This is the story of how I went out for a pint of milk and came back with a new office chair!
We needed a couple of things from the supermarket, and S decided he wanted some stationery and office supplies too. I went along for the ride and when we got to the shop, we started talking about chairs and the fact that I should probably buy a new one. What better place to do it than a place where you can go and sit on them all to try them out?
I’d had my other chair for ages. The bit below the seat had something wrong with it, which made it tilt to the side. I used to work in Health and Safety (don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a health and safety lecture!) and knew better than to keep using it – it’s not good if you’re either leaning sideways or compensating for a leaning chair.
So I had taken S’ old chair, which I’d become quite fond of after it was the only way I could get around safely in the kitchen when I had my accident and couldn’t put weight on my leg. A girl needs a safe way to move coffee and hot food around, so round and round the kitchen I wheeled! But this chair was too low, even for a short person like me, and the mechanism for lifting it was broken. Not a massive deal, but it did mean my hands were too high for typing, and I spend a lot of time at my desk.
It’s like Goldilocks and the 3 bears – this chair is too wonky, this chair is too low, and this chair is just perfect so I’ll buy it and take it home. Or something like that!
I did want to mention it though because more and more people are working from home, if not full-time, then for a couple of days a week. Then there’s studying or blogging, and people like me who work from home full-time. Is it really important what you sit on?
The answer is yes, and here are a few reasons why.
1. Length of time
I’ve touched on this already, but whereas you might spend half an hour at the dinner table, your office chair is somewhere you might be sitting for hours at a time. It’s not good to be sitting uncomfortably or in a position that encourages bad habits such as slouching. Bad posture can lead to other problems later such as back, neck or shoulder problems if you’re sitting uncomfortably, flopping forward, or if you don’t have enough support.
It’s important to have a height-adjustable chair because if you’re too low, you’ll have to lift your arms and shoulders up at an uncomfortable angle when you want to type. As a general rule, your arms should be straight. If the chair is too high, and this was often my problem in the office if someone had been sitting on my chair, your feet aren’t flat on the floor and you don’t have any support. Also, a chair that’s too high ends up with too much pressure on the back of your thighs because your feet aren’t taking any of the weight, and having no support for your feet can also lead to foot pain later in the day. You might also want to consider a foot stool if you don’t want to, or can’t lower your chair.
3. Back and shoulder support
It’s easy to slump forward when we’re working. I don’t tend to do it in meetings – then I’m thinking about sitting up straight because I want to look professional. But if I’m typing away on something on my own, there is a tendency to lean forward, and this isn’t good for your back or your shoulders. Office chairs have padding around the back and many also have neck and shoulder supports. Using these encourages you to sit up straight and not hunch your shoulders forward, as doing these things can lead to back, neck, or shoulder pain. So try not to perch on the front of your chair. Make full use of the supports, from the lower back to the shoulders.
4. Padded seating
Think about the chairs you used to sit on at school. After an hour of sitting in the same position with no support, it gets uncomfortable. You might be fine having a picnic on a garden bench for a while, but if you’re going to spend 8 hours sitting somewhere, you need a bit more padding. Apart from the obvious discomfort, fidgeting around trying to make yourself comfortable isn’t good for your concentration or productivity either.
5. At work it’s someone else’s responsibility
At work we sometimes take it for granted that our employer carries out DSE (display screen equipment) assessments to check that our workstation is set up correctly and we have what we need. Ok, obviously some companies are better at meeting these requirements than others, and I was pretty lucky, but the point is, it’s a company’s legal responsibility. When you’re self-employed, you don’t have someone reminding you about it or checking that it’s been done, but it’s no less important when you’re the boss! There can be 101 things that feel more urgent or directly linked to making money, but if you’re self-employed and don’t look after yourself, who else will?
6. You’re an individual
Everyone needs and likes different things, due to factors like our height, the shape of our back, any existing pains or conditions, and just what we find comfortable. This is why I haven’t put a link to my chair on the blog.
I didn’t get the most expensive one I could find. The cost did play a role for me, but also, I didn’t find the most expensive ones were the most comfortable. The absolute cheapest ones weren’t either – I went for a mid-range one, and if you go for one from a specialist shop, you can pay a lot more than I did. But it was important to me that I could sit in them, adjust them, and see which I thought would be comfortable.
7. It’s not all about the chair
It’s important not to spend long periods of time sitting without taking any breaks. This is partly connected to the amount of time you spend looking at a screen, but it’s still important for people like me who can’t see the screen, because it’s not only about screen time. It’s about giving your body the chance to move around and not be stuck in the same position for hours on end.
Try and build in reasons to get up throughout the day, even if you work from home. Make drinks, tidy up, stretch your legs, take the dog for a walk – whatever you’re doing, make sure that you also build in breaks that involve some kind of movement so you’re not just stuck in a seated position all day. This is particularly important for those of us who don’t naturally get the exercise of walking anywhere on the way to or from work.
How about you?
Do you use an office chair when you’re working at home? Is it comfortable? Does it give you all the support you need?
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