6 min read

Chances are, you're not using your ergonomic office chair properly. Sylex Ergonomics’ office chairs come with an abundance of features, so whether you’re setting up your chair for the first time or didn’t notice all the levers when you first purchased your office chair, there are some settings you need to adjust to maximise ergonomic support.

The most important thing to remember about an ergonomic office chair, is that the chair has been designed to suit both people and a particular function. This means there is no on-size-fits-all chair – only chairs which are fit for a particular purpose. What may be ergonomic in one application can be inappropriate in another application or for another user.

The features of ergonomic office chairs that we’ll be looking at in this blog are Office Task Chairs – the chairs you use daily for long hours behind a desk.

In order of importance, here is a list of Sylex’s top chair design features for maximum ergonomic support:

  • Adjustable seat height
  • Seat tilt
  • Backrest tilt
  • Seat tilt pivot point
  • Mechanism action
  • Tension adjustment
  • Lumbar support
  • Adjustable armrests
  • Foam/Mesh quality
  • Seat depth adjustment
  • Backrest height adjustment
  • Appropriate Castors

Your ergonomic office chair should have adjustable seat height

All good office task chairs come with a handle activated gas cylinder which uses your body weight to compress the gas downwards, but when the handle is released, the compressed gas is released and the chair rises.

This allows you to ensure you can maintain the correct ergonomic position where your feet are flat on the floor, with your thighs parallel to the floor or knees poking slightly forward from your feet.

Your ergonomic office chair should have seat tilt

During the working day you’ll find that you adopt several postures on the chair, perhaps leaning forward to type or write and leaning backwards to read and talk on the phone.  You need to move the seat to support those different postures, which means your seat needs a seat tilt.

When you lean your body weight forward to type or write the seat needs to tilt forwards as well. Some people perch on the edge of the seat, sitting quite upright. There is nothing wrong with that posture for brief periods of time, the important thing is to change posture regularly.

Your ergonomic office chair should have backrest tilt

As we’ve already mentioned, regular changes in posture are critical to relieve pressure on different muscle groups. If an office chair does not have a backrest tilt then people are going to slouch in the chair and be unsupported, rounding out the lower back and failing to maintain the natural S shaped curve of the back (the lordosis). We would always recommend backrest tilt in a high usage ergonomic office chair.

You drive the amount of seat tilt and backrest tilt by pressing back against the chair, but you cannot do that unless your feet are flat on the ground that is why the next adjustment is so important.

Your ergonomic office chair should have seat pivot point

Basic Office Task Chairs have a central pivot point, they tilt close to the gas lift connection point, but in doing so that raises the front edge of the chair, for people of smaller stature that lifts their feet off the ground and they are no longer in control of the chair.

In more sophisticated chairs the pivot point is towards the front edge of the chair. When the chair seat tilts feet remain in the same position. This style of tilt is called “knee tilt” and is highly desirable for women and people with a light frame.

Your ergonomic office chair should have tension adjustment

Have you ever plonked into an office chair and experienced that “whoopsie” feeling when you feel the chair is going to tip over backwards? That’s because the resistance of the chair is inadequate to control your weight.

A tension adjustment knob or wheel controls the amount of resistance that the chair offers to push back against tilt by slightly changing the geometry of the gas strut or spring. That means you feel more in control of the chair. It lets you balance the resistance to your own body weight and to move freely and with support throughout the working day.

Your ergonomic office chair should have lumbar support

Being in contact with the backrest can help to support the musculoskeletal system, but it is important that the backrest be the right shape to offer that support. Ideally your ergonomic office chair should have a pronounced lumbar support.

The lumbar support should be quite low on the backrest, somewhere around the L4/L5 vertebrae. Many lumbar supports are too high to be effective in retaining the natural lordosis of the spine. It is important to be able to vary the amount of resistance the lumbar support offers. Many of the best chairs on the market, especially mesh backed chairs do allow people to dial up the shape of the lumbar support.

Your ergonomic office chair should have adjustable armrests

Many users report that an armrest helps to support the elbows and unload the shoulders from having to keep arms suspended over a keyboard. For older and less mobile workers armrests are an essential part of getting into and out of an Office Task Chair.

Adjustable armrests strike a balance between support and getting close enough to the desk. The top of the armrest can be adjusted to below (or in some cases above) desk height, thereby avoiding collisions. The most flexible armrests adjust for height, width and pivot and the better chairs have a soft armrest which is comfortable throughout the working day.

Your ergonomic office chair should have foam or mesh quality

A certain degree of foam density and thickness is required to help a chair maintain its shape and resilience over many years of use. Generally, a thinner seat profile needs a higher foam density. Some good chairs have a dual foam, firm underneath and softer on top. Generally foam densities need to be higher on seats than backrests as the seat bears most of the load.

Your ergonomic office chair should have adjustable backrest

Moving the lumbar support from the lower back is not a good idea, that’s where it is designed to go, so ergonomic office chairs which adjust backrest height without being able to adjust lumbar position are sub-optimal. A simple ratchet mechanism is a sound solution, by simply lifting the backrest it clicks into place to better support your back.

Your ergonomic office chair should have appropriate castors

Being able to wheel around the desk space has been a boon to productivity, extending the close hand reach of your working space quickly and simply, all good ergonomic office chairs should be on castors, but there are some things you need to know.

Which castor depends on which floor. A soft-tyred castor is generally suitable on both a hard floor and most office carpets, however a hard castor is only designed for use on thicker carpets. If in doubt a soft tyred castor is generally a safer choice. Another option is a brake castor which stops the chair running away when you stand up – take your weight off the chair and a friction brake prevents the chair escaping too far. Soft-tyred castors are usually identified by having two tones, a black body vs a cream or grey tyre.

Most people have little or no idea how to adjust their chair so it is no surprise that research from the Ergonomics Dept at Cornell University has found that the more handles knobs and adjustments a chair has the less likely users are to be able to set their chair up correctly. Except for the gas lift, less than half of all people are even aware that their chair has other adjustments.

Most buyers of office chairs are doing it for the first time, so speak to people who actually know chairs, not just someone trying to flog you their product.

At Sylex Ergonomics all of our people are actually trained and certified in ergonomics and we take pride in supplying the right product for the right application and always with an understanding of human needs.

Know you’re buying ergonomic when you’re buying with Sylex.

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