Cost-Benefit of Ergonomic Chairs

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Investment in Comfortable Chairs Pays off in Better Use of Time

According to Professor Alan Hedge, director of Cornell University’s Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Group, a person should be able to sit in an office chair for one to two hours without discomfort.

From his research into the effects on the human body of sitting for extended periods, he advises that a person should take frequent short breaks to relieve the stress on the spine, especially the lower back, and to relieve pressure on the thighs that can restrict blood flow.

It doesn’t require much research at all for anyone to realize that the more comfortable the chair, the longer will a person sit in it before he or she gets up to relieve discomfort. People engaged in intensive work will probably forget Prof. Hedge’s advice and omit some of the breaks, tending to sit for longer and interrupting work less.

Ergonomic Chair Financial Benefits

Lucy Hart, an ergonomist with the furniture manufacturer The Global Group, has calculated the financial benefits of ergonomic seating; i.e., seating designed specifically to be a healthy fit for the sitter and to allow the sitter some movement. As she has explained in recent seminars, her calculations focus on just the time saving gained when people move away from their work less because they feel more comfortable in their chairs.

Her figures do not take into account productivity, absenteeism or workers compensation, yet they show a bottom-line benefit if each worker spends only 5 minutes more at their desk each day.

Ergonomic Chair Costs

She bases her calculation on the cost of an ergonomic chair being about $600, on an hourly salary of $25 per worker and 1 hour of training per worker in use of the chair (excluding any consultant’s training fee).

  • The initial cost of the chair plus the cost of 1 hour of employee’s time for training is $625.00.
  • The lost time saved each day is 5 minutes, or 0.0833 hour.
  • Salary saved per day is $25 multiplied by 0.0833, which equals $2.08.
  • The chair will last for 7 years (the standard useful life of an office chair before the cushioning of the seat loses resiliency).
  • With 220 working days per year, the life of the chair is 1540 days.

Return on Investment of Ergonomic Chairs

  • The number of days required to recover the initial cost of $625 at a saving of $2.08 per day is 625/2.08; the chair pays for itself in 301 days.
  • From then to the end of the 7 years there are 1239 days. This is the payback time, during which the chair adds to the bottom line.
  • The cost saving per employee over the payback time is 1239 days multiplied by $2.08. That is $2,577 per employee.

This is based on a savings of 5 minutes only per day in working time. Added to this can be potential benefits of increased productivity, reduced workers compensation and less absenteeism. On top of that can be the effect of fewer interruptions to the flow of a person’s work when he or she is distracted by discomfort.

Ergonomic Chairs Boost Effective Use of Time

Other studies have shown increases in productivity through use of ergonomic chairs.

It is often difficult to measure white-collar productivity, especially in a home office or a small business, or where work is creative and valued more by quality than quantity.

The fact remains, however, that although an ergonomic chair can cost more than others, the investment yields a measurable monetary return in effective use of time.