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Obesity in the Workplace

  • 2024-05-24
  • Reading time: 10 min.
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Addressing Obesity in the Workplace

Obesity is a prevalent health issue impacting millions of individuals in the global workforce. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one-in-eight adults worldwide are obese, with the number of obese individuals having doubled since 19901 Because it impacts productivity and employee well-being, rising obesity rates have made it more important than ever before to address the implications of obesity in workplace settings.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is a medical condition characterized by an excess accumulation of body fat that poses a risk to one’s health. Doctors diagnose obesity based on an individual’s body mass index (BMI), which measures weight in relation to height.

Anyone with a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. Because it is a complex condition influenced by genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors, obesity can be challenging to manage effectively2.

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Functional Limitations of Obesity in the Workplace

Obesity can lead to various functional limitations that may impact an individual’s job performance and job satisfaction3. Those workplace obesity limitations include:


Excess weight can strain the musculoskeletal system, leading to poor posture and increased risk of back and joint pain.

Muscle Strength

Obesity can reduce muscle strength, making it challenging to perform physically-demanding tasks.

Cardiorespiratory Capacity

Reduced cardiovascular fitness in obese individuals can result in fatigue and decreased stamina during work activities.


Obesity may hinder mobility and agility, affecting a worker’s ability to walk long distances or navigate through the workplace comfortably.

Motor Tasks

Fine motor skills and coordination can be compromised in obese individuals, impacting tasks that require precision and dexterity.


Severe obesity may qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), entitling individuals to reasonable workplace accommodations.

Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSD)

Obesity is a significant risk factor for WMSDs, including carpal tunnel syndrome and lower back pain, due to increased strain on the body’s structures.

All of these functional limitations can hinder job performance, increase the risk of occupational injuries, and contribute to absenteeism among obese employees4.

Psychological Impact of Obesity in Workplace Settings

In addition to physical challenges, being excessively overweight in the workplace can have psychological implications5. Obese employees may experience stigma, discrimination, and low self-esteem due to their weight.

These negative perceptions can impact job satisfaction, interpersonal relationships, and overall mental well-being. Employers must promote a supportive and inclusive work environment that fosters acceptance and respect for all employees, regardless of their body size.

obesity in the workplace

Ergonomic Aspects of Being Overweight in the Workplace

Ergonomics plays a vital role in managing the challenges of workplace obesity. Employers must adapt work environments and tasks to accommodate the needs of obese employees, promoting their safety, comfort, and efficiency. Ergonomic considerations when discussing obesity at workplace management meetings include:

Adjustable Workstations

Adjustable desks and chairs can help accommodate workers of various body sizes and shapes, promoting proper posture and reducing musculoskeletal strain.

Supportive Seating

Ergonomic chairs with additional lumbar support and cushioning can enhance comfort and lower the risk of back pain.

Accessible Facilities

Ensuring workplace facilities, such as restrooms and break rooms, are accessible to larger individuals can foster inclusivity and prevent discomfort or embarrassment.

Workstation Layout

Organizing workstations to allow for adequate space and easy maneuverability can facilitate movement and reduce the risk of accidents or injuries for obese employees.

Training and Education

Providing training on proper ergonomic practices and the importance of maintaining a healthy weight can empower employees to take control of their health and well-being in the workplace.

Employers who incorporate these obesity-focused ergonomic principles into their policies and procedures for obesity in the workplace are typically able to create a more inclusive, supportive, and accommodating work environment – one that promotes productivity and satisfaction for all employees!

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Introducing the VELA Epic/Epic Plus Chair: A Comprehensive Seating Option for Obesity in the Workplace

As much more than an ergonomic office chair, a VELA Epic Chair offers a range of features that cater specifically to individuals with workplace obesity challenges, ensuring optimal comfort, support, and functionality. Advantages of using a VELA Epic Chair in the workplace include:

Exceptional Ergonomics
At VELA, we understand the importance of proper posture and support for overweight individuals. A VELA Epic Chair offers excellent and secure backrest support, sturdy armrests, and an adjustable electric seat height, allowing users to maintain a healthy sitting position throughout the day. The chair’s ergonomic design helps reduce strain on the body, enhancing worker comfort and cardiorespiratory capacity, empowering them to be more productive.

Streamlined Mobility and Accessibility
A VELA Epic Chair has four, smooth-running wheels, enabling users to move around effortlessly across most surfaces while seated. The chair is also easy to maneuver, a feature notably important for obese individuals with limited mobility. Its surprisingly narrow profile is ideal for negotiating doorways and navigating around office furniture. Once the sturdy brake is engaged, users can adjust the seat height up or down at the touch of a button, allowing them to reach different workspace areas without straining. The chair’s brakes ensure stability and safety, preventing any unintended movement while seated.

Versatility and Adaptability
As a highly versatile seating solution, a VELA Epic Chair adjusts to the specific needs of individuals with obesity-related challenges. VELA Epic chairs are available in different seat widths and weight capacities of up to 660 lbs, ensuring a tailored fit for each user. This adaptability feature can accommodate various body types and sizes, making it a versatile workplace seating solution for overweight or obese individuals.

Safety and Security
Once activated, the handbrake locks the chair’s wheels, preventing it from rolling away or moving out from under a user. Sturdy yet comfortable, a VELA Epic Chair’s padded armrests, backrest, and seat hold the body safely and securely in place. The padded armrests give users a place to rest tired arms while eating in the breakroom or tasking away at their desks. Paired with the electric height adjustment feature, the sturdy armrests allow larger individuals to safely stand up with minimal stress and effort. This makes it an ideal office chair for overweight individuals looking for both comfort and support

Durable Construction
Durably constructed out of premium-quality materials, VELA chairs are built to last. A VELA Epic Chair’s solid frame and moisture-wicking upholstery are designed to withstand the rigors of daily use in a variety of indoor work environments. The chair’s longevity ensures that individuals with obesity can rely on them for consistent comfort and support for many years to come.

Psychological Benefits
As an ideal way to promote a supportive and inclusive workplace, VELA chairs help foster acceptance and respect for all employees, regardless of their body size. Users can rest easier knowing a VELA Epic Chair won’t fail to support them or roll away once the brake is locked. Enhancing the self-esteem and emotional well-being of obese workers will go a long way towards improving their productivity and job satisfaction, making it a win-win situation for all parties involved! 

Is obesity in the workplace holding you back? Click here to visit our product page and discover how the amazing VELA Epic Chair (300 lb. capacity) or VELA Epic Plus Chair (660 lb. capacity) can change your life forever!

Discover VELA Chairs for Workplace Obesity