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Clare Hudson
Clare Hudson
  • 2 Minute Read
  • 09th March 2011

Ergonomics, Chairs and the Office

How many different types of chairs do you sit on each day? I counted 5; office chair, tube seat, train bench, kitchen chair and living room sofa. How long do you spend sitting on each chair? Chances are if you work in an office, your office chair is likely to be the piece of furniture where you spend the most time.

Ergonomics basically means ‘human factors’ and is the study of the relationships between humans and their surrounding environments; but more specifically, it’s a way of understanding how to improve the health, comfort and safety of people at work.

Teresa F. Lindeman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said, "It's still true that the majority of time that people spend working, they spend in a seated position. The chair becomes the foundation of the workplace."

Staples Advantage conducted a recent survey and found that 86% of office workers felt some discomfort from their office furniture and equipment and 41% said they felt frequent pain in their necks. Staples argue that “office furniture may make or break how employees feel during the day” and with some ergonomic enhancements, “companies can create happier, healthier and more productive work environments”.

‘Business Updates’ said, "comfy chairs make for happier, more productive workers, and an ergonomically correct keyboard doesn’t hurt either". Zahid Chaudhri, Marketing Director, SOS > Search Office Space said, "Investing some capital in top end ergonomic chairs may seem trivial to most companies and unnecessary, but there are studies and research that show productivity can actually increase, which in the long run can only benefit the company".

So, what is the ideal chair and seating position? Tim Springer, president of Hero Inc consulting firm in Chicago said, "There isn't a right way to sit”.

Springer goes on to say that everyone sits differently; such as the people who sit with one leg tucked under them, the people who sit leaning so far back they’re almost horizontal, the cross legged position and so on. Everyone has their unique style and there are many variations on the office space sitting technique. If money’s not an issue, chairs can now be bought with mesh backs and pressure points that move with the person sitting in it; a nice idea!

Of course, there are some simple and free adjustments you can make right now if you’re feeling the strain. Being more aware of your posture, not wearing heels at the desk or bringing in an extra cushion are just a few suggestions.

It is also interesting to note what Gary Davis, a qualified ergonomist and industrial designer had to say. Davis said "We have a changing demographic; by the year 2020 half the adults in the UK will be aged 50 or over and the number of older people in the world will double to 1.2 billion by 2028. Inclusive design, in which products and services are usable by the widest possible range of people, therefore provides access to an expanding market". Perhaps we’ll start to see more ‘pressure point’ chairs?

Perhaps in the future we won’t even use chairs. After all, Asian traditions of kneeling or squatting on the floor have shown to have greater health benefits than sitting in a chair. Cameron Campbell, a designer for Herman Miller said, “Our notion of a machine for sitting may not make sense in a globalized world”. It’s an interesting thought.

Maybe we’ll all have our own unique sitting stations as well as sitting techniques. Some people may have hi-tech adjusting chairs and some may simply kneel amongst a pile of cushions on the floor.