As office managers and human resource teams look to encourage healthier lifestyles and better overall employee satisfaction, it's become common practice to incorporate the essential office chair into an ergonomically correct workplace. This can quickly become overwhelming; office furniture has come a long way in the last 20 years, and options have expanded beyond a handful of similar-looking pieces. Here are the most popular options available for offices of any size.
The most common chair in the office today is the simple task chair, a low-profile chair with rollers or wheels on the bottom. It's an affordable seating option for workplaces. Task chairs may or may not have special "comfort" features, such as mesh backing, lumbar support or extra cushioning. Since they are focused on value, they usually lack the additional back and neck support of the more expensive options.
Many features may qualify a chair as "ergonomic," but not all ergonomic chairs are comfortable or suitable for your worker. The National Safety Council recommends you check any chair for the following before assuming it fits into an ergonomically correct workplace:
- A height adjustable seat that works equally well for shorter and taller workers
- A backrest that can be raised and lowered, as well as moved forward and backward, to meet the back without bending or stretching
- Firm lumbar support
- Stability, preferably in the form of a five-point base
- Appropriate seat depth for the worker using it
Picking the perfect seat to support back ergonomics in the workplace will require the worker to sit on and test it out before deciding.
For optimal mobility and versatility, consider a desk bike. These seats resemble a bicycle seat in shape and function, so they promote a more active sitting position that can encourage good posture. Employees can pedal at any moment without leaving their desk, which allows them to increase circulation and energy without disrupting workflow. The desk bike is available in an all-in-one unit that combines the desk with the bike seat, as well as an under-the-desk model for use with existing cubicles and work pod formations.
Stability Ball Chairs
Perhaps the most advanced, yet simplest chair to use is the large, inflatable ball you've seen in gyms and exercise rooms. Stability balls have been making their way into offices too, often replacing the standard chair at desks for users who want to strengthen their core while working. While they offer an opportunity to bounce, roll and move your way through the workday — perhaps burning some calories in the process — they don't offer much back support and can cause the user to slouch. For that reason, Mayo Clinic and other medical professionals don't advise stability balls be used as a replacement for a chair or stool.
Considerations When Buying
Remember that not all employees have identical needs when choosing what's best for your team. To get the best value, while acknowledging the importance of back ergonomics in the workplace, look for a chair that can be adjusted to a variety of body shapes and sizes. What works for an employee now might not be comfortable or even safe for the next one. Remember, too, that just because you see a product being used in a workplace of the future, it may or may not be comfortable, practical or safe. By selecting well-made seating options that work in a variety of environments, you can encourage healthy habits that last a lifetime.