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Proper Seating for the Overweight Workforce

Finding seating solutions that allow obese employees to sit comfortably in their desk chairs has been a challenge for years. And with a steady increase in the number of overweight workers, companies can no longer overlook these pertinent needs.

As recently as 10 years ago, most chair manufacturers did not offer products for people who weighed more than 300 pounds. Not only were there no chairs that fit these individuals, but rarely did the chairs hold up to the constant weight.

Today, office equipment, such as chairs, that is designed to suit larger people is in demand. And as an employer, you must ensure you are providing a safe, comfortable chair for your employees. This has created an opportunity for chair manufacturers to succeed in a thriving marketplace.

When looking at chair options, it’s important to focus on two key factors:

Weight Limitations

Several chair manufacturers have specific ratings for use up to 500 pounds. One chair manufacturer I have worked with has a chair rated for people up to 600 pounds. Remember, these are for everyday task chairs.

Bariatric chairs are also available for individuals who weigh more than 750 pounds and seating for these chairs can be rated for more than 1,000 pounds.

Weight specification is one step to ensuring comfort. Fitting your employee to his or her chair to accommodate height and other factors is equally important.


Although some manufacturers feel that one size fits all, it’s not the case. Just like most ergonomic seating options, a chair must have a range of adjustability. I have reviewed products from manufacturers that offer chairs that are height-adjustable only. It may be strong and sturdy, but this type of chair does not address comfort, proper posture and other support an overweight person needs.

It’s just as important to make sure the back height, arms and seat pan are adjustable too. Many overweight workers use chair arms for stability when standing up and sitting down. I also like to make sure the chair has a breathable fabric with high-density foam.

For heavy individuals who are taller, shorter or have other seating challenges, I sometimes request the manufacturer custom build a chair. The custom design of the seat pan and back of the chair may take longer to deliver, but the end result is a chair more proportioned to the individual, which means a happier and more productive employee.

A desk chair may seem like a minimal component of your employees’ everyday work life, but it’s truly a long-term investment. Without proper support and a good fit, something as simple as a chair can affect productivity and potentially the loss of an employee to a disability leave.

By focusing on weight limitations and adjustability, you will be able to offer your employee a comfortable and safe solution and, in turn, remove a major barrier to his or her workplace productivity.


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