Archive: August 2013
Neither open-plan offices or shorter hours help
A new study in the Journal of Environmental Pyscohology finds that open-plan offices without cubicles and shorter hours doesn't always make workers happier. Lisa Belkin, senior columnist at the Huffington Post joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss.
If the average business person or desk bound fellow were to determine how much time they spend in their office chair, they would be surprised. At 40 hours per week, they’d rack up approximately 1900 hours over the course of a year. Multiply that by the average number of years a person works, and it’s easy to see that a large portion of one’s life is spent in an office chair.
In spite of this calculation, more money is often spent purchasing a desk than is spent on the chair. The same can be said for home office setups. Some people are spending more time in front of a computer than they spend sleeping. It only makes sense to have an office chair for both the office and the home that is comfortable and supportive.
Hit the jump for our my tips on making yourself chair-wise.
There have been many ergonomics studies done and it has been shown that a supportive office chair increases productivity and maximizes the efficiency of the person sitting in it. A bad office chair, on the other hand, can lead to back strain, leg problems, and carpal tunnel, all of which cause lost time at work and send turn send productivity spiraling.
So, instead of losing money due to employee absences, it is important to spend money on good office chairs that promote back health and keep employee from missing work due to injuries. The cost of the chair is more than made up by fewer absences.
What to Look For in an Office Chair
Office chairs are a part of the décor of any office and so many people try to make sure they look good without worrying about the health influences the chair will have on the person who uses it. The design or ergonomics of the chair should be considered above everything else.
Lumbar Support: A good office chair will have support for the lower back. Some of the better ones will even have an adjustable lumbar support that allows the user to fit the chair to their lower back. This is important in preventing back strain that can worsen and become sciatica, a condition which can be debilitating.
Adjustability: Almost all office chairs have a height and arm adjustment; however, these are not the most important adjustments to look for when shopping for an office chair. The best office chairs have at least five adjustments with some having up to 14 different adjustments.
Important features that should be adjustable include lumbar support, arm width and height, seat back width and height, seat and back angle, and tension control. Many of the supports are dial controlled while a few are controlled with a hand-held bulb pump, similar to a blood pressure cuff pump.
Wheel Base: Nearly all office chairs have a wheel base; however, if the office is carpeted it may be necessary to get a chair with wheels specifically made for carpet. Rolling is important in preventing strain due to reaching across a desk to retrieve items that are out of reach.
Swivel Base: All office chairs should swivel freely to allow for easy access to various parts of the desk. If the chair doesn’t swivel freely, arm fatigue can result from over extending to reach various items.
Fabric: The fabric should be breathable to keep the chair from becoming hot and uncomfortable after hours of sitting in it. In addition, it should have enough cushion to support the person sitting in it without feeling the base of the chair through the cushion.
Why Is a Good Chair Important?
There are many benefits to having a good office chair in addition to having less back strain. A good, supportive office chair prevents fatigue and discomfort that can come from siting in the same chair for hours on end.
Studies have shown that comfortable employees are more productive and contribute to a more positive work environment than uncomfortable employees. Finally, having the correct, comfortable office chair reduces the number of breaks the employee will need to take due to being uncomfortable.
Trying on a Chair
Office managers should attempt to have their employees try on the chair they plan to purchase before buying it to insure that it fits the employee well. It is important to know how the chair should feel in order to make a wise purchase. Many office supply companies will bring a variety of chairs to the office so employees can sit in them and decide which one fits them best. Chair owners should look for these things when purchasing new chairs:
- The backrest should be adjustable and follow the shape of the spine. It should also support the curve in the lower back.
- Feet should rest flat on the floor comfortably. If not, adjust the chair height or add a footrest.
- Arm rests should be close the body and allow the shoulder to relax.
- Arm height should be adjustable and match the height of the desk. This will prevent strain to the shoulders.
- In a sitting position looking forward, the center of the computer screen is what should be seen.
- The back of the chair should come to the middle of the shoulder blades in order to provide adequate support, above the shoulders is even better.
- The seat of the chair should be long enough to put two or three finger lengths between it and the knee.
- If possible, the cushion should be memory foam. Other cushions wear out quickly and make the chair uncomfortable.
In 2001,the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine estimated that over 1 million people in the United States suffered from work-related musculoskeletal disorders that resulted in lost time from work. Along with time lost working, these disorders cost an average of 45-54 billion dollars annually.
Poor alignment in the office leads to common health problems such as carpal tunnel, back and neck problems. According to some workers, even standing at a higher desk, as opposed to sitting, can alleviate lower back stiffness, improve balance, leg muscle strength, and alleviate feelings of drowsiness. When people sit for extended periods of time, not only does it lead to increased cases of obesity, but it also restricts blood flow, which increases the risk for blood clots.
Aside from reducing lost time and money due to injury and healthcare costs, ergonomic office spaces have also demonstrated an increase in worker productivity overall.
In 2003 the University of Texas, the Upjohn Research Institute, York University and Health and Work Outcomes, conducted a joint study to measure the effectiveness of ergonomic office spaces on employee productivity. The study divided 319 employees into three test groups. One group served as a control group and continued to use their regular office equipment. The second group received a 90-minute training about office ergonomics. The third group received a highly adjustable chair in conjunction with a 90-minute training.
The ergonomic chair included features such as adjustable armrests, a flexible back support that conformed to the movement and shape of the user, and a seat that slid forward when the chair reclined. Over a sixteen month test period, the study found that employees who received both the ergonomic chair and the ergonomic office training experienced a lower level of negative symptom growth throughout the day and an increase in total productivity of %17.7.
While some people may argue that ergonomics is a fancy word for unnecessary items, the numbers show a different truth; that happy and healthy employees mean an increase in overall productivity and profit.
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