Archive: September 2012
By: Rodney K. Lefler, DC of spine-health.com Working in an office typically involves spending a great deal of time sitting in an office chair —a position that adds stress to the structures in the spine. Therefore, to avoid developing or compounding back problems, it's important to have an office chair that's ergonomic and that supports the lower back and promotes good posture.
What Kind of Ergonomic Office Chair is Best?
There are many types of ergonomic chairs available for use in the office. No one type of office chair is necessarily the best, but there are some things that are very important to look for in a good ergonomic office chair. These things will allow the individual user to make the chair work well for his or her specific needs. This article will examine the traditional office chair, as well as alternatives that can be used as an office chair that may be preferable for some people with back problems. In first considering the "conventional" style of office chair, there are a number of things an ergonomic chair should have, including:
- Seat height. Office chair seat height should be easily adjustable. A pneumatic adjustment lever is the easiest way to do this. A seat height that ranges from about 16 to 21 inches off the floor should work for most people. This allows the user to have his or her feet flat on the floor, with thighs horizontal and arms even with the height of the desk.
- Seat width and depth. The seat should have enough width and depth to support any user comfortably. Usually 17-20 inches wide is the standard. The depth (from front to back of the seat) needs to be enough so that the user can sit with his or her back against the backrest of the ergonomic office chair while leaving approximately 2 to 4 inches between the back of the knees and the seat of the chair. The forward or backward tilt of the seat should be adjustable.
- Lumbar support. Lower back support in an ergonomic chair is very important. The lumbar spine has an inward curve, and sitting for long periods without support for this curve tends to lead to slouching (which flattens the natural curve) and strains the structures in the lower spine. An ergonomic chair should have a lumbar adjustment (both height and depth) so each user can get the proper fit to support the inward curve of the lower back.
- Backrest. The backrest of an ergonomic office chair should be 12 to 19 inches wide. If the backrest is separate from the seat, it should be adjustable in height and angle. It should be able to support the natural curve of the spine, again with special attention paid to proper support of the lumbar region. If the office chair has the seat and backrest together as one piece, the backrest should be adjustable in forward and back angles, with a locking mechanism to secure it from going too far backward once the user has determined the appropriate angle.
- Seat material. The material on the office chair seat and back should have enough padding to be comfortable to sit on for extended periods of time. Having a cloth fabric that breathes is preferable to a harder surface.
Decorate, Modify and Organize Your Office to Increase Productivity
The way your office is decorated and organized is directly related to your comfort, and ultimately your productivity. There are a few things you can do with this knowledge to become more task-oriented and productive. Here are a few tips to increase productivity in relation to your office's color, indoor environment, furniture, lighting, and general layout. Furniture The furniture in your office is yet another point to consider when creating an environment encouraging of hard work. The best furniture for your office is going to be described as ergonomic. Ergonomic office furniture is made in a scientific way so that the health of its users is taken into account. This type of furniture is adjustable and reduces discomfort and fatigue in the workplace, a recipe for increased productivity. For the office chair, you want a chair that is adjustable and mobile. It should suit your body and allow for a comfortable seating experience that also minimizes unnecessary strain. There are also ergonomic keyboards and desks/tables out there for you to find. The goal is to have furniture that allows for maximum mobility and comfort. You want a working space that can accommodate all of your task materials while keeping them in easy reach. Tabletops should be approximately 27"-29" high. The space for your legs and feet should be no less than 27 inches wide by 27 inches deep. Avoid desks or surfaces with recessed areas or wells that restrict keyboard placement. Almost every office will also have electronics, specifically a computer and the necessary accessories. The type of computer you work with has an effect on your posture. Laptop computers cause more problems than stationary desktop computers. Users have a tendency to hunch over and bring their heads forward while using laptops, causing harm to the neck. Desktops with matte or dark finishes seem to be better than desktops with reflective or light finishes. You will also want a monitor that has a tilting function. This will help to eliminate screen reflections and maximize comfort for your eyes and neck. For your keyboard, many have angle adjustment tabs that can contribute to comfort levels. There are also several different types of ergonomic keyboards out there. Try a few keyboards out to find which one is most comfortable for you. You might want to use a wrist/arm rest or a padded mouse pad as well since these items can reduce static muscle loading and improper wrist posture. You want your hands and fingers to be as relaxed as possible to optimize productivity. Indoor Environment Recent studies indicate that healthy air quality (proper temperature and ventilation) is important to maintain productivity levels. It is common sense that a worker who is too hot or too cold is not going to work at full speed. Chilly and hot workers make more errors on the job and don't work as productively as those in comfortable temperatures. Decreasing pollutants and increasing ventilation can improve job performance. When you have poor air quality, people get sick, skin issues arise, along with a number of other annoyances. Along with temperature, humidity levels should also be within comfortable ranges. The relative humidity level should be between 40% and 50%. To get your work area a little warmer, try a small space heater. There are some very small portable heaters available. You could get a heated panel that installs anywhere you sit or stand, a floor mat, or even a foot rest that adds a little heat to your work space. If you have the space, you might also go with a more conventional space heater. If your office is on the warmer side, invest in a portable fan to cool you off. You may even want to put ice in front of the fan. If you have or can get a ceiling fan, use it often. Keep windows closed, and cover them from both the outside and the inside if possible. And try to minimize your power use, since this can add heat to your work space. Low humidity levels can cause health problems in the office. To increase humidity levels, think about adding a plant to your décor. Not only do office plants increase humidity levels, they also offer a number of other great benefits including the ability to clean toxins from the air. A small humidifier can also increase humidity levels in the office to a normal level. High humidity levels will stain ceilings and walls, damage paint, peel wallpaper, and make for a breeding ground for mold and insects. To decrease humidity levels in the office, use a small dehumidifier or, when possible, exhaust fans. Lighting You will need differing amounts of light depending on what type of work you're doing. Adequate lighting supports workers so that they are able to perform their tasks efficiently and without error. Inadequate lighting leads to inadequate productivity levels. Since your lighting needs change with respect to your work tasks, think about using movable lighting. The best amount of light for working on a computer and using paper documents is 300 to 400 lux. If no paper documents are used, lower that lighting requirement to 200 lux or lower. Understand that your eyes can adapt quite well to a wide range of light levels. They can only adapt to one level at a time however. You don't want to fatigue your eyes by working on your computer in the dark (or an improperly lit room). To reduce eye strain, lower the brightness on your computer screen or increase the light in the room. The same concept applies to excessively bright rooms. Try to darken your space up a bit to combat this sort of situation. Reflections can also be a problem, with windows being the culprit many times. Move the source light, alter that light and/or change your position in relation to the light to remedy this problem. Light from windows can be controlled by drapes and blinds. Louvers and screen filters can also reduce glare resulting from overhead unnatural lighting. Organization & Layout Once you have all of your ergonomic furniture and other office décor picked out, now you need to organize your work space for optimal productivity. The main goal when organizing your work space is to keep the things you use most often easily accessible and close by. Don't spread your supplies all over the place. Try to build upwards instead of out. This will help you keep things together and give you more space. Keep your work space tidy. It is an unproductive, waste of time when you are searching through a cluttered mess. Utilize filing cabinets and a working filing system to manage paperwork. When you have everything organized or filed, you will know exactly where to look when you need it. Stay on top of things also by keeping your supplies well-stocked. As for the layout of your office, there are a few general tips to keep in mind as well. Arrange your work space so that there is a comfortable viewing distance (15"-40") from your eyes to your computer screen. Many times screens are set too high, forcing users to tilt their neck backwards. The center of the screen should be a few degrees below eye level. You should set your desk up so that you aren't facing any uncovered windows or other bright lights. Make sure that your computer screen is perpendicular (or close to it) to any windows. This will help you to avoid those distracting glares. Accessories & General Office Décor Research has shown that there is a positive affect associated with art and job productivity. Not only will adding artwork to the workplace increase productivity, it can also relieve stress while boosting morale and creativity. Plants have proven to be very effective for boosting productivity in the workplace as well. Read my previously published article on the subject for more information: Indoor Office Plants: Benefits & Suggestions. By taking into account your office's layout, lighting, furniture, color scheme, indoor environment and other general decorations you now understand what you can do to improve your productivity. Now it's time to put that knowledge into action. You may be surprised by how productive you can be by taking just a few simple steps to modify your office space. Color The color of your office directly affects your mood. It can relieve stress and also increase productivity. A room painted a sunny yellow color is going to have a different effect on your emotions than one painted in dark blacks or browns. To increase your productivity level, incorporate warm colors in your office. Reds and oranges are supposed to be great for getting you energized and focused. You might also try using complimentary colors that are located on opposite sides of the color wheel. Going this route gives a room a feeling of intensity and high energy as well. If possible, choose colors that inspire you, and avoid grey or white. ----------A related article discusses How to Set Up Your Office for Maximum Efficiency. Please call Capital Choice Office Furniture 614-332-1828 to discuss designing your office space to keep your business productive.
Frederick County in Maryland raises some eyebrows by spending $30,000 on office chairs for their 9-1-1 service. After some debate and confirmation they would be paid for by service fees, the office chairs were purchased for the 24 hour facility. $1200 Office Chairs Raise Questions in Maryland
Ergogenesis Chairs at Capital Choice Office Furniture provide similar body contouring and ergonomic back support structure! All BodyBilt High-Task-Back chairs provide exceptional comfort with upper and low back support. 10-Point Posture Control adjustability puts at your command the tools to address and alleviate stressful aches and pains so often escalated by inferior chairs. The moderately contoured seat on this model is our most popular design. With passive weight distribution via surface contact this model encourages proper-seated posture and cushions the high-pressure points that lead to discomfort on flat seat designs. For special needs, an array of optional features is offered to address almost every seated task in the office. The J style mechanism rocks from a center-pivot point under the seat, and allows for the backrest depth adjustment feature (not found on the K-style mechanism).
Our Herman Miller Aeron, Mirra, and Celle task chairs all offer back support and several adjustments to offer a customized fit.