FIRMS could make their businesses more profitable by offering staff ergonomic office chairs because back, neck and muscle pain accounts for half of absences from work.

Employers have a legal duty to take steps to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal pain in the workplace.

And research shows the loss of productivity and sickness absence costs two per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.

Darren Moloney, founder and technical director at web marketing services firm All Things Web in Hargreaves Road, Swindon, recognises the benefits of orthopaedic office chairs.

He said: “I regularly work across a range of businesses and the teams that are the most productive are where their directors have invested in comfort, style and safety for everyone. Place where the desks are damaged or worn out, and chairs are ripped or sagging, are typically where I see staff that are less productive and have a more negative outlook.”

His firm’s health and safety officer told him their current furniture would ‘kill their backs’ because they did not allow for height and back adjustment.

The glider pilot and keen mountain walker then got in touch with a specialist furniture supplier which advised him on his options.

Darren, who launched the SEO service 13 years ago, said: “I’d been sitting in a chair which would cut the circulation off in my leg, leading to back pain and a dull ache – as well as very significant pins and needles in my calf and foot.We’ve since replaced them with orthopaedic chairs to ensure everyone could sit as comfortably and correctly as possible. The mesh backs also help us stay cool in summer.”

Chiropractor Dr Thomasina Craster of Abundant Life, said half her patients needed treatment because of long office hours and it was vital to have supportive chairs.

The former professional dancer said: “Good lumbar support in the office and indeed in the car for commuters can rule out sprain and strain injuries, which are acquired over time.“Once you over stretch an elastic band too many times it won't bounce back and the same applies to our ligaments and tendons.”

She advises against using lap tops on the bed, settee or lap, and recommends people walk around or change position every couple of hours.

Martyn Weeks, managing director of health and safety consultancy FRS, said: “Employers have a legal duty to protect their staff from musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace. If employers don’t carry out a risk assessment and, as a result, someone suffers a musculoskeletal disorder, then they could be at risk of a prosecution and a claim for compensation.”

Paul Randall, managing director of furniture supplier Rainbow Zebra, said: “Firms recognise that by investing in chairs which offer support and aid good posture, they are investing in their staff.

“In turn, their staff are less likely to suffer an injury and have to take time off sick, which is good news for everyone.”