There was a time when most workplaces were designed to be functional and little or no attention was given to the comfort of employees. However, things have changed today – and for good. Employers are more considerate towards the comfort needs of their employees. They’re hiring ergonomists to design ergonomic workspaces so that their employees can work in a comfortable and safe environment.
One of the most important pieces of office furniture is office chairs. It’s the chair that an employee will be seated on all day long. Uncomfortable office chairs put employees at a higher risk of chronic health problems like back and shoulder pain. When you set out to procure an ergonomic office chair, you’ll come across 2 options; ergonomic chairs with armrests and those without armrests. The question that you might have in mind is whether to get an ergonomic chair with armrests or without?
Arguments Around Armrests
There are various arguments around whether chairs with armrests are better than those without armrests. Some experts argue that armrests keep the user from getting close to their work desks. They also say that using armrests puts pressure and stress on the soft tissues of the elbow and forearms which increases the risk of the user suffering from conditions like tendinitis. However, others argue that if you choose an ergonomic office chair that has adjustable armrests like the Soutien Ergonomic Office Chair that can be adjusted according to the size of the user, armrests can reduce the pressure on the spine and make work more comfortable for the user. Whether armrests are good or not comes down to whether the armrests can be adjusted. The armrests of an office chair may be too high or too low for you or they may be too close to the seat making it hard for you to sit comfortably. In that case, armrests will do more bad to your physical wellbeing than good.
How Important are Armrests?
An ergonomic office chair with armrests offers a plethora of benefits for the user that makes these chairs worth the price. Let’s have a look at some of the most noteworthy benefits that armrests have got to offer.
Offers the Body Considerable Support
The hands and arms together make up to 12% of the total body mass. Without armrests, this weight is unassisted. If you come to think of it, 12% of your total body weight is too much to be holding up without any support, and that too, for several hours. This can lead to excessive load on your back and premature muscle fatigue. However, armrests provide the arms and hands of your body the support they need, ensuring the significant 12% of your body weight isn’t unassisted.
Reduce Load on the Spine
When you’re sitting, all of a load of your body weight is on the spine. However, when you use a chair with armrests, some of the body weight is lifted off the spine. According to studies, if the armrests of an ergonomic office chair are configured to an individual’s body, the load on the spine can be reduced by 10%.
Reduces the Neck and Shoulder Pain
One of the most common complaints people who’ve got to sit in their chairs all day long is a pain in the neck and shoulders. If you use an office chair with adequate support for the forearms, you’ll notice a reduction in the pain in your shoulders and neck. It’s because when your forearms are supported, the deltoid and trapezius muscles are relaxed, and that helps prevent muscle fatigue and stress.
You’ll be surprised to know how soon your muscles can get fatigued if you don’t provide them with adequate support. If you keep your arm in an extended position such that your arms are extended by 8 inches, your forearm muscles will get fatigued in just 10 minutes! Fatigue is followed by pain that impairs your ability to work. However, providing support to your forearms delays fatigue.
Are All Ergonomic Office Chairs with Armrests Good Options?
We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again; an ergonomic office chair with armrests is only good when it offers adjustability options. If the armrests aren’t adjustable, they’re really not that big of a catch because it’s not necessary that the armrests of the chair you buy are best suited to your body. Armrests are only good if they’re adjusted to offer the support that your body needs.
What to Look for When Buying An Ergonomic Office Chair with Armrests?
Buying an ergonomic office chair isn’t as straightforward as you might think. There are a lot of factors that you must consider before you buy any ergonomic chair with armrests. Let’s have a look at what these factors are and make sure the chair you put your money in meets all the pointers on the checklist.
The first and the most important feature that you must look for in an ergonomic chair is whether the height of the armrests can be adjusted or not. The armrests must be at a height that keeps your body in a relaxed posture. If they’re too high, you’ll have to raise your elbows and shoulders that’ll lead to severe pain in your neck and shoulders. If the armrests are too low, your elbows will be too low to reach the keyboard.
Another reason why you must only choose an ergonomic chair with armrests whose height can be adjusted is the fact that armrests can prevent you from reaching close to your work desk, which is also one of the many arguments experts present against armrests. When the height of armrests can be adjusted, you can set the height such that they’re at level with your work desk while being low enough to be accommodated under the desk.
If the height can’t be adjusted, all the arguments against armrests will be justified true and your chair will only make sitting on it for long hours painful.
Adjustable width feature is just as important as the adjustable height feature. The perfect posture for sitting on an ergonomic chair with armrests is such that your elbows are directly under your shoulders. If they’re spread too wide or are too close to your torso, it’ll only put stress on the muscles of your forearms and shoulders and it won’t be long before your body will start to hurt. With an adjustable width feature, you can adjust the armrests according to your build and physique and set them at a width that ensures the correct sitting posture. According to studies, armrests that can be adjusted to up to 4 inches will suit most people.
Another important feature is the length adjustment. When the length is adjustable, you can make the armrests longer or shorter based on how much support you want for your forearms. If you’re sitting with your back fully resting on the backrest while watching a video or listening to a webinar, you may want your armrests to be longer for maximum support. If you’re sitting bending towards tour computer where only your elbows are resting on the armrests, a short armrest length would be better. So, when the length of the armrests is adjustable, you can ensure ideal posture and maximum support at all times.
Another feature to look for in an ergonomic office chair with armrests is whether the armrests are pivoting or not. Some armrests pivot inwards and some pivot outwards. Inward titling armrests are far more useful and beneficial than those that tilt outwards. If you sit in a position where you’ve got to bring the wrists of both hands close to each other such that the arms form a v-shape, then an ergonomic chair whose armrests tilt inwards is the best option for you. When you bring your hands close to each other, like you do when typing a text on your phone, your arms are dangling unsupported which can fatigue your muscles. Look for an office chair whose armrests can be titled inwards up to 15 degrees for maximum adjustability and versatility.
The armrests of some ergonomic office chairs can be flipped up when they aren’t in use. If your work desk doesn’t have enough space to accommodate a chair with armrests or the space in the office is limited or you prefer to sit without armrests at times, such an ergonomic chair seems like the best option for you.
The more adjustability features an ergonomic office chair is equipped with, the more employees it’ll suit as everyone can adjust it as per their preferences. Choosing the correct ergonomic chair is crucial to ensure maximum support, maximum comfort, and maximum benefits. To close the argument on whether an ergonomic office chair with armrests is better or the one without them and whether armrests are good for ergonomics, we would say that if the armrests are adjustable, nothing else could be a better option than an office chair with armrests.