“We need a standing desk and an ergonomic chair” she said, “for my husband, can you give us a price for the ones you have?”
Well…yes, but….. how tall is he? What does he weigh? Probably not a question they were anticipating from their interior designer.
And the thing is, if you really want the best for your body and your health, we have to dig a little deeper – because there is so much on the market today, good and not so good; and it’s all so available to us through ecommerce, it can be hard to decide which way to go.
Here are a few tips on selecting the right desk and office chair.
First let me just put this out there - I like recommending American made products, the more local the better. And here’s why – it’s better for the US economy, it’s better for the environment, and the quality and craftsmanship are often better too.
When looking for a standing desk you have more than a few options. You can get a manual adjusting desk, a pneumatic, an electric or a stationary desk. If you aren’t going to be using it in a sit position (ever), than no need to pay extra for the mechanisms to make it move up and down.
Aside from aesthetics and size options, stability is going to be the main thing that sets a standing desk apart. Some desks that are not as well made will wobble at max height.
Manufacturing quality, ease-of-assembly, ease-of-use, customer support and warranty are other variables. Figure out what’s most important to you and make sure that desk you are planning on purchasing meets your health priorities.
Measure your body – because if you are on the short side or on the tall side, that typical range of adjustment may not work for you.
I am 5’4” and I adjust my desk to between 38 and 39 inches for standing.
Someone that is 6’0” would need something with a higher “standing height”. The best way to know your height range is to measure it – stand tall and bend your elbow 90 degrees. Take a measurement from the floor to the bottom of your elbow – your ideal desk height will then be an inch or so less than that. Or to get the best standing height for you multiply your height in inches by 0.6, this should come pretty close – 43.2 inches for a 6’0 person. Most desks have a max height taller than this but it’s good to make sure!
To get the proper sitting height, a good rule of thumb is to divide your height in inches by 2.5 – the formula comes close for me (64” / 2.5 = 25.6”). But my chair height is adjustable too, so I switch from stand to sit to perch all day long.
A 6’0 tall person would want a desktop around 28.5 - 29 inches high for sitting. Someone closer to 6’6” would have a standing height of around 47 inches and a sitting height just over 31 inches – which is higher than most desks and tables.
And always, if you are purchasing a new desk - especially one that moves – measure your space before ordering – you want to make sure it fits in all directions. My desk sits where the roof slants, and when it is in its standing position, it comes very close to hitting that slant.
And then there’s your desk chair – potentially one of the most important decisions you’ll make when setting up an office. Most people spend at least some time in their office chairs if they are working at a computer, so it’s best if that chair supports you throughout the day. There is no such thing as one size fits all in an ergonomic chair. Measure your body.
The top of line ergonomic office chairs have fully adjustable seat height, tilt, seat depth, headrest and armrests. These can be costly, but if you are sitting in it all day, it’s the most important work-related investment you can make for your daily comfort and long-term health.
Two important things is to make sure the seat height is adjustable, and the curve of the back hits where you want it. So you really have to look at the measurements of the chair and then take note of how you sit, and how long you spend sitting, throughout the day.
The ideal seat height has your knees bent at 90 degrees with your feet flat on the floor – measure.
The ideal seat depth gives your back support with no pressure on the back of your knees. A good rule of thumb is about 2 inches between the backs of your knees and the chair seat when your lower back is against the seat back. There are chairs with adjustable seat depths but not all ergonomic chairs offer this option.
A tilting and reclining seat back is a nice option too as it allows for temporarily relieving tension on your back. A syncro tilt or multi-function tilt mechanism allows for the back and seat to tilt at different ratios, allowing for the knees and arms to be kept at the preferred 75-90 degree angle doctors recommend.
If neck pain is an issue, an office chair with a headrest is a plus as it allows you to lean back with support. Best if it’s height adjustable so it aligns with your head regardless of your height or sitting posture. Extra bonus if it angles to better fit the curvature of your neck.
Adjustable armrests are also key to fitting your body right – most ergonomic chairs have at least height adjustable armrests – 2D adjustable mean they adjust in one more way than height (commonly in and out from the seat). 3D armrests add a third adjustment, usually a pivot that angles the armrest in or out. 4D armrests then would add another adjustment, such as the ability to push the armrests forward or back.
Most office chairs come in leather, faux (or bonded) leather, fabric or mesh seats and back. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. I like a chair with a mesh back for breathability. Being surrounded by leather on all sides can be nice but on a hot summer day with no AC – sticky.
Lastly, but definitely not least, breaking poor sitting habits, while hard, is essential for your body’s well-being. Sitting cross legged in your chair, craning your neck forward to work on the computer, or sitting in a slumped position all restrict healthy blood flow and build up uneven tension in your body, which leads to back and neck pain, and potentially muscular diseases over time. The proper way to sit in an office chair involves the following:
· Sit up straight! How many times have you heard that over your lifetime? Make sure your back is aligned against the backrest of your chair. When we’re tired, we have the tendency to slouch or lean forward, which leads to misalignment of the spine and shoulders.
· Get up and take a quick walk or stretch when needed.
· Your arms should be bent at an angle between 75-90 degrees against the armrest of the chair. Adjust the height of your armrests if they are too high or low.
· Both feet should be firmly planted on the ground or a footrest when seated. Avoid sitting cross legged or with your feet underneath your bottom, which restrict blood flow to your limbs.
· Keep your knees even with your hips and at a 90-degree angle.
· Pull your shoulders back so it is straight.
Most importantly, move about during the day. Just because you have an office job doesn’t mean you have to sit all day. Keep moving. Alternate between standing, sitting, and taking short breaks. Cornell University’s research recommends the following regime – which is good for your body and your eyesight.
· Sit for 20 minutes
· Stand for 8 minutes
· Move for 2 minutes
Feel free to reach out if you have more specific questions – I am happy to help.
Until then, be well!