How to choose your office chair

May 2019 | News

For many people, a large part of their work day is spent sat in an office chair. As well as being a piece of furniture, these chairs are much more. They become a work tool that infuences our efficiency, our creativity, our well-being and our health.

The designer Marcelo Alegre from Alegre Design and the director of Innovation from the Valencia Biomechanics Institute (IBV), Rosa Porcar, give us tips on how to make the right decision.

Investing in a good office chair is important

The office chair is a work tool in constant and continuous use, which is why it is so important to perfectly adapt it to your needs and your work.

“It is a tool that has an impact on well-being and health and contributes to the efficiency of each employee”, explains Marcelo Alegre

A poor chair can have harmful consequences

Back health, cervical and lumbar tensions are closely related to posture in the workplace. But there's more.

When you're sitting in a chair, your feet must touch the ground. If you are too tall, circulation problems may occur. If, on the other hand, the chair is too low, too much weight is on the buttocks. By adjusting the chair to an appropriate height and distributing the weight correctly, we will be able to sit longer and more comfortably.

“The consequences of a poor office chair are musculoskeletal problems as the body is forced to physically compensate for the support the chair is not giving you, which it should provide at all times and be part of you without you noticing.”, Rosa Porcar comments.

Define how you will use the chair

Chairs are a work tool and the first thing we must be clear about is what we will use it for: we must define if it is a chair we will use occasionally or  continuously.

This will determine the technical, functional, comfort and material features that we need to achieve a correct posture. For chairs we will use constantly, it is important that the arms, seat and backrest are adjustable to enable the natural movement of the body.

“The more a chair is to be used, the more stable the mechanisms, materials and fastening systems must be, as well as the support of the user's body.”, explains Marcelo Alegre

Know the qualities of a good office chair

Every office chair must respond specifically to everyone's needs and do so in a very comfortable way.

"The chair should make us feel supported, meaning, it should lower the muscular demands of a position that we occupy for many hours a day. It must allow us to move and change position safely and with stability", Rosa Porcar points out.

Check that the chair complies with legal regulations

Chairs are part of a work team and, as such, must comply with all regulations. Royal Decree 488/1997 determines the minimum healthy and safety requirements for work with data display screens.

It establishes that, whenever we work in front of a computer, a tablet or any other device of these characteristics, the chair must be a swivel and have five feet, allowing freedom of movement. The seat must be height-adjustable and, where appropriate, it must be possible to adjust the backrest's height and angle. 

In addition, there is an applicable European standard (Standard 1335) which establishes requirements for stability, durability and dimensions of office chairs.

Check how comfortable the chair is

Sit in the chair, in a 90-degree static position with a straight back. But also move around. Forwards, backwards, to the right and to the left.

While you are seated you must be able to move naturally. “If we don't move, we're not allowing the joints and circulatory system to activate. This mobility is a factor that allows us to work for hours without affecting our health.”, Rosa Porcar comments.

“The designers work with standardized percentiles to allow them to adapt to all types of users, within standardized measures. This way we ensure that there is a complete range of users who can feel comfortable in the chair.”, highlights Marcelo Alegre

“Armrests are recommended for times when we are not using the keyboard, as they allow weight to be taken off the shoulders. They allow us to get closer to the table and must fit underneath it without bumping into it, states Rosa Porcar.

Ask what materials your chair is made from

For chairs that will be used continuosly, it is fundamental that the materials are quality and that they guarantee the durability of it. Only in this way can the work tool that is an office chair provide comfort and guarantee that its characteristics will remain unchanged over time.

“They must be high mechanical performance materials such as technical plastics and aluminium, which guarantee their resistance and ensure that their eventual repair and reuse is as sustainable as possible.”, according to Alegre Design

The choice of upholstery must also be considered as there is a wide range of options with very different qualities. “It is crucial that the fabric is breathable so that the chair does not accumulate sweat and provides a certain climatic comfort because a large surface of it is in contact with your body. The upholstery should be easy to clean. Keeping in mind that a good office chair has to last more than ten years, it is necessary to be able to maintain good hygiene.”, Rosa Porcar points out.

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