Mistake 1: Ticking boxes on a website for delivery of a specialist ergonomic chair without getting good independent advice.
The advice should come from someone who has experience in the field and has good knowledge of the products available. Try and find someone you trust not to suggest the most expensive ergonomic chair available –just because they sell it! You may not even need a new chair, sometimes simply adjusting your desk top equipment to stop you leaning or over-stretching is all that is needed to relieve pain in your neck, shoulders or back.
One approach may be to ask the advice of an independent ‘back care specialist’ such as a physiotherapist or osteopath. Their advice should be sufficient to tell you whether you would benefit from an ergonomic chair or whether you have other issues that need resolving before you consider changes to your workplace.
If a new chair is suggested then you will still need to get advice from a company you trust regarding which chair you should try. Always ask if there is a trial period available as this can save you a lot of money in the long term.
Mistake 2: Purchasing a specialist ergonomic chair and not using the adjustments correctly.
Specialist ergonomic chairs can come with several levers to allow you to adjust everything from the depth of the seat to the tension of the movement, inflatable lumbar support, adjustable backrest angle and height and many more levers. It can take a little time to get used to all these adjustments and you may not get it right straight away.
I remember the very first specialist ergonomic chair that I introduced into our showrooms at Shape Posture Seating back in 1997. This was the RH4 chair from one of the world leaders in ergonomic chairs, RH Form (now part of Scandinavian Business Seating). Before I found this chair at a London exhibition, I had been selling the ‘Balans’ range of kneeling stools such as the Variable and Thatsit stools, which had very few levers or buttons as they simply adjusted to the body’s natural movements. Suddenly I was faced with a lever to do this and a lever to do that and a wheel to do something else! I found it quite complicated, to say nothing of the fact that, without knee supports, the forward slope of the seat made it look as though I would slide off it as soon as I sat down. For the first week I sat on the chair every day and kept making adjustments to it until I was totally confident that I knew what all the levers etc. were for. I suppose I am telling you this so that you don’t feel awkward if you need to ask a few times whilst you are being set up on your new chair, “what does this lever do again?” We have all been there!
Mistake 3: Sitting for long periods of time on any chair – whether or not the chair is classed as ‘ergonomic’.
A good ergonomically designed chair, bearing in mind there are a lot of fairly basic chairs out there purporting to be ‘ergonomic’, will allow longer periods of sitting than a standard, fixed position chair, however it would be a mistake to think that you could sit all day without getting up to move around or work in a standing position. The increase in the popularity of the ‘Sit Stand’ desks is a direct result of awareness of this fact. Sit Stand desks come in many shapes and sizes so, as with the chairs, don’t just tick a box, if you are not sure then you can get advice before ordering.
Mistake 4: Buying a good ergonomic chair and not having your desk at the correct height or desk top equipment in the correct positions.
It is quite common for us to visit someone who has a good chair but is still suffering from pain, especially in the neck or shoulder. I have had customers in our showroom telling me they require a new chair. I may set one of our Sit Stand desks at the height they say their desk is, and put the desk top equipment in the position that they say they use them. A shorter than average person may well be sitting on a good chair with their feet on the floor, so the chair is very comfortable in itself, however, if their desk is standard height i.e. 72-74cms, they will be hunching their shoulders to use a keyboard – resulting in shoulder pain. Next their monitor may be too high, causing them to tilt the head upwards to get the correct eye level. With a head weighing around 7 tins of beans, it’s not hard to imagine the strain this position will be putting on the neck. Finally, the mouse may be pushed so far away that the arm is stretched out and static muscle use causes pain in the arm, shoulder and neck.
I will lower the desk, or if this is not feasible, place a footrest under the desk, raise the chair, drop the monitor to a comfortable eye-level and introduce a small keyboard and vertical mouse. I now have a very happy customer who may leave the shop, with a small purchase of a mini-keyboard and vertical mouse, having expected to purchase a new chair.
At the other end of the scale I may have a customer in our showroom who is taller than average. They may have a very good chair with a standard gas lift but if they have a standard height desk the chances are that they can’t use the chair at the height that would be ideal for them. Ideally you need to have your knees lower than your hips so it is important to be able to sit at the correct height on the chair to allow the forward tilt of the seat. Once this happens, the chances are they will be sitting too high for the standard desk, possibly not even able to get their knees under the desk. The answer could be a simple as purchasing desk raisers http://www.shape-seating.co.uk/accessories/arm-wrist-supports-other-aids/desk-raisers-set-of-8/. Alternatively, if they prefer to be able to change their working height to vary between sitting and standing then a Sit Stand desk may again be the answer. I almost forgot – a higher gas lift may need to be fitted onto their existing chair!
Mistake 5: Using a laptop on your desk without using a separate keyboard and mouse.
This is common practice for many who only have a laptop and work from home a lot. In the office they may have a docking station which will enable safe and comfortable use of the laptop but at home it is very likely that the laptop will be placed on the table or desk without using a separate mouse and keyboard. The unfortunate compromise in this case is that either the keyboard will be too far away so the user will be stretching to use it or the screen/monitor will be too close and low for the natural eye-level. Problems are almost inevitable if there is any prolonged use of the laptop in this way.
This is an easy and relatively inexpensive problem to answer in that a separate keyboard and mouse can be purchased, either wireless or wired versions are available.