How To Tell If Your Office Chair Is Killing Your Productivity

If you asked office workers what most affects their productivity chances are their office chair wouldn't be at the top of the list. For many it's regarded as somewhere to park their butt as they go about their daily tasks. And yet if it isn't up to the job it can end up being a huge drain on your productivity. The thing is this isn't always obvious. In this article we're going to look at the problem in 3 stages.

  1. How your office chair can sap your productivity
  2. How to check your chair is set up correctly
  3. Why replacing your chair maybe your best option

Let's get started.

1. Is your office chair a productivity drain?

It's often not obvious that difficulty in concentrating may be due to your chair. When you have a poor chair that doesn't support you correctly it soon starts to cause discomfort. Unfortunately this lack of comfort tends to get worse as the day goes on.

Typically people find problems begin after they have been sitting for more than an hour or so. Frequently changing position in an effort to get comfortable is a give away indicator that your chair is causing problems.

So if you find that your concentration levels start falling away during the day there is a good chance your chair is the culprit. It may be that your chair isn't set up properly so begin by taking a few minutes to run through the basics.

2. Checking your chair set up

Seat height
Start with the seat height. Make sure your feet are resting on the floor and that you legs are at an open angle. A lot of people advise an angle of 90 degrees between thighs and body. However this can cause tightness so try and open up this angle to around 110 degrees it will help your circulation and muscles.

Arm height
From there move onto chair arm position. Hopefully your chair arms adjust. You need to set them so your shoulders are relaxed when your lower arms are resting on the arm pads. If your chair has fixed arms which force your shoulders into an unnatural position it would be best to remove the arms altogether. At least you could then work a bit closer to your desk and use the top to support your elbows.

Chair back
Next adjust the chair back so that it gives good support to your lower back. And if it has a tilt tension adjustment make sure the pressure is set so you can recline comfortably when you want to relax.

Seat depth
If your chair seat depth can be adjusted make sure it's set to suit your leg length with about 2 inches from seat edge to the back of your knees.

If you've done all of this and there's no improvement there's every chance your chair is worn out. Either that or it doesn't have some of the necessary adjustments mentioned above. So where does this leave you?

3. Replacing your office chair may be the only answer

When you still can't get comfortable after running through all your chair's adjustments the only solution is to replace it. And it would be a mistake to just go out and buy a cheap chair thinking it will fix things.

It may bring temporary relief, however all the old problems will rapidly return if it doesn't have the adjustment flexibility you need. Unfortunately $100 office chairs just don't have the range of adjustments or quality of build to keep you comfortable for 6 hours or more a day. You need to look for a better solution to avoid getting caught with the same problem again

Let's quickly sum up the three points we've covered:

  1. Ask yourself whether your chair is taking your mind of your work
  2. Check your chair is set up correctly
  3. Consider replacing your chair if it is worn out or unsuitable


Further reading
In this article on how to choose an ergonomic office chair we look at the essential features you need. And here's where you can find a quick summary of quality office chairs that will support you comfortably and keep you working productively.


Why BBC Staff Training On Use Of Office Chairs Makes Sense: Sitting Badly Is Harmful

Whatever will they find next to waste taxpayers’ money on? The BBC is giving one on one training to staff on how to use their office chair at their new northern headquarters in Manchester UK. Have they gone mad? Surely anyone can work out how to adjust an office chair can’t they? What's this all about?

How BBC caught flak for training staff how to sit
It all started with a Tweet by Football Focus presenter Dan Walker referring to a chat with a ‘chair champion’ about selecting his favorite model. It appears employees are to receive personal training on how to use their new chair from qualified personnel dubbed by the presenter as chair champions.

Several national newspapers quickly seized on the story and branded the idea a ridiculous waste of money. The Daily Express even had an image of a swivel chair without any levers, fixed arms and back that even a chimp could set up.

However isn’t this all a little unfair, as no national organization would be seen dead with such a poor quality chair?

Why it’s not as stupid as it seems
Let’s give the BBC some credit here. It’s taken the trouble to offer its staff a choice of 3 styles of quality high tech chairs. It realizes that if it is to get the best out of its people they need to be sitting in decent chairs which have been designed to give proper support and comfort.

Better quality chairs aren't always a case of point and sit. They often have a number of subtle, intricate adjustments and it isn’t always obvious what they do. This is why it actually makes a great deal of sense to train people how to use them properly.

Returning to Twitter for a moment, you will often see Tweets like:

three years. three whole years and i've only just figured out how to fiddle with my office chair to stop myself getting back ache. FAIL!

adjusted the tilt on my office chair by about 5 degrees, and see the whole world differently. (My butt stopped hurting.)

Chair manufacturers should shoulder a lot of the blame for people’s lack of knowledge on how to set up and adjust their office chair. The more responsible ones do offer good guidance on how to get the best out of their chairs.

Nonetheless, far too many give little of no guidance as to what all those levers are for. It’s a high back synchro stupid, everyone knows what they do don't they?

No wonder sitting in an office chair is an unhealthy pastime.

How sitting affects your health
Sitting all day in an office chair is not good for us. We simply weren't designed to live like this, fixed in the same posture for hours on end. The longer you spend sitting poorly the quicker you will start to ache. And that's understandable; it’s nature’s way of telling you it’s time to move.

It’s made all the worse when your chair is poorly adjusted because you end up getting little or no support. Movement is key to maintaining a healthy body and better quality chairs are designed encourage movement and good support.

Surely it only makes sense for the BBC to give training on how to get the best out of an office chair. Of course it costs money to do this. However it’s likely to be money well spent when you consider the cost that claims for RSI (repetitive strain injury) and back problems can rack up.

Does everyone think the BBC is wasting money on this?
Another paper, the Daily Telegraph ran a report on the story and the online version has attracted a good numbers of comments. Whilst many agreed a fair number of more informed people sided with the BBC.

These made a number of valid points including:

  • The loss of staff time caused by time off with bad backs
  • The huge cost of potential compensation claims for long-term issues
  • How many deriding the BBC would be the first to claim if they had back problems
  • How journalists suffer as much as anyone from sitting poorly for too long
  • One person who had RSI problems which were enormously reduced after training on how to sit correctly

Knowing how to sit properly matters
Sitting properly is vitally important for anyone spending their working day in an office chair. It’s easy to pooh pooh organizations like the BBC for what seems like money wasting. However, when you consider what can happen from sitting badly, showing people the proper way to sit surely makes sense.

Here's where you can read how to set up your office chair correctly.

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