dimensions: back height, seat width, seat depth, and maximum weight capacity are key dimensions to consider. Though some of these features are adjustable, each chair still has its range hence ensure you get the appropriate dimensions for you otherwise the purposes of buying an ergonomic office chair will be defeated.
- Durability: when choosing an ergonomic office chair, especially as a budget user, don’t be too carried away by the price. Check the quality of materials used and the excellence of the craftsmanship to ensure you get several years of amazing support and comfort from it.
- Style: fortunately, you no longer have to choose between comfort and style because there are many ergonomic office chairs with great styles. Choose the best for your office setting.
- Price:This is quite tricky. Many users are too focused on the initial outlay, neglecting its relation to long-term use. Sometimes, a $100 difference in price can make a significant difference in durability and comfort. Hence, always judge based on the whole picture. The prices of ergonomic office chairs vary extensively, from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars.
The infographic below shows the importance of Ergonomic chairs.
Investing in an ergonomic office chair is one of the best decisions any business owner can make. While it may seem expensive initially, the long-term benefits incredibly dwarf the cost. Your health and that of your workers will be preserved, much fewer workdays will be missed, and productivity will increase. These are only a few of the direct benefits, there are many more indirect benefits. You need an ergonomic office chair: there are pretty affordable options too.