There’s no doubt that the workplace is changing. Today, not everyone has a dedicated “resident” workstation. And if you do, your desk might be height adjustable allowing you to stand for some of the day. Often millennials prefer to work in more lounge-like settings and new options such as the Brody Lounge, a hybrid lounge-desk alternative, are being introduced to the market. Options like Buoy, which takes the balance ball approach to a more sophisticated conclusion, can also give the traditional task chair a run for its money. But the reality is, most office workers spend 80% of their day sitting – the need for a great task chair is clearly not going away. Yet.
So, the question then becomes, how on earth do you evaluate the plethora of task chairs currently on the market. Most are labeled as ergonomic and come in a panoply of colors and cool materials with lots of bells and whistles. There are clear guidelines however, when considering which task chair to choose and for facility managers especially, it can be a critical decision that effects the health, comfort and productivity of employees.
How to evaluate a Task Chair
Here’s what not to do. Lining up a large quantity of chairs in a hallway and asking people to test them out may seem democratic, but it can be misleading. This brief interaction with a task chair can lead people to evaluate based upon things like fabric choice, cool factor and initial 10 second seat impressions. Instead, ergonomic experts recommend prequalifying 3 chairs and tapping a diverse group (both in job function, gender and physicality) to test the chairs for a few days each. This allows the focus group to evaluate using real criteria, and factor in such things as how “usable” the chair is.
Here are some guidelines for what to do;
1. Definitely involve employees.
2. Test chairs in the environment in which they will be used.
3. Give the chair to individuals for 2-3 days at a time.
4. Do not train the testers on how to use the chairs.
5. Have testers fill out an evaluation form.
A chair should move with the body and support a wide range of postures and should adjust perfectly to individual body types and preferences. Cornell University’s Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Group (CHFERG) has tons of helpful information and guides on ergonomics. According to CHFERG, here are a few key questions that you should ask yourself when evaluating a task chair.
Does the seat pan feel comfortable and fit your shape?
Is the seat chair height adjustable?
Is the range of height adjustment of the chair sufficient to meet the needs of all users?
Does the chair have a comfortable lumbar (lower back) back rest?
Is the chair back rest large enough to provide good back support?
When you sit back against the lumbar support is there ample space for hip room?
Does the seat pan still feel comfortable after you’ve been sitting in it for 60 – 120 minutes?
Does the chair backrest recline and support your back in different positions?
Does the chair have a 5 pedestal base?
Do you need armrests on your chair?
Check out the CHFERG Guide, “How to Choose and Ergonomic Chair” for specific criteria to look for when evaluating task chairs.
At Red Thread, we often lend demo chairs to our clients to help them make the best decisions for employees. We can also provide an evaluation for for your testers to fill out.
Selecting the best task chair can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Through a thoughtful evaluation process and some meaningful time spent in the chair, there is always one that fits the bill perfectly! For more information on Steelcase Task Chairs or help in selecting the right chair for your employees, get in touch, we’re happy to help!
AUTHORED BY: Petra Geiger
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