It is not natural to sit in an office in front of a computer all day but so many of us do it five days a week for most of our working lives.
Ergonomics are as important in the office environment as they are in any other. There are plenty of things in your desk environment that contribute to this (check out the Jasonl Ergonomic Guide for some great tips here) but having an ergonomic chair to sit in and a complete ergonomic set up around it is a crucial starting point.
The user’s chair is the most important item of all. Ensure it is adjustable to the task and easily adjusted from the seated position. It should offer height, seat pan tilt and backrest adjustability.
If adjustment mechanisms are not in working order, arrange for maintenance to be performed on the chair (if all other features are operational). .
If adjustment mechanisms are not in working order, and the chair is generally in poor condition, provide a new chair. Trial prior to purchase.
The backrest should be adjusted with the user seated in their chair. Assistance should be offered where difficulty is experienced reaching the levers. Adjust the backrest so that its convex curve fits into the curve of the user’s lower back, centered about waist level. Ensure the backrest maintains this height, once adjusted.
Grasp the lever and seat pan with an open handed grip and then squeeze to either lower (user remains seated in their chair) or raise (user must stand up) the height of the chair so that the user’s elbow height is at or slightly higher than the desk height.
If the user’s feet do not rest comfortably on the floor at this new sitting height, a footrest is required.
If the chair fails to maintain the adjusted height, either initially, or after a period of use, the chair hydraulic “gas strut” requires maintenance.
The user’s feet should be supported by a stable surface at all times. If the feet do not rest on the floor after adjusting the chair height according to item 1.3 (above), a footrest is required. For the majority of users, a sloped footrest, that is covered with a non-slip surface and that offers support to the entire foot, is preferred.
Arm rests should be lowered (if adjustable) or removed (if non-adjustable) if they limit forward chair movement by touching the desk or if the user utilizes the armrests while typing and their shoulders rest in an elevated position.
Non-adjustable armrests can typically be removed by way of a screw driver.
Postural variety / Rest breaks
Postural change at frequent intervals throughout the working day should be encouraged. This can be achieved via “informal” postural pauses (i.e. modifying the chair setting to enable a reclined posture for several minutes) or via defined rest breaks of 1-2 minutes taken every 20-30 minutes and/or 5-10 minutes every hour (i.e. standing up from the seated position to perform a different task [stretch, walk to visit a colleague, read a document while standing etc.]).
An effective strategy to help facilitate rest-break “compliance” is use of a visual reminder in the form of a post-it note (stating “rest break”), placed within viewing distance of the user’s seated position.
If resistance or concern is raised by worker about their capacity to take rest breaks, consult the worker’s Supervisor/Manager to discuss possible modification of work load and/or task variety.
If despite the above measures poor rest break compliance is identified, supply the user with work/rest computer software.
If discomfort is reported by the user, consideration should be given to the user’s body shape in comparison to the dimensions and characteristics of their chair.
In particular, consider the backrest and seat pan characteristics (e.g. a margin of approximately 2cm from the hips on either side of the chair’s seat pan should be allowed; the user’s thighs should be well supported; a well padded cushioning and waterfall edge should also be present).
Where the chair fails to offer support for the user’s unique body dimensions (i.e. long legs/thighs; long torso) provide a different chair that you believe will offer a more suitable “fit”. The user should trial the chair prior to purchase.