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Hello, I'm Duncan MacIntyre welcome to my website Blog, I've been involved with quality business seating for over 30 years now - it's a market I'm passionate about.

The aim of the Blog is to keep you up to date with new developments in the office seating market, useful hints and tips as well as health issues like back pain and RSI (repetitive stress injury). We all seem to spend more and more time sitting at PCs and laptops so this is an important matter.

Your comments are welcome as your individual experiences may very well be beneficial to other visitors to the Blog.

How To Adjust And Set Up An Office Chair: Simple Five Step Cheat Sheet.

Looking at posts in forums or on Twitter and FaceBook it’s amazing how often I see comments like
“I’ve had this office chair for 3 years and just found how to adjust the back height.”
So in case you’re not sure of all the functions on your chair here’s a simple set of 5 steps on how to set it up to suit your needs.

Adjusting An Office Chair: 5 Step Cheat Sheet

Step 1 – Adjust The Seat Height
Begin by raising the seat to its full height and then gradually lower it until your feet are firmly on the floor with your legs angled slightly forwards. This is usually controlled by a lever on the right underside of the chair, or occasionally by a button.

Step 2 – Adjust The Seat Depth
Where fitted, adjust the seat depth by sliding the seat in or out to suit your leg length. Aim to have a gap of about 2 inches between the back of your knee joint and the seat edge. Unfortunately this very important feature is missing from the majority of office seats, this article explains why seat depth matters.

Step3 – Adjust The Back Height And Or Lumbar Support
Raise or lower the chair back so that it gives you good overall support, especially the bottom part of your back. If you have an adjustable lumbar support, use this to fine tune support for your lower back. On some better quality chairs which have full height backs they may be fixed, however there is normally a lumbar support to enable individual comfort.

Step 4 – Adjust the arm height and angle
Adjust the height of the arms so that your shoulder muscles are relaxed and your lower arms are at right angles to your body. Some arms also allow you to alter the angle of the pads and this is worth adjusting to give good support for the task you are performing.

Step 5 – Adjust The Tilt Tension
Where fitted adjust the tilt tension control until you can recline in your chair and the back gives natural support being neither too stiff or too easy to move when leaning back in the chair. Often times though chairs lack this function which can make reclining really awkward.

Here’s a link to download my simple cheat sheet explaining the process which you can then print out if it helps. In a future post I’ll be taking a look at how to address your work space properly so you don’t find you are stretching or twisting unnecessarily.

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How Quickly Will Your New, Shiny, $100 Office Chair Become The Pain in Your Back?

So maybe you’re getting around to thinking it’s time you ditched that old office chair and you figure, “I’ll take a look in the local office supply depot, they’ve always got deals on desk chairs.”

You see what looks like a great deal. You sit in it, pull a few levers, feels comfortable — hey, it’s even got leather too.

Everything looks great, and yet – is it a serious bargain or is it a serious liability?

If you have a worn-out chair, then anything you sit in is likely to feel like a million dollars by comparison. Not only that, virtually any new chair you sit in for a couple of minutes will feel great, and that’s not altogether surprising.

After all, everything is new so it naturally feels good, and that’s where everybody gets it wrong with cheap chairs — they flatter to deceive.

To truly know whether a computer chair is right for you or not, you need to sit in it for several days — not minutes, not hours, several days. Only then will all its shortcomings become apparent. This is why a 30-day return policy is a must when buying either in person or online.

How do these shortcomings suddenly become apparent once you use it for a day or two? It’s down to what’s under the hood. Sure, on the exterior, the thing look great; yet what’s it really made of?

Any chair around the $100 mark will always be a compromise because it is made to fit a price, so corners get cut to achieve this.

Here are some of the things which aren’t immediately obvious about low cost chairs:

  • Made with cheap foam pads normally seen in packaging which soon lose shape and go as flat as a pancake.
  • Low cost upholstery which quickly takes a shine like a well-polished shoe. Or leather that likely came from remnants or rejects that ages prematurely becoming brittle and starting to crack.
  • Low quality components — arms that break off, backs that won’t recline or stay in place, gas lifts that keep descending.
  • Limited or no guarantee — a sure sign the supplier sees the product as little more than a liability.

The right approach
Here’s where you can read about the critical features you need to insist on when replacing your old desk chair.

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Why Good Ergonomics Can Sometimes Work Against You In A Home Office

Do you remember the last time you were caught up in a bad traffic jam? Just crawling along with your body stuck in the same position for an hour or more. Chances are the experience left you feeling stiff and tense.

Sometimes it can feel like this in your home office too.

Tight office space restricts movement
Many home offices are situated in a spare bedroom and usually this is the smallest room in the house. As a result space is often limited with your desk taking up a good chunk of the floor space. So you end up with pretty much everything being near to hand.

But isn’t that a good thing? Well yes and no.

Good ergonomics suggests having key equipment close to hand
In a normal office it’s usually recommended you set your workstation up in such a way that the most commonly used equipment falls within a 12 inch radius from your chair. Beyond this you would have less frequently used items located a little further away.

Obviously this makes good sense to cut down on twisting and stretching at odd angles to reach things.

However, due to the restricted size of the typical home office space many of the compensating activities that keep you on the move don’t happen.

There’s no photocopier or central print area to walk to. No meetings to get up out of you seat to attend and no rest room or canteen to visit.

All this lack of movement can leave your body inactive for long periods and that usually results in tired and aching muscles before too long.

How can we tackle this problem?

Modifying the way you work to increase movement
It is still a good idea to have frequently used items handy to avoid making the awkward twists and turns that can happen even in a confined office space.

This means we need to get healthy movement in other ways to replace all those lost trips to the copier and meeting rooms.

Begin by getting out of your chair at least every 20-30 minutes, even if it’s only to take a few steps around your work area. Increasing this by taking a break to make yourself a cup of coffee or tea is another way of keeping more active. And if the weather is good step outside and get some fresh air.

Adding in some simple exercise routines and stretches is a great way to add back some activity into tired muscles. Even lying on your back with knees bent pointing upwards for 6 to 8 minutes will give your back and shoulders a break from carrying your body weight continuously.

So, to prevent your body from feeling like it’s been caught up in a traffic jam, make a conscious effort to keep moving throughout your working day. Doing so will ensure the limitations of a home office don’t leave you with muscle and posture problems.

What’s your experience of working in a home office and what ways have you found for relieving aches and pains?

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How Desk Chair Height Can Cause Leg Pain For Office Workers

Leg pain for office workers may not be as big a problem as neck and back pain, nonetheless it still affects a lot of people and when you understand the potential causes it can often be resolved.

Typically people complain of pain to the underside and tops of their thighs. Or their legs suffer some numbness and feel heavy and dead.

A lot of the time the height of the seat can be the cause. For many it will simply be a case of adjusting their working height and yet for certain others it isn’t so simple.

Why correct seat height adjustment is important
It’s important to make sure you have your seat set at the right height, because when it’s wrong it places a lot of unnecessary pressure on the legs. And historically poor advice on sitting with legs and body at 90° has contributed to the problem.

And just in case this applies to you, it’s never a good idea to work at a computer or desk in a fixed chair like a dining or meeting room chair. Even if the height is right this sort of seat still restricts your body movement and can cause other pain and discomfort problems.

Let’s take a look at how you should be sitting.

How to sit at the right height
Begin by standing without shoes on and knees facing your chair seat and align the seat height with your knee caps. From there sit down in your chair making sure your feet are resting squarely on the floor. Then, fine tune the height so that the angle between your body and thighs is open at around 110° or more. This will reduce the constriction on your upper leg muscles and allow better blood circulation.

What should you do when you can’t achieve this sitting position?

Adapting your chair to fit you
Most average built people should be able to get their seat set to the right height. However for short or tall people things may not be so simple.

Typically short built people find the seat won’t go low enough to let them rest their feet squarely on the floor. In fact they may not be able to rest their feet on the floor at all.

The opposite problem affects tall users. Even with the seat on maximum height they find the angle between body and thighs is very tight as they are forced to sit with knees pointing up in the air.

Fortunately some manufacturers offer different sizes of gas lift support struts. Check and see if there is one available to suit you. Start by measuring from floor to knee cap and make sure that dimension is covered by the alternative strut’s height range.

This should take of things, but what if it doesn’t?

Other seat problems
Where pain still persists other causes my include incorrect seat depth for your leg length or cheap seat foams which have degraded and flattened.

Here’s a free report which explains the commonest cause of office chair discomfort and how to resolve it.

And if you need a new size of gas lift and one isn’t available, a new chair may be your only alternative.

Further reading
Here are a couple of articles that will help both short and tall people select the right chair for their needs.

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Why Programmers And Coders Need A Heavy Duty Office Chair

The nature of programming and coding work often means spending very long hours in an office chair. When you’re writing code, accuracy is absolutely vital, nobody wants the hassle of trying to find errors.

So why does what you sit in matter so much?

The right tools for the job
Your chair has to be fit for the purpose. After all you wouldn’t set out to climb Everest in a T shirt and trainers. And nor should you be doing intensive computer work in some poorly designed seat.

Maintaining good concentration levels is key to precise coding and so you need something that is so supportive and comfortable you don’t even notice it’s there. That way you will be in the zone and fully focused on the task at hand.

This simply isn’t possible in low quality seating. It may feel fine for the first hour or so, however as the day wears on and your body starts to ache concentration levels drop. This either results in you slowing down or worse still silly mistakes start creeping in.

Let’s turn to some ideas for potential heavy duty chairs for programming and coding work.

Chairs to have on your shortlist
Here are some ideas for suitable seating for intensive computer work. It’s not exhaustive, however it will give you a good idea of the sort of chair you should be looking at.

Aeron – Herman Miller’s iconic seat and one of the world’s best selling chairs. It has loads of adjustments and its mesh upholstery will keep you cool on hot days. Not so good if you prefer a well padded seat as the mesh is firm.

Leap – this is one of Steelcase’s most comfortable chairs. It’s well padded and is easy to adjust. It’s also great to recline in when you want to pause and reflect because it doesn’t tip you up in the air when you lean back.

Futu – this chair isn’t nearly as well known as it should be. Made by HÅG of Norway, it has a great range of movement and self adjusts to user position changes, supporting you as you move.

Embody is one of Herman Miller’s more recent high tech seating additions. It has a unique 4 layer seating support with the top layer being a breathable fabric, great should you sweat a lot.

Humanscale Freedom – largely self adjusting once initial set up is completed. The seat foams are top quality and very comfortable without being bulky. Arm design allows you to drop them out of the way when not in use, so you can get close in to your desk when you need to.

All of these seats are guaranteed for between 10 and 15 years. Yes they cost a lot more than the seats in office supplies stores, nonetheless you only buy them once, so they need to be viewed as an investment. In the long term they will pay for themselves many times over in increased productivity and working comfort.

Want to know more?
Here’s where you can read detailed reviews of the chair discussed in this article:

3 Simple Tips To Cut Out Pain For Office Workers By Eliminating CCS From Your Life

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Often office workers who suffer pain at work are serial CCS abusers. What’s this CCS all about and how do I know if I’m a victim of it?

OK, suspense over. In this three part article we’re going to look at the three main reasons people suffer pain in the office by needlessly persisting with bad working habits.

3 bad working habits

  • Cradling
  • Craning
  • Slouching

Let’s start with the first one.

Cradling
Cradling can be seen in any office up and down the country. People on a phone call and when it lasts any length of time they wedge the phone between their head and shoulder.

It’s a horribly unnatural angle to place your head and neck in. And the longer the call goes on the more damage it inflicts on your shoulder and neck muscles. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if you switched side, yet most never do.

The best answer is to stop doing it and work more healthily. Instead hold the receiver in your hand and when the call is prolonged switch sides frequently.

Where your job involves using the phone a lot it’s a good idea to invest in a headset.

Now it’s the turn of bad habit number 2 – craning.

Craning
This one is so easy to fix. All you have to work on is realizing you’re doing it. The only thing is because you can’t see how your sitting it’s not as obvious as it might be.

So what’s this craning all about? It’s all about addressing your work incorrectly by having your monitor too far back on your desk top. And because it’s not in the right position to be read comfortably you end up craning your neck forwards.

And of course this places your upper neck and shoulders in an awful posture resulting in pain.

Simple solution is to move your monitor closer with the height set so your eyes are roughly level with the top of the viewable part of the screen. An even better solution is to use a monitor arm, it will add loads of flexibility to your workspace.

And for our final bad habit – cue up the slouchers.

Slouchers
Slouchers are really easy to spot, especially serial ones. They sit slumped forwards and often their body is not in contact with the chair back. Consequently their back is totally unsupported and prevents the chair back from supporting them properly

This posture rounds the back and puts the spinal cord and back muscles under a lot of stress.

In her excellent book, 8 Steps To A Pain Free Back Esther Gokhale explains how to sit properly. Here’s a great video of a talk she gave at TEDxTalks where she demonstrates how to do it.

 

Let’s summarize the 3 points we’ve covered here.

    • Cradling a phone between head and shoulders should be avoided – hold your phone in your hand, or use a headset
    • Craning your neck forwards is bad, instead move your screen closer or invest in a monitor arm
    • Slouching rounds the back and stresses spine and back muscles – take a few minutes to watch the video on how to sit properly

Eliminating these three bad habits will greatly improve your working comfort in the office.

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When Would You Use A Saddle Seat In The Office?

Humanscale Freedom Saddle Chair

The idea of an office saddle seat is something that has been around for many years.

Even so, it is relatively unusual to find one in use in most offices.

Nonetheless in the right circumstances it makes an excellent choice of seat instead of a traditional office chair.

Let’s begin by looking at the concept.

What exactly is a saddle chair?
As the name suggests the actual seat pad is shaped much like a horse’s saddle.

And just as when sitting on a horse it places your legs in a wider more open position.

It encourages your torso to adopt a much healthier sitting posture as it open up the angle between legs and back. Not only that it feels a very stable way of working due to the wider distance between your feet. Together with the upright seat support this forms a balanced way of sitting.

Generally speaking most of these sorts of seat still retain the usual gas lift and wheeled base and these help to make very versatile for certain situations.

Who can benefit from using one?
Anyone who moves around their workspace a lot will likely find the saddle concept very useful. It’s far quicker and easier to move around compared to a swivel chair. This is down to the way you use your feet to move it.

These seats are popular with designers and architects who frequently need to move from a desk to a layout table to work on plans and drawings.

Another way they work well is for people who work at higher work surfaces. The ever increasing popularity of movable height desks
make a saddle chair a popular choice.

They also work well for medical professionals. Dentists, surgeons and sports masseurs find this way of sitting makes their work a lot easier.

Where to find more information
Here’s where you can read more about the saddle seat way of sitting and reviews of two popular products.

How Office Chair Seat Height Causes Problems For Some Office Workers: A Resizing Moment

It’s easy to think that anyone should be able to adjust their office chair seat height to suit their needs. After all that’s what the gas lift is for isn’t it? So why could it be a problem for certain people?

For the majority of office workers it won’t cause a problem. That’s because they fall into the category chair manufacturers call ‘average built.’ Broadly speaking this is anyone between say 5 feet 6 inches and 6 feet tall.

As this height range covers the majority of people working in offices it’s only natural that chair makers design their seats to fit them.

What happens when you’re not average built?
Depending on how far you fall outside the average will dictate how big a problem this is.

To be properly comfortable in you seat you need to have your feet resting squarely on the floor. Not only that you need to have your legs set at an open angle. The old recommendation of sitting at 90° isn’t a good idea and probably never was.

You should aim to sit in a more open posture with the angle between body and thighs at 110° or more.

For two categories of people this may not be possible without a radical change to their seat.

Let’s move on to the first group this affects.

How short people struggle with seat height
The big problem for people under about 5 feet 5 inches in height is they often find their seat doesn’t go low enough and they are unable to rest their feet squarely on the floor. This puts pressure on thighs and the undersides of their legs become painful after sitting for a short while.

And at the other end of the spectrum, there’s a different issue.

The problem tall people face with the height of their seat
Tall people have no trouble resting their feet on the floor. The snag is in the angle of their legs. They end up like a partly opened penknife with knees and thighs angled up in the air. The tight angle they find themselves sitting at quickly becomes uncomfortable.

So what’s the answer to these difficulties?
The easiest way of fixing these issues is to change the gas lift for one more closely matched to your height.

Good manufacturers offer alternative gas lifts allowing the chair to go lower or higher than standard.

Here’s a quick tip
Standing up measure from the floor to the middle of your knee. Note down this dimension and make sure any replacement gas lift adjusts an inch or so either side of this measurement. Provided you find a match simply changing the chair’s pneumatic lift will fix things.

Another idea for short built people is to use an adjustable footrest.

Further information
Here’s where you can find articles and ideas related to this problem.

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New Knoll Inc Report Shows Generation Y Vulnerable To Ergonomic Injury

A new report from Knoll Inc – New Workplace Ergonomics Research, Emerging Risks And Solutions reveals that even Generation Y workers are susceptible to ergonomic injury.

When you consider that a Generation Y worker is probably 30 years old or under that’s a pretty worrying thought.

And yet it’s perhaps not so surprising. Two previous studies also by Knoll found this generation spends some 7.5 hours a day using electronic devices. Such extensive use of these devices must impinge on individuals health in the longer term, whatever their age.

A separate university study of students found that by 2008 over 50% of surveyed participants encountered pain they felt was the result of computer use. The study concluded that many showed the potential to enter the workplace with an existing upper body injury.

The proliferation of larger and frequently multiple monitor use was highlighted as a worrying trend in terms of user health.

Combating the problems
The report highlights the need for properly set up work areas. In the case of multiple monitors the use of monitor arms will make a big difference in the ability to fine tune screen positions for individual user comfort.

Seating needs to be designed to support user’s posture changes. And standing to work for part of the day helps because it places a lot less strain on the spine.

Training in how to work more healthily will help to make staff more aware of the issues and how to tackle them.

It’s also recommended organizations should have areas where more casual lounge style furniture is available.

More information
Here’s where you can find Knoll’s latest Generation Y report. And here’s where you can find other interesting research articles and reports from Knoll Inc.

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Are You Suffering Back Pain From Your Office Chair? 3 Quick Tips

Most back pain from office chairs is down to one of the following three reasons.

  1. Poor quality seating
  2. Bad posture when sitting
  3. Lack of movement when working

In this 3 part article we’re going to look into each in detail and consider how best to tackle them and improve your working comfort.

Let’s start with the first of them.

Poor quality seating
Cheap seating is a major contributor to back related pain in the office. The reason this happens is principally down to the use of poor quality materials which aren’t designed for long term use. A classic example of this is low quality seat foam which goes hard and flat in a matter of months.

Another problem is missing features making it impossible for users to fine tune adjustments to their needs.

So much for the seat, what about the way we sit?

Bad posture when sitting
This is something that you can take action on, although if you have a really bad chair it may limit your success.

Slouching when you’re sitting is a real killer for your back. As you back rounds it puts pressure on your muscle and spine resulting in pain.

It’s a good idea to place your body well back as you sit down so the chair’s back is in contact with and supporting your back. If there is a lumbar support make sure it’s well positioned for lower back comfort.

Craning your neck forwards is a very bad habit that is all too easy to get into. Over time it will cause a lot of neck and shoulder discomfort. The key to avoiding this is to make sure your screen can be read comfortably when you are sitting in a relaxed upright position.

Other sources of back pain come from incorrect seat depth for your legs and also the amount of pressure required to recline comfortably. On many chairs both seat depth and recline tension are fixed and so the only solution will be a new chair.

And the final problem can often be solved by a change of habit.

Lack of movement when working
Far too many people remain seated all day, apart from taking a lunch break.

recline

Woman Reclining In Generation Chair

Although better quality chairs are designed to help you move as you work, even the best of them won’t do your exercise for you.

No matter what seat you have getting out of it regularly and having a stretch or taking a short walk is vital. We aren’t designed to be fixed in one posture for hours at a time. You should aim to get up out of your chair every 30 minutes or so and do some simple stretches and maybe walk around the office.

working

Man Working In Leap Chair

Sitting at 90 degrees used to be common advice for office workers. Nowadays a more open sitting angle is recommended. Research by Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen Scotland found that an angle of 135 degrees body to thigh seating position reduced the strain on the spine and its ligaments.

While this is good advice, it’s simply not possible with most office chairs. Even if you recline in them to work they tip your legs upwards making it very difficult to remain in contact with your work.

Happily, some modern chairs like the Knoll Generation and Steelcase Leap will allow the user to work in this more open angled position.

In conclusion
Back pain in the office is usually caused by one of these 3 reasons:

  • Poor quality seating
  • Bad posture when sitting
  • Lack of movement when working

With a little awareness it’s usually fairly easy to spot the problem and take action to sort things out.

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