Countless reports from chiropractors and physiotherapists are emerging about the problems that emerged from the pandemic crisis.
Many workers, although thankful to keep their job, were thrust into a “work from home” situation without any consideration the toll their back would take from their kitchen chair – with no proper office chair back support.
And for multitudes of essential workers still in offices, they were left short staffed, and working long stressful hours.
Fast forward a few months later, and as we begin to consider what the “new normal” will look like, people are recognizing that the return to work and school is likely to still be from home.
To get some perspective on the importance proper ergonomics will play and why it is essential to work hours wherever you are, we spoke with Chris Hollywood, an atWork Space Planning and Ergonomic Specialist in London, Ontario.
Passionate about supporting workers with safe and ergonomic options, Chris explains that the importance of understanding the inter-connectedness of ergonomics and back pain. He expresses concern over people using a kitchen table and chair as a home office, exasperating problems more than ever before. He implores that ignoring ergonomic support when choosing a chair to work from can lead and intensify common back problems for the long run.
The problem is simple but often ignored. Chairs that do not have and cannot adjust lumbar height and depth will leave you with a sore back, not fully supported. Also, a chair that lacks a seat depth adjustment may prevent you from sitting far enough back to use the back support correctly.
(Add to that, awkward hand placement, leaning forward and elevating your shoulders all puts strain on your lower back too. We will leave that for another article.)
If you are thinking about a longer term home office set-up, Chris cautions that your back will pay the price if you don’t choose a work chair to support it. Selecting an office chair is less about fitting into your home decor (although that is possible) but more about body and back support to prevent injury and pain.
Here are some guidelines Chris recommends to help you choose an office chair with back support.
1 – Your Size Matters
As people come in different heights, it is imperative to get a chair that you can adjust the seat depth and height. Most of your weight will be on the seat, so you need to make sure you’re supported evenly. You should be able to sit with your back placed firmly against the backrest without the front of the seat rubbing on the back of your legs. For petite workers, a seat that is too deep will end up causing them to be perching on the front of the chair, unable to use the backrest. (If this is you, see our best chair for shorter people as a suggestion)
2 – Provide Arm Freedom
Look for a chair that allows the arms to be lowered out of the way when not in use. When typing, your hands should be close to your body and sitting just above your lap. Your elbows should be at your sides, with your shoulders relaxed, which is impossible to do with fixed arms.
3 – The simpler, the better
Find a chair that is simple to use. If you need an extensive instruction manual on how to operate a confusing chair, then you’re more likely to avoid adjusting, or set it up incorrectly. There is little need to have a chair with too many bells and whistles and infinite possibilities. Your goal is body and back support, not just a showpiece of engineering.
4 – Invest in quality
A quality, ergonomic office chair will pay for itself. Choose a reputable manufacturer who provides 10+ years of warranty. Often your favourite office chair with back support and style becomes a trusted friend for many, many years. Your investment of time and money in finding a well-built office chair will save you costly therapy appointments and be with you 10 plus years. Consult a trusted office chair sales person who has had good experience fitting others.
The main theme is that ergonomic support is a preventative investment. It is much easier to prevent an injury than to fix it, so people should do their homework searching for ergonomic office chair back support that will work for them for years.
Chris stresses about his role at atWork:
“The goal is to make sure people leave us with knowledge and not just a chair. The result is workers who are in control of their own well being through a bit of education and correct tools. Sometimes for me, it means passing on a sale because a customer wants a chair that I know won’t benefit them in the end.”