Sitting in an office chair at work is almost inevitable with the growing number of desk jobs and steady increase in office related positions. If you are going to be sitting for the majority of the work day, it is important to be sitting in a chair that is going to be adjustable enough to allow you to sit comfortably for hours a day. While most of us search for chairs with functionality, one area of the chair we often overlook is the armrests. Almost every chair has armrests of some sort or the option to add armrests as an upgrade to the chair. Armrests are an important component of any ergonomic office chair. Proper armrest design allows a place to rest your arms while working, relieving the pressure from your upper back and shoulders which sometimes is experienced when using an armless chair. There are a number of different types of armrests available which is why it is important to determine which will work best for your needs and keep you sitting comfortably throughout the day.
Fixed Armrests – Fixed armrests are the most affordable but also the least adjustable option available. They are fixed in height and are not adjustable. While these type of armrests are certainly an economical choice, they are not a very ergonomic option. They lack the adjustability needed to place the arms at the correct height for your body and can cause back pain because of this. If armrests are too high, this will raise the shoulders, causing tension in the shoulders and upper back muscles. Too low and they may cause you to lean forward which also puts pressure on your upper back. While fixed armrests are not the best choice for ergonomic chairs, they are a good choice for desk chairs that are only used for a few hours a day or conference room chairs.
Height Adjustable Armrests – At the very minimum, armrests should be able to adjust in height to enable your arms to rest in a comfortable working position for your everyday tasks. Height adjustable arms can be found as an option or included on most office chairs and is among the most popular armrest available. If it is not included in the price of the chair, adjustable armrests are generally reasonably priced to add-on as an option.
Some height adjustable armrests are also width adjustable, allowing the user to move the armrests out further from their seat if they are wider or bring them in closer to the body if they have a smaller frame. If you do have width adjustable armrests be certain not to put the armrests too close together as this can interfere with relaxed typing and restrict the ability to rest your hands in your lap when you are not typing, creating a confined environment. Armrests which are too far apart may cause shoulders to over-extend, causing upper back strain. Width adjustment is not as common as height adjustment in armrests and can only be found on certain models by select manufacturers.
Multi-Function Armrests – Multi-function armrests are highly adjustable and allow for the arms to be adjusted in height, width, and the arm pad has the ability to pivot. These highly adjustable armrests are a great option for shorter or wider individuals that need their arms closer to their body or farther away. The independent pivoting action helps accommodate sideways arm postures that are commonly found among computer users.
With the large range of adjustments available in multi-function arms, it is important to make sure that they do not interfere with your work surface. Poorly designed armrests may constrain postures, causing users to hunch forward and work with elevated arms. Specific work stations set ups may interfere with armrests, contributing to poor posture while working. Pivoting armrests allow the arm pad to be angled inward to prevent problems with narrow diameter corner work surfaces which can be obstructive.
Lateral Adjustable Armrests – Perhaps one of the most advanced armrests to emerge on the market to date, lateral adjustable armrests are an ergonomist’s dream come true especially in the petite market. They are both height and width adjustable and perhaps the best feature of all, can telescope up to 3″ inwards. They are a great choice for petite users that have a difficult time finding an armrest that allows them to rest their arms at the correct position close enough to their body without having to use a children’s chair. These advanced armrests are expensive in price but also among the most ergonomic/adjustable option out there.
Designing good armrests is not an easy task. Not only do people come in a broad range of sizes; they also develop their own ways of sitting over the years. Women tend to sit upright whereas men tend to lean back in their chairs and lounge. Armrests also must accommodate users’ different workstation configurations, including ergonomic accessories such as keyboard trays and mouse pads. Finding the right armrests luckily is not as difficult of a task. With the research and technology being developed in the field of ergonomics, armrests are now able to fit a larger range of users than ever before. When deciding which arms will work best for your work environment, remember the more adjustable the better.