How comfortable should my employees’ chairs be?

You’ve probably noticed them shoved in the far back corner of that unused conference room on the second floor, the place where abandoned desk chairs go to die. Should you worry that employees reject so many pieces of office furniture? The answer is a resounding “yes!”

ergonomic chairDoctors who study the spine agree that people should sit in a supportive chair at a desk that is the right height. In fact, ergonomics, the study of making the work environment fit the physical and psychological needs of the employees, is really hot these days. And for good reason: comfortable workers are better workers. Workers who don’t strain their bodies at their desks take fewer sick day.

Incorporating ergonomics into the set-up of the office can reduce instances of neck pain, back pain, headaches, and eyestrain, and even prevent bursitis or tendon problems that come from doing the same tasks over and over.

Some of the simple suggestions include making sure the office chairs and desks are adjustable so that each person is working at the correct height, and placing computer monitors directly in front of each user so employees don’t need to stretch or slouch.

Cessi: Ergonomics, a company that works with offices on ergonomic issues, supports the idea that an ergonomic environment helps reduce workplace injuries and fatigue. Plus, when you increase employee comfort, you increase job performance too.

Gretchen Rubin, author of the best-selling book, The Happiness Project, says happiness at work mostly depends on how much you like your job. But she adds that a properly adjusted chair, good lighting, and even some attractive desk accessories can’t hurt.

Comfort, of course, can be taken to an extreme. The Google offices in San Francisco feature spectacular bridge views (nice for the eyes), free food (good for the stomach), and even a slide instead of a staircase.

the red meeting bed

The Whatif! meeting bed. 23hq/Alexander Kjerulf

The London-based Whatif! Innovation Company, known a few years back for having a meeting bed in the office, uses a slide show on its website to spotlight its office interiors: Overstuffed chairs and couches. Ottomans. Employees spread out on the floor for meetings.

So what’s the bottom line? You don’t need to put a colorful slide in the stairwell, but companies do need to pay attention to their employees’ desks and chairs. Expect to spend a chunk of money. A quick trip through the online shopping world reveals that “ergonomic” office chairs cost anywhere from $99 to $699 and up.

The more expensive chairs are often better constructed, and come with more features like support and swivel and roll—and will last longer. But so will your employees’ backs.

Good chairs mean comfort, and comfortable employees are the most productive. Spend a bit now; you’ll reap the benefits later.


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By Carla Turchetti. Carla is a print and broadcast journalist who likes to break a topic down and keep her copy tight. That’s why this bio is so brief!


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