Are You Sitting Comfortably? (Choosing the Correct Office Chair)

by | Aug 3, 2023 | Health and Safety

With an average desk-based worker spending approximately 40 hours per week sitting in an office chair, workers in the UK spend a long time sitting down!

Aside from providing a place to sit, a well-designed office chair is an essential tool for productivity, comfort, and overall well-being. With hours spent hunched over desks and engrossed in computer screens, the correct office chair can offer vital support, promote proper posture, reduce strain on the body, and minimise the risk of chronic pain or musculoskeletal issues. Wherever you work, choosing the appropriate office chair lays the foundation for a healthier and more efficient work environment.

Choosing your office chair

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A suitable office chair should have:

  1. A back rest that provides comfortable support for the back
  2. A seat with an adjustable height
  3. Five castor wheels to allow easy movement while seated

The correct chair will be adjustable, mobile, and comfortable. It should ideally have recline-ability, adjustable height, adjustable arm rests, and lumbar support for your back.

Your chair should be stable with an adjustable back support and enable you to sit with your posture fully protected, free from aches and pains.

You should sit back in your chair with your shoulders back, your back upright, your lower back and spine supported. You should relax your arms and keep forearms horizontal.

The correct set-up can improve energy and productivity levels.

It is unusual for most workers to have a desk with an adjustable height, therefore it is important when setting up your workspace that you adjust the height of your chair before doing anything else.

The correct chair height is when your forearm is horizontal and level with your keyboard without causing you to shrug your shoulders or slouch.


Factors to be Aware of

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The image above might look like the worker is doing everything correctly, with a suitable chair and his feet flat on the floor. However, take note of his laptop. Using a device at this height can strain the neck and eyes and cause musculoskeletal problems. Always use a riser so that the top of your screen is level with your eyes. You should also make sure that your screen is approximately arm’s length away from you (for laptop users this might mean investing in a separate keyboard and mouse to get the positioning right). There’s no point having the correct chair if your screen height is also wrong!

When working from home remember that heavily carpeted floors may be more difficult for your chair to move on (and wheel tracks may indent your carpet) so it could also be worth investing in a chair mat.

The material that a chair is made from affects how it feels to use as well as how it looks. If you find yourself sticking to your leather executive chair on a hot day, then it may not be the right one for you! If possible, try out several chairs to find the right one for you and your workspace.


Possible Causes of Discomfort

Are your feet comfortably on the floor? If your feet don’t touch the floor once your seat back is at the right height, this could cause pressure on the back of your thighs. In this case, you might need a footrest.

Is the seat pan a suitable depth? You should be able to fit 2 fingers between the front edge of the seat pan and the backs of your knees. A seat pan that is too short mat not give adequate support. A seat pan that is too long may cause the front edge of the seat to contact the back of your legs and cause discomfort.

Are you tall? Some tall people cannot comfortably fit their legs under the desk once their seat is the right height. In extreme cases you may need to have your desk raised or consider a standing desk.

Are you perching on your seat? Your back does not get the support it needs in this position.

Are you crossing your legs? Try to avoid this as is can lead to problems with circulation and cramp.


Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Training

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Employers are legally obliged to provide suitable health and safety information training for employees who regularly use Display Screen Equipment (DSE) as a significant part of their work. This training also explains in more detail about how to choose and use the correct chair and workspace set-up for you.

If you’d like a free trial of our DSE training or need help training and supporting your workforce in any other health and safety matters, please get in touch with us now.