Home Why Cool Office Chairs May Not be Cool for You Ergonomics Done Right®

Written by: humantech on April 16th, 2014

by Parul Lahoti, CPE

Stepping into a modern office space, full of light and color, may seem like a breath of fresh air for those used to more traditional set-ups.  Media outlets like Forbes.com recently posted some of the coolest and most inspiring spaces, some even toting swings for employees to enjoy.  But when we look closer at them, their “cool” office chairs may not be so cool for your body, if you work at them for extended periods of time.  Even though they may be called “ergonomic”, they may be missing some of the key components needed to get the body into the best posture. Let’s take a look at some of the design flaws in so-called “ergonomic chairs” you may be tempted to buy. A quick Google search leads us to some very interesting items which are definitely cool-looking, but may actually be hurting your back.

The Jobri kneeling chair shows a woman reading while using this chair.  We can see by her slightly bent posture, she is already starting to slouch, leading to a curved back posture (also called kyphosis).  Long periods of time in this hunched position may put compressive force on your vertebrae, similar to bending over.  Also, with her knees in a bent position, there are additional forces on the knee joint, with no support from the feet, which could cause undue fatigue in that area.

jobri.com

jobri.com

The Trey Chair folds down to seat a friend or a laptop, but, in doing so, changes what may be a neutral back when sitting in the chair at the left, to another curved back posture seen in the photo to the right.  The lack of arm rests in this model is also concerning, which could result in undue strain on the shoulders and upper back.

treychair.com

treychair.com

How comfortable does this look? The Surf Chair by Coroflot won some major awards for design, yet even the judges noted its lack of keyboard and arm support were not great for computing.  But another thing to note is the curved back of the chair, putting your back into a curved posture, and potentially adding compressive forces to it.  So while it may look comfy, it’s probably preferred for watching a movie or taking a nap.

coroflot.com

coroflot.com

This chair was first spied at the National Ergonomics Conference and Expo, a place where you expect to find something from a brand called ErgoErgo.  However, this is more reminiscent of the fitness ball chair, which has made its way into many an office.  Look closer though, this model may have the height adjustability the fitness ball lacks, but it doesn’t have arm or back support, which may lead to undue force on your body.

ergoergo.com

ergoergo.com

It’s not all a lost cause though. Many manufacturers of great chairs are “hipping up” their chairs for the modern workplace.  Chairs such as the Steelcase Think chair (as seen below) and the Herman Miller Mirra chair are examples of chairs which look cool, and still meet the adjustability and support needs of 90% of the population.  And more and more, these chairs come with a “cooler” price tag, which makes buying them a bit more budget friendly.

steelcase.com

steelcase.com

2 responses to “Why Cool Office Chairs May Not be Cool for You”

  1. massimo serrao says:

    I’ll never astonish enough reading magazine style and supercial “contributions”, which aim advertise some brands while talking bad about other concepts, thus feeding ignorance instead of opening minds.

    the superficial above research push up Steelcase brand while with no mention of the best chairs manufacturer in the world: Håg (from Norway).

    Then presenting jobri as representative of kneeling chairs is not correct: there is a philosophy regarding balans chairs everyone should know. A balans chair is a “kneeling” chair, but not all kneeling chairs are “balans”: visit http://opsvik.no/reflections/sitting-philosophy to go more in deep.
    (invite valid also for the author of the above piece).

    if you are interested in this theme, take a look at http://www.opsvik.no

    …it’s not advertising or a fake blog.

  2. Parul Lahoti says:

    Thank you for your comments Massimo, and for sharing some interesting data as well. While our blog styles are in fact casual and catchy, the insights we present on impact to key body areas are all based on anthropometric data and force measurements we have researched and learned as part of our Ergonomics training.

    I understand showing certain photos may seem like we prefer certain brands, when in fact we are always open to learning about any and all new brands. The positive reviews you may see for chairs like the Steelcase brand I described, are due to their adjustability and ability to keep the body and spine as neutral as possible, while also looking “cool”. But that was just one example that I have recently seen at a conference.

    Regarding the Balans chair, I have tried one in my youth, and agree it was comfortable for the short time I used it (about an hour). However, without the ability to promote proper back posture, I was showing an example of how these chairs can cause undo compression on the back, which can be viewed in the image I originally presented. I will however be looking into Håg chair you described for my next product review!

    I hope this helps to answer some of your questions and concerns, and please continue reading and commenting, as we truly appreciate the readership and feedback of our blog.

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