The average desk-bound employee spends a third of their day in an office chair, which adds up to about 40 hours a week, and about 2000 hours a year. And when you multiply this number by the number of years a person spends working, you’ll quickly come to the realisation that we spend a large chunk of your life in our office chairs. Some people, myself included, spend more time in front of a computer than sleeping, so investing in quality office chairs that are comfortable and provide the needed support to our body is essential.

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In the past several years, a lot of emphases has been put on ergonomics, and studies show that adjustable, supportive and comfortable heavy duty office chairs can not only improve your health in the long term, but they can also increase your productivity. On the other hand, a bad office chair may cause leg problems, back strain and carpal tunnel syndrome, all of which result in lost time at work and a downwards productivity spiral. With that said, instead of losing money on employee paying healthcare bills or employee absence, it’s far better to invest some money in quality office chairs that promote health and reduce work-related injuries. The high initial cost of the chair will pay off in the long run as a result of the increased employee productivity and the fewer sick leaves.

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So, which features define ergonomic chairs? There are several elements you should look for, such as lumbar support, adjustability, fabric, wheelbase and swivel base. Lumbar support and adjustability are the two most important things to look for. A good office chair should offer lower-back support, as well as adjustable lumbar support that would allow you to fit the chair to your lower back. This is important for preventing back strain which can lead to sciatica, a very debilitating condition.

While almost every office chair features arm and height adjustability, that doesn’t automatically make it ergonomic. Quality office chairs should have at least 5 adjustment points, including adjustable lumbar support, arm height and width, seat back height and width, back and seat angle, and tension control. Most of the supports are dial-controlled, whereas a few can be controlled using a hand-held bulb pump.

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Also, most office chairs feature a wheelbase, but if the office is carpeted, you might want to look for a chair that has wheels that are specifically made for carpets. Rolling can be an important factor in preventing strains when reaching across the desk to get objects which are out of reach. Further, the chair should swivel freely so that you can easily access various parts of your desk. This prevents arm fatigue that’s a result of overextending to reach different objects.

And lastly, the fabric the chair is made of should be breathable in order to prevent it from becoming hot and uncomfortable after multiple hours of sitting in it. Additionally, it should have decent cushioning to support your weight without feeling the base of the chair. That being said, if you’re on the heavier side, you should look for heavy duty office chairs that can support your weight. There are models that can support over 150kg, so rest assured that no matter how heavy you are, you can find a suitable chair.

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Ideally, you want to try on the chair before you buy it so that you see how it feels on your body and whether it’s suitable for you or not. Many office ergonomic stores offer a variety of models so that you can sit on them and pick the one that suits you best. Here are some of the things you should look for when buying a chair:

  • An adjustable backrest that follows the shape of your spine and supports the curve on your lower back;
    Armrests that are close to the body and allow your shoulders to relax;
  • Your feet should rest flat on the floor, and if they don’t, add a footrest or adjust the chair’s height;
  • The arm height should match the height of your desk, and if it doesn’t, you should be able to adjust it to prevent shoulder strain;
    You should be able to see the centre of your computer screen when in a normal sitting position;
  • The back of the chair should meet the middle of the shoulder blades or go above the shoulders for an adequate support;
  • The chair’s seat should be long enough to fit 2 or 3 finger lengths between it and your knees;The cushion should be made from memory foam so it doesn’t wear out quickly.

Finding suitable chairs that prevent strains, injuries and are comfortable to sit in for prolonged periods of time is crucial to having healthy, happy and productive employees.