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Bean Bag Chair vs. Office Chair

This is an office lounge and conference area that has bean bag chairs.

If the global pandemic has done one thing, it has influenced the way we work. The constant lockdowns have precipitated the need for hybrid or work-from-home conditions which have forced us to consider how our office furniture should best function to serve our needs.

Considering how many hours are spent sitting in the same chair every day, it is not without concern that your sitting arrangement can harm your posture and have some potentially serious long-term health consequences.

Being stationary and sedentary all day is linked to obesity and heart disease, so emphasis on ergonomic sitting arrangements is essential. Typical variations for office use are the regular office chair and the bean bag.

A modern office chair is a single-legged swivel seat with wheels for mobility and is adjustable for height and reach. Bean bags are sealed bags containing dried beans, PVC pellets, expanded polystyrene, polypropylene, or other filler. The bags are commonly used for leisure but have various other applications, including office work.

While one would be prone to assume that the obvious choice is determined by the function required when sitting, i.e., office chair for working or bean bag when lounging around, the arguments for or against both options might come as a bit of a surprise.

The Typical Office Chair

A close look at an office that has a wooden desk and a typical swivel office chair.

Office chairs seem to be everywhere. They’re omnipresent, and we only notice them when they’re abandoned in the corner, broken, or in your way. There are many types of office chairs, all designed with a specific purpose in mind, to promote good posture, which supports long-term health benefits and, of course, assist in increasing overall worker productivity.

If having wheels on a chair is enough to consider it worthy of being called an “office” chair, then the earliest record of one would be in 1849. 

Charles Darwin, wanting to move quickly between his lab specimens while seated, added wheels to his wooden armchair and thus became the inventor of the first office chair!

These days, a common term that keeps cropping up in conversations around seating arrangements and office chairs is “Ergonomics.”

What makes a chair “Ergonomic”?

This is a man stretching his back on his office swivel chair.

Ergonomics is a science, also known as biotechnology or human engineering.  The discipline involves looking at how objects are designed and arranged to enhance workplace efficiency best.

An ergonomic chair is designed to support the human body optimally and promote good posture, comfort, support, and health.

The following features are essential when considering what makes an office chair ergonomic:

  • Seat height: An adjustable seat is vital to allow feet to be placed flat on the floor. Ideal range 16 to 21 inches off the floor.
  • Seat width and depth: An ideal depth of between 2 and 4 inches between the seat and the back of your knees to avoid undue pressure.
  • Seat tilt: An ergonomically sound office chair should allow seat tilt which facilitates correct neutral pelvic positioning.
  • Lumbar support: A natural spine is ‘S’ shaped. A backrest with good lumbar support reduces stress on the spine and pelvis, which helps prevent slouching.
  • Backrest recline: The backrest should be adjustable to support the spine optimally by taking some weight off the upper body and reducing pressure on the spinal disks and muscles.
  • Swivel: An ergonomically designed swivel chair is maneuverable and helps with reach around the desk.
  • Armrests: reduces tension in the upper body and shoulders.
  • Headrest: support for the head and upper neck, reducing tension.
  • Materials: good quality breathable material, e.g., leather or velvet, help with comfort and mitigate sweating.
  • Wheels: can be made of suitable materials such as rubber or hard plastic, depending on surface type.

An ergonomically well-designed chair is critical for comfort and safety and is a good option for long periods of sitting at the workplace. Naturally, these features are not cheap. Therefore it is always good practice to evaluate the price against the feature set.

The Bean Bag

This is an office lady resting on a bean bag chair.

A 70’s invention traditionally regarded as a fun, comfortable accessory, a nap or lounge in front of the TV – but now, the perfect office accessory, too!

Somewhat unconventional, bean bags help promote an informal, relaxed atmosphere that can help you feel more comfortable, more creative, and motivated while also helping to reduce stress levels. Just ask the employees of Google or LinkedIn about how it works for them!

People working from home are arguably more inclined to gravitate towards comfort and a relaxed office environment than regular office-bound types. So if opting for a bean bag or two as your preference – what are the best bean bags for the home office?

Besides the comfort motive for a bean bag, the most crucial thing in an office bean bag is that it is relaxing yet promotes a healthy posture. It should provide strong back, neck, and head support and be easily accessible.

What’s in the bag?

This is a close look at a yellow bean bag chair.

Most commonly, polystyrene beads and a shapeshifter that adjusts to your body means greater lumbar support. The filler beads under the outer shells can move and shape themselves around various postures, providing you with ultimate comfort and significant health benefits.

Memory foam is another option to consider. Polystyrene needs work, but it’s something you can get used to over time. If you’re working long hours, for example, the fact that you can change your posture to make yourself comfortable makes the polystyrene beads a better choice.

On the other hand, memory foam is better for people who only use the bean bag chair to relax. The holding of posture, the help with the positions helps you make yourself feel better.

Either of these options is a good choice. If comfort and health are things that are your priority, the bean bag chair is a must.

There is a catch

Three officemates having a meeting on colorful bean bag chairs.

The trick is to get yourself into a space in the beanbag chair where your legs and back are comfortable. Your body is in its natural state; your back muscles and your shoulders are completely relaxed.

If the bean bag chairs do not support your upper back, they can do more harm than good. The older and cheaper shapeless bean bag chairs used to lack any upper back support, causing major back issues for people who used them for extended periods. Back and neck muscles would hurt, and sometimes over several years, the posture also caused permanent problems.

Earlier versions of the bean bag chairs were produced cheaply and with a focus on comfort only. Modern ergonomically designed bean bag chairs have upped their game and are available in more versatile forms. With larger variants, you get full-body support, and you can have some of the best ways to have your work done.

In the modern age, with increased awareness and emphasis on health, a more comprehensive range from which to choose, it makes sense to select bean bags that provide health rewarding superior back and lumbar support. There are many options and styles from which to choose.

Some Tips for Maximizing your Experience

These are colleagues having a meeting on colorful bean bag chairs.

The criteria for choosing a bean bag chair are varied, and so are the choices available. Regardless of which bean bag chair you select, some guidelines can be put into good effect and which will assist in reducing stress associated with long periods of sitting and increase the whole experience. These simple rules apply to bean bags or office chairs and all types of chairs in general.

  • Add a back pillow: while most bean bag chairs provide adequate lumbar support, try adding a small cushion or rolled-up towel between your back and the chair for extra support.
  • Take regular breaks: take a short break every 10 to 15 minutes, even if only a few seconds, to reduce strain and restore good blood circulation.
  • Up your heart rate: in addition to regular breaks, get up and move every hour or so. You should include some walking. Take a stroll around the block. Do some stretches. Make it light and relaxing.
  • Give your eyes a rest: working at a computer puts immense strain on your eyes. Every 20 minutes, take your eyes off the screen, look at other objects. Roll your eyes clockwise, then counter-clockwise to relax the eye muscles.
  • Remember your hands and feet: To avoid computer work strain and limit the potential for any associated upper-extremity disorders, fan your fingers out, bend back to stretch your digits, clench your fists. Do the same with your feet, curl your toes, rotate your ankles. The key is movement with an emphasis on stretching.

Bean Bag vs. Office chairs: What’s the verdict?

A man at the office talking on his phone while sitting on a bean bag chair.

While seemingly a curious choice, you may consider purchasing a bean bag chair for your home office. Replacing your traditional old office chair could be a good decision for your overall health and productivity.

If you choose the bean bag chair, make sure you choose a comfortable, ergonomically designed bean bag. It has to provide adequate support for your head, neck, and back and must be easy and comfortable to settle into.

A good quality bean bag will adapt to your form and help relieve discomfort and pain. A modern-day office is not restricted with choice.

With technological advancements like Wifi, cordless telephony, and other wireless devices, your movement is less restricted than before. You can move your bean bag chair or make use of the advantages of a wheeled office chair to move around swiftly between your desk, laptop, and office equipment with ease.

So whether you choose a traditional office chair or a bean bag chair, the essential characteristic to consider when making your purchase is that your chair is a health-promoting ergonomic design.

Either choice can lead to a win-win situation.


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