Posted by: Pamela Kalivas | September 30, 2011

Office Chair Politics

Edith Ann

A review of 40 studies of office workers published in 2008 in the Journal of Safety Research reported improving the ergonomics of chairs and other equipment increases productivity by an average of 17%.  It’s no wonder, The Wall Street Journal reported in their September 21, 2011 issue, what some employees will do for the best chair in the office.  Chairs have become complex with many adjustable features.  Some employees actually need to be trained on how to adjust their chair to fit their body.  I really didn’t think much about office politics behind chairs until out on a recent evaluation. The need for a different chair for a height challenged person was met with territorial resistance.  When I saw her, she reminded me of Lili Tomlin, Edith Ann.  Her chair was a magnificent executive chair with all the comfort features of a large wide chair.  But she was only 4’9” tall and was sitting at the edge of her chair to be able to touch the floor.  A perfect sized chair was located nearby and that is when office politics met me face to face.  The chair was used by a different department, even though no one was using the chair at the time, that chair was going nowhere.

Bad office chairs “are to chiropractors what candy is to dentists” says Robert Hayden, a Griffin, Ga., chiropractor.  When chairs have a flexible seat, armrests and back support a person can sit an extra 15 to 20 minutes a day over a year which translates into improved productivity doubling or tripling the savings from the cost of a chair. Most office workers spend more time in their chairs than any other piece of furniture besides their bed.  When armrests are too high, employees may experience “golfer’s elbow (pain and inflammation on the inner side of the elbow), shoulder and neck pain.  When armrests are too low, pressure on the nerve in the wrist causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  When the back support on a chair is too low, it puts pressure on the hips and can cause sciatica.  When the seat pan is too short, it can leave the legs without support.  When the seat pan is too long, it can cause poor circulation of the legs and feet.

Cadillac of Office Chairs

Bryant Rice from DEGW, a work place strategy consulting firm in New York states about 10% to 15% of the office furniture budget istypically spent on chairs.   He notes the most requested feature is comfort; with adjustability second.   At Sierra, I see a multitude of excellent chair styles but employees do not give the chair its proper attention.  They just assume the chair will fit them properly.  Many employers do a fine job of providing their employee with ergonomic chairs but fail to instruct the employee on how to adjust the chair for their body.  I personally feel adjusting your chair for yourself is a “two man” job. One person needs to sit in the chair while another makes all of the adjustments.  Sierra offers this vital service of adjusting chairs – to companies providing benefit to their employees’ morale pushing past the office politics.

~Pamela

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