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What questions to ask when looking for a new chair.

Over the last couple of years, there has been this influx of sit to stand desks out in the workplace market. Why? Well much research has been published to suggest that sitting is bad so of course if sitting is bad the obvious thing to do is create a product that encourages the opposite; standing. Certainly, standing desks have shown many benefits but from recent observations I believe we have placed too much onus on this particular way of working and forgotten about our seated position and our chairs.

Even with standing desks, the advice from research still suggests that the percentage of sitting we do is going to be more than that of standing. If that is the case, then it makes sense to spend more time identifying a really good task chair so that when we are in a seated position and working, we are fully supported, we have an ability to sit dynamically and are comfortable. 

So how do we identify a good chair from a bad chair. Well, it depends.

Questions we should be asking ourselves are:

  • Who is this not designed for?
  • What happens when it goes wrong?
  • When shouldn’t it be used?

These types of questions which by the way were outlined in Peter Buckle’s seminar recently at The Health and Wellbeing at Work conference are very important because they help us identify a real solution. If we know who the chair is not designed for, then we have a clear understanding of who the chair is designed for.  

Features that should be on your checklist when looking for a new chair are:

  • Height Adjustment
  • Seat Depth Adjustment
  • Backrest Height/Lumbar Adjustment
  • Movement Control
  • Adjustable Armrests

These 5 adjustments will encourage a neutral posture, as long as the user knows how to set up the chair and use the adjustments. With that in mind you want to look for a task chair that offers ease of use when adjusting the adjustments. Particularly with the prominence of agile working as employees will be moving from chair to chair throughout the day, so it needs to be easy to adjust and intuitive.

One of the brands that I have admired for a number of years is HÅG. My personal favourite in their portfolio being the HÅG SoFi chair which has all the qualities of a great ergonomic chair and is beautiful.  The armrests are very practical too! 

All of HÅG’s chairs are designed to ensure movement, without the user having to think about it. The HÅG in Balance® technology, which is installed in every chair, enables users to be at ease with minimal effort.

How does it work?
As balance is the best starting point for movement, our chairs have a centrally placed tilting point to keep you in balance and continuous motion.

The seat and backrest are linked together, which means that the seat front rises when you lean backwards, stimulating movement in the ankles, and lowers when you lean forward to work. These micromovements keep you alert and animated all day long.

The chair follows the movement of your body whenever you move forwards and backwards and this, in turn, stimulates micro movements in your feet. This activates the circulation systems in your lower legs – the peripheral heart in the calf muscles – increasing your blood circulation like no other task chair does.

Having a good understanding of what to look for in a chair is so important. Knowing how to use the chair is equally important.

Here’s a few pointers when adjusting your chair:

Make sure your feet are planted on the floor so adjust the height of the chair accordingly allowing your thighs to be somewhat parallel to the floor but also making sure your hips are slightly higher than your knees. This will encourage your hip flexors to be more open and encourage better blood circulation.

Then adjust your seat depth so that there is a 3-finger gap between the back of your knee and the front edge of the chair.

Now you want to adjust your lumbar support or backrest height. Make sure the lumbar support sits in the small of your back. This is usually around the area of your lower back where your belt would sit on your trousers.

Make sure your armrests are no higher than your natural elbow position. Put your hands in your lap and your armrests should be no higher than this position.

Now unlock the chair so you are moving while seated and adjust the tension accordingly. You don’t want to feel like you are flying out the chair, but equally not using too much force to move the chair.

When you bring the chair to your desk, you may be too low so raise your chair height so that your elbows (hands in lap position) are at the same height as the top of your desk and pop a footrest underneath to support your lower body.

Happy sitting!

Kirst

*Amongst other brands, HÅG was kind of enough to support my Christmas Campaign in December and supply one of their fantastic ergonomic chairs to a subscriber of The Travelling Ergonomist blog. She is loving it and there is no reason why you wouldn’t too!

6 Comments

  1. Guy Osmond

    Great piece, Kirsty. It’s also probably worthy mentioning that you don’t need to wear 4 inch stilettos (as in the picture) to benefit from using the Sofi or, indeed, any good chair!

    Reply
    • Matt

      But we still can though, right, Guy? (Asking for a friend)

      Reply
      • Kirsty Angerer

        You can, just make sure Guy isn’t around to spot it 🙂

        Reply
    • Kirsty Angerer

      Ha agreed. At least she’s sitting down and giving those ankles a break. Standing or walking in those is not for the faint hearted.

      Reply
  2. Eddy de Vries

    Thanks Kirsty, I do agree with most of your advice, but here I would say instead: – “When you bring the chair to your desk, you may be too low so “don’t” raise your chair, but “lower” your Desk or Table.

    Reply
    • Kirsty Angerer

      Yes I agree. Ideally the desk would come lower so we can have our feet planted on the floor. Unfortunately most desks (certainly in England) are not height adjustable so we have to compromise. Thanks for the comment Eddy!

      Reply

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