Anthropometrics: what does it mean when buying office furniture?

If you’re responsible for furnishing your office, no matter how large or small the company, getting your choice of chairs, desks and other pieces of furniture right is no easy task.


It’s tempting to go for a bog standard office chair, that might have an adjustable height and is most definitely the cheap option. But then we all know what happens to these over time – the adjustments become loose, the seat padding wears down and they look a sorry mess, piled up in the corner like a graveyard of blue fabric and plastic.


At the other end of the scale, you might be tempted to go all out and buy really expensive, flashy looking chairs and desks, especially if you’re in a customer facing environment. But these expensive, flashy items of furniture might not actually be fit for purpose – that is, fit for using for eight or more hours a day. They might be better suited to use in a dining room or café.


So striking the right balance between affordability, practicality (and style) is important.


That’s why the art of anthropometrics is so important too. Anthropometrics is the process of gathering statistical data regarding the distribution of body dimensions across a population. Or, in other words, anthropometrics is the process of taking measurements of the human body, and averaging them out for a population.


But what does this mean when we’re buying office furniture? Anthropometric data is used by designers to develop products, in this case, office chairs and desks. When there’s a large variation in size and weight, as there is in any population, they can then use this data to build some adjustments into their design.


In the case of office furniture, this means desks with an adjustable height or angle, and chairs with adjustable seat heights, lumbar supports, neck rests, tip backs and arm rests. This is called ergonomic design, where something is made to be easy to use and as comfortable as possible for all users, without causing any short or long term pain or discomfort.


A desk environment, where the user is at the wrong height or angle for comfortable working can lead to back, neck and shoulder pain. It can also lead to poor emotional wellbeing if an employee is in constant discomfort. Physical and mental ill health will lead to poor productivity, time off sick and even potentially complaints by the employee to HR or above to external health and safety bodies.


This all means that taking anthropometrics and ergonomics into account when buying office furniture is crucial. Thankfully, there are many furniture manufacturers that have already done the hard work, and produce fully adjustable, ergonomically designed desks and chairs. They also produce other items that enhance the working experience such as foot rests, extra back supports, wrist rests and screen and keyboard height and angle adjusters.


If you need help, we’re on hand with all that you need. Our HSE approved face to face and virtual DSE assessments will help you ensure you’re providing all that you can to make your employees safe and comfortable. Because after all, look after your staff, and they’ll almost certainly look after you!

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