If you work at a desk, you will need to sit in an office chair that is adjusted to the correct ergonomics for you to avoid back pain and problems. Doctors, chiropractors and physiotherapists all warn that people can develop overstretched ligaments and spinal issues due to sitting in an ill-fitting chair for extended periods of time. Adjusting a chair for ergonomics is simple and can be done quickly if you know what you need to adjust for your needs.
How to Adjust your Chair
Height – Stand infront of your chair and adjust the height until the seat pan rests just below the back of your kneecap. If you are able to adjust your workstation then do so to compliment where you’ve adjusted your chair to. When positioned correctly, your elbows will form a 90-degree angle when your hands are resting on the desk.
Elbow Angle – When you have adjusted the height, sit as close to the desk as possible with your arms parallel to your spine and rest your hands on your computer keyboard. To maintain the 90-degree elbow angle look at your hands to see where they are positioned in relation to your elbow. If your hands are raised above your elbow, you are sitting too low and if they below, you are sitting too high. Adjust the height of the chair until hands and elbows are at the same height.
Foot Position – Sit on your chair with your feet flat to the ground. Whilst in this position, slide your finger between your thigh and the chair. There should be no more than a finger’s width of distance between your thigh and the chair. Anymore and you will need to raise your chair (and ideally your workstation) to achieve this. If it isn’t possible to reach the space between the thigh and the chair, the correct position can be achieved by using a footrest so that your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle when elevated.
Calf Distance – To assess whether the depth of the chair is correct, take your fist and try and pass it through the top of your calf and the front of the seat pan. There should be a gap of about 2 inches. If you cannot fit your fist in this gap, your chair is too deep and you will need to adjust this using a lever that is available on most chairs. If you cannot adjust the depth, try using a lumbar support cushion. If there is a bigger gap than 2 inches than try to adjust the it backward. Depth adjustment is important for support for your lower back and to prevent injuries in this region.
Backrest Height – The backrest should be positioned up or down to fit into the small of your back. You will want to feel a good lumbar support when sitting down for extended periods of time. To adjust this there is usually a knob in most office chairs that will position this up and down.
Backrest Angle - Once the height of the backrest is positioned, it’s time to adjust the angle. This should be positioned in the angle that supports you in your preferred seating position. You shouldn’t have to lean back to feel it and it should not cause you to lean forward. There is usually a lever in chairs that will enable you to adjust this. Lean backwards and forwards until you find the right position and lock the lever in place.
Armrests – Armrests should be positioned so that they just touch your elbow when they are in the 90-degree position advised earlier. If armrests are too high, they will force your arms to rest awkwardly and it may inhibit you from being able to use your keyboard comfortably. These can normally be adjusted by pressing a button at the back of the armrest. If you are unable to adjust the armrests, these should be removed as continuing to work with them could cause pain in your shoulders and fingers.
Eyelevel – Assess your eyelevel by sitting in the position advised above, closing your eyes and slowly opening them again. You should open your eyes to the centre of your screen and be able to read what’s on it without leaning forward or straining your eyes. If you are looking down on your computer screen, it is advisable to place something under the monitor to bring it up to your eye level. If it is too high up, adjust the screen so that it is brought back down to your eyelevel.
What to Look for In an Office Chair
When selecting chairs for your office, ergonomics and design should be considered above all else. These particular features are imperative when purchasing new office chairs:
- Lumbar Support: Adjustable lumbar support allows the user to fit this to their lower back. No two people are the same and everyone has different needs. The more the chair is able to adjust to these the more users will avoid debilitating conditions like sciatica.
- Adjustability: The adjustments mentioned in the steps above should be the minimum that users should adjust for their comfort and posture. Some chairs come with as many as 14 adjustments, the more the better! As a minimum, chairs should be adjustable in lumbar support, height, width, seat back angle and tension control.
- Wheel Base: Chairs that have wheel bases are advantageous to stop users having to overstretch to reach things. Wheel bases that work on carpets are also available and it is advisable to check whether this is something that you need.
- Swivel Base: All chairs should have the ability to swivel freely so that users do not need to turn or risk arm fatigue by stretching to retrieve things.
- Fabric: Breathable fabric should be considered so that the user does not become uncomfortable in a hot environment. Alongside this there should be enough padding in the chair to ensure that the user cannot feel the frame of the seat through the material.
How can I make my office space more comfortable?
To make your office space more comfortable you may consider using a memory foam wrist rest, a desk lamp to ensure that you aren’t straining your eyes and a desk organiser so that you have everything in-front of you and you don’t need to stretch for anything.
Can office chairs be repaired?
If the lift mechanism in your chair is broken but the rest of the chair is in good condition it might be possible to repair your chair by replacing the gas cylinder in it for approximately £40.