Why Ergonomics Matter

As an office worker, you require spending long hours sitting in a chair at a desk. If you are big or tall you already know not all office chairs are created equally. If required to sit in a chair designed for someone half your weight or height this is going to result in health issues. It’s time to invest in an ergonomically designed chair for your particular size and height.

What is Ergonomics?

When a chair or any piece of furniture or equipment is ergonomically designed it means it was created with thought of the human body and how the body works. This type of chair reduces strain on the neck, back, shoulder, arms, legs and hips. The chair is able to adjust to your one of a kind physical structure so you don’t end up a stiff, sore, aching mess at day’s end.

Ergonomics is the science of creating a job to fit the worker and not forcing the worker to fit the job. This includes paying attention to environment factors that can negatively impact vision, health, comfort and hearing. It also takes into account the physical stresses placed on a person’s muscles, joints, tendons, nerves and bones when they are doing a specific job.

The purpose of ergonomics is to put a stop to employee injuries which is achieved when utilizing equipment and tools benefiting a person’s health rather than ruining it. Employees stay healthy, happy and are productive and medical and insurance costs, as well as absenteeism due to illness or injuries decline, which pleases the employer. It’s a win-win situation for all involved.

A worker knows when he has stayed in an uncomfortable or awkward position too long because his body hurts. If the uncomfortable and awkward position is required in order for him to do the job this is not an ergonomically sound situation.

Physical Stressors

People experience physical stressors on the job including repetitive motions. If you are typing all day or using a wrench to turn screws 40 hours a week this can result in health issues, including carpal tunnel syndrome. Some jobs involve vibration (such as using a jack hammer), while others entail using extreme strength to lift heavy objects.

Holding a telephone receiver to your ear, bolstered by your shoulder, isn’t doing any favors for your neck, shoulders and back, which will be cramped and sore by day’s end. If you sleep all night in an awkward position, which everyone has done at one time or another, you know how stiff and achy you feel when awakening. The same applies to maintaining a problematic position throughout the day at work.

Sitting in an office chair that does not accommodate your height and weight is just asking for trouble. A chair designed for a 120 pounder is not going to effectively accommodate a 300 pound person. That’s why it’s important to do your research. There are all kinds of seating arrangements to match your body type; there are office chairs for big and tall people, and office chairs for people with back pain.

The Ideal Chair

The ideal office chair should adjust so the seat is high or low enough for the user; the backrest must be adjustable as should the tilt capability which puts the armrest in the right position and height for the individual. The chair must be designed so the seat curves a bit downward toward the front, which puts the knees lower than the hips, which is what you want. Feet should rest easily on the floor.

The seat, which is also called the seat pan, should be at least one incher wider than the sitter’s hips and thighs on each side. and needs to be large enough to contain big hips, while also offering support. Sometimes a seat pan is too short and this puts force on the under knee area of a diminutive person and back support is diminished. A seat that is undersized can actually curb blood flow to the legs and that isn’t good.

The backrest supports the lumbar and conforms to the user’s spine curvature.  Ideally, it moves forward and backward and is capable of reclining 15 degrees from the vertical. In addition, chairs design to comfort and accommodate any size body keep the spine healthy. The body is kept in proper alignment. Look for a chair with a serviceable backrest which provides lumbar support by maintaining the innate S-shape or a person’s spine.

The backrest’s outward curve needs to fit the curve of the person’s back. When sitting in a chair that does not have these features the sitters experiences back pain and fatigue.

Chair-sitting Can Be Dangerous

Sitting all day long can be as damaging, if not more so, than walking on concrete floors 40 hours a week. Studies reveal the more a person sits on his behind during the course of a day the higher his risk is of an earlier death despite his weight and exercise habits. The spine, shoulders, hips and heart take a direct hit when a person spends excessive amounts of time in a seated position.

A study reported in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2012 noted healthy men who purposely limited their footsteps by 85 percent for a fortnight experienced a 17 percent decrease in insulin sensitivity which raised their diabetes peril. There is solid evidence that extended sitting leads to heart disease. This has been observed in those who smoke and don’t smoke as well as those who exercise and don’t exercise. Sitting for long periods of time is an independent risk issue in regard to cardiovascular disease.

So along with sitting in a chair that is going to support and accommodate your body during the long work day, an individual must remember to get up occasionally and move. Those who stand on the job burn approximately 1, 500 more calories while on the job than the person who sits at a desk (1,000 calories.) If you have just started a job requiring you to sit, beware: You are apt to gained 16 pounds within the next sixteen months. Take preventive action now and move as often as you can.

Get an ergonomically designed chair that keeps you comfortable and supportive throughout the day. This makes a tremendous difference in how you feel and will in turn increase your productivity at work. However, do not get too comfortable. Sitting is detrimental to your health. Get up and walk. Get rid of some of that excess weight.

Is your office ergonomics-friendly?

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Anna Hicks is an online writer who normally covers topics such as personal finance, business, and career. You can read more writing by Anna at paidtwice.com.


  1. Alison Elissa Horner on the 2nd January

    Interesting! I appreciated your citation of studies and articles supporting the ill effects of sitting. I had heard this idea before, but was happy to learn more.

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