Is Alternative Seating Better Or Worse Than Ergonomic Office Chairs?
If you are interested in an alternative seating option, you might be wondering whether they are better or worse than the ergonomic office chairs that experts are claiming we all should be using. One of the main reasons that people turn to alternative options is that they are often designed to keep the hips at an angle, which is believed to reduce pressure on the lower back. They may not be worse than ergonomic chairs, but they may not provide optimal support.
Firstly, we felt it was important to outline what some of these alternative seating options actually are. Some examples include:
- The ‘kneeling chair’, a forward-tilted chair base with knee support;
- The ‘sit-stand’ or ‘saddle’ chair, a tilted base for ‘propping’ on;
- The physio or ‘fit ball’, an inflated ball that encourages constant (small) changes in posture to maintain balance; and
- Executive chairs, which are designed for executive use.
There aren’t currently any guidelines or design standards that must legally be followed by alternative seating. It is hoped, however, that this will change in the near future, as these seating options continue to grow in popularity. They should not, however, be used for constant sitting and it should be noted that ergonomic office chairs are still required in any working environment (so that employees can use them if they so wish).
Keep in mind that an organisation can choose to not allow alternative seating unless it has been assessed for any risks to the user or is required by a medical/ rehabilitation plan. As such, there are limitations to using this seating in the workplace, including:
- The seat is often not adjustable, which means it is unable to be altered to accommodate a specific person. Note that some ‘kneeling’ and ‘sit-stand’ models do offer adjustments.
- The use of this seating relies on the adoption of a prescribed posture that maintains the natural curves in the back. An employee may need to gradually increase their use of this seating to enable adaption.
- Some of these postures may be preferred for short periods, but they do not provide lumbar support. This pressure on the back and abdominal muscles makes them unsuitable for long periods.
- Getting on and off some of these options (such as the ‘kneeling’ chair) could be awkward. This is particularly true with some types of clothing (such as skirts and dresses).
- When there is no stable mobile base, an employee is unable to easily move around the workstation (as their legs are often constrained). They must rely on back and arm strength to move.
Whilst alternative seating is not necessarily better and is not always worse than conventional ergonomic office chairs, it is important to note that it may not provide optimal support for sitting over extended periods. Whilst they do provide an upright posture, employees often find that there is a greater degree of reaching, bending and twisting involved when accessing the workstation. Ensure that you keep this in mind when choosing new chairs.
Alexa Paul is an author of BuzzandLola.com and she was born and raised in Melbourne VIC. I’m graduated from university of Melbourne.