Staying Healthy at Work: Chair Ergonomics

Dr. Kristina Fruechtl Blog

Your chair is there to support you, so let it do that.  Take the steps needed to set it up specifically for you.  If you have your own chair at the office, then this may be easier because no one else will sit there at other times.  If you share your chair with others, then you will have to make accommodations each time you return to that or a different chair that you will be sitting in for prolonged periods of time. The more adjustable your work environment is the better it is for you and your productivity, however you have to take the time to conform it to your needs.


  • The backrest of the chair should arch forward to support the natural curve of your lower back. This helps remove some of the pressure off the upper body and hips.
  • The curve should fit higher than your pelvis and sacrum (tailbone), but lower than where the forward curve of your back transitions to the backward curve of your middle back.
  • Make sure you sit deep enough in the seat so your tailbone is at the corner between the seat pan (part you sit on) and the backrest.
  • The seat pan should be slightly angled downward toward the front, so that your hips sit slightly higher than your knees. If your seat doesn’t do that, then keep it parallel to the ground.  If the hips and bottom are lower than the knees, you are sitting “in a bucket” and this is tremendously stressful on your hips.
  • If you have shorter or longer legs you may have to make adaptations to find a balance between sitting too far back or too far forward on the seat pan.
  • If your feet dangle from the chair, use a footrest (angled upward about 15 degrees toward the toes) to reduce strain on the back.
  • The chair should not be too soft.  You might be surprised how comfortable a more firm surface is if it fits you right.
  • Balans chairs, which are those that have a seat angled forward and then knee rests, may be comfortable for some as they do support better lumbar posture.  There is question though of if this is best for making it easy to maneuver around your work station.  There is also more pressure on the knees when sitting in this chair, so it’s not for those with chronic knee problems.
  • A large exercise ball (swiss ball) may work for some people.  Sitting on a ball naturally causes neurological firing of core stabilization muscles and promotes good balance.  Transition to using a ball as a chair slowly, 30 minutes longer every week to give your muscles time to strengthen.  When using a ball, it is still highly important to maintain good ergonomics elsewhere with your computer, desk, keyboard, and feet to make this successful.

Bottom line: Make your chair work for you instead of against you!

Much of this information is from the book “Sitting On The Job, 2nd Edition” by Scott W. Donkin, DC.  This is an excellent resource for any person wanting to create an optimal seated working environment and I’d recommend you take a look at it.

Here is the link to the book on Amazon, or see if your local library has a copy: