Updated Oct 2020. Office chairs are as different as the people who sit in them. What works for one person may not work for another. Rather than just grabbing any old office chair, you should take time to really choose one that is going to be comfortable and good for your posture. When you understand how each part of the chair can have an effect on your body, it will make searching for and finding the right chair much easier.
Why Do You Need a Good Office Chair?
There are several important benefits to having a good quality office chair. Aside from eliminating or at least reducing back pain, it also prevents fatigue, lack of focus and discomfort that are common problems when you spend a lot of time sitting at the office.
Many people don’t really think about the fact that if they are an office worker or business person of some kind, 40 hours a week is spent in that office chair. That totals out to 1900 hours a year! Unfortunately, despite spending a lot of time in the chair, people still have a habit of overlooking the chair in favor of looking for that perfect desk.
When you have the wrong office chair for your need and even for your posture and body, it puts you at a much higher rate for getting stress injuries including neck strain, pinched nerves, back pain, headaches and more. When someone is sitting in a chair that makes them feel discomfort or pain, their productivity can plummet.
Those that have comfortable office chairs and that work in an environment where they are not sitting in pain all day long, call in sick less, have greater performance and productivity and are overall better employees.
Best Office Chairs
What to Look For
One mistake that many office people make is buying the chair for its looks rather than how it feels to sit in it. The office chair you choose will have an effect on how you feel throughout the day so while appearance is something to think about, it shouldn’t be the number one factor you look at when choosing the best office chair for yourself. Below are some things to consider when you begin shopping for a chair.
- Adjustability – Most of the office chairs on the market have adjustable heights and some even have adjustable armrests. These are just a couple of the potential adjustable factors that an office chair can have. The higher-end office chairs have at least 5 features that can be adjusted and some of the top-of-the-line models have as much as 14 different features that can be adjusted.
Some of the features that are good to be adjustable include arm width and height, seat back width and height, seat and back angle, tension control, lumbar support and recline. The adjustments can be made either with a dial, level or sometimes there is a handheld bulb type mechanism that you squeeze to make the adjustments, although that is not a common means of adjustment.
- Lumbar Support – Supporting the lower back is very important when you have to sit for long periods of time. Some of the higher end models allow the lumbar support to be adjusted to fit each individual person that will be using the chair. Sciatica and back strain are common results for those sitting in chairs that don’t have the proper support. If it doesn’t have adjustable lumbar support, look for a chair that advertises lumbar support whether it’s in the form of a cushioned area or some other kind of support.
- Wheel Base – Pretty much all office chairs have a wheelbase of some kind. If you are going to have your office chair rolling around on the carpet, you will need to be certain the wheels are designed to roll easily on carpet or you will need to purchase a wooden or plastic “runner” to go underneath your chair so it rolls smoothly.
- Swivel/Reclining Base – A chair that swivels back and forth makes accessing different parts of your desk much easier on your arms, shoulders, and back. Although reclining is not a necessity, it is great to have if you have a regular habit of taking a 15-20 minute cat nap at your desk on break.
- Fabric – Office chairs are made from many different types of fabrics. Leather is the most common and probably the most comfortable as well. The one thing to make sure of is that the chair’s fabric is breathable so it doesn’t become uncomfortable after you’ve been sitting in it for several hours. You also want to make sure that the chair seat has plenty of cushion so you can sit in it without feeling the base of the chair.
How You Want Your Chair to “Fit”
When you are looking for that perfect office chair, there are some things you want to be certain of when it comes to how the chair fits you. We’ve outlined these below. When you get your chair, make sure that the adjustments are made to match these suggestions for the healthiest and most beneficial sitting experience.
- You want the back of the chair to follow the shape of the spine, especially supporting the curve of the lower back. Try to make sure that the backrest is adjustable.
- Adjust the chair height so your feet rest flat on the floor comfortably. If the chair is too low in relation to the desk when your feet are flat on the floor, then add a footrest to your chair or a footstool.
- You want your armrests to be close to your body but not uncomfortably so. You don’t want to have to squeeze into your chair. The correct height for the armrest allows you to put your arms on them and have your shoulders completely relaxed.
- You want the arm height to match the height of the desk to avoid shoulder strain. This is important if you do a lot of typing or computer work at your desk.
- Your chair is at the right height if you can sit in it and look forward and see the center of the computer screen.
- Adjust the back of the chair so it comes to the middle of your shoulder blades or higher. This will provide plenty of support.
- Look for seat cushions that are made from memory foam. Other types of cushion material seem to wear out quickly and leave you very uncomfortable.
- Make sure the seat of the chair is long enough to put 2 or 3 finger lengths between your knee and the seat.
There are many different types of office chairs on the market. Every person is going to have a style or type that they prefer; it will not be the same for everyone. Some styles just fit certain body types better than others do. We have outlined the 5 basic types of office chairs below.
- Traditional/Conventional Office Chair – The traditional office chair has a seat and a back that are cushioned and covered with leather, vinyl, fabric or sometimes even mesh. They usually have a swivel base and have casters. Some models have armrests and some don’t. They also sometimes have back rest as well.
If the traditional office chair is ergonomic, it will have features that are designed to reduce stress on the back, hips, and legs such as adjustable seat height and depth, lumbar support and adjustable back height as well.
- Kneeling chairs – Another name for these uniquely designed chairs is a Balans chair. Sitting in this type of chair is similar to being in a kneeling position. The position this puts the body in reduces strain on the lower back and encourages the user to have a straighter spine. Your thighs will drop about 60-70 degrees from vertical.
A regular office chair has them at 90 degrees. Kneeling chairs are equipped with a bar in front that keeps the knees from sliding off the front. It also reduces the amount of weight that is sitting on the lower back and hips. The shins will be resting below the hips and the majority of your body weight is in the seat.
One of the disadvantages to this kneeling chair is that if the user has really bad posture, they will find this chair uncomfortable. It’s also not very easy to get in and out of and makes getting things off other parts of the desk and office more difficult and clunky.
- Exercise Ball Chairs – This is another totally unique type of office chair. The exercise ball chair is literally a large exercise ball that is strong enough and large enough to support you in a seated position long term. This type of chair is unusual but promotes plenty of movement and what is called active sitting.
The user can bounce a little while they are on the ball which keeps the muscles busy and will keep the circulation in good shape as well. This active movement prevents fatigue and improves posture because the ball encourages constant slight shifts in balance to remain seated. Some exercise ball chairs have a base frame with wheels that increases mobility and still gives the user the benefit of the ball. They are available in a variety of sizes.
- Saddle Office Chairs – Saddle office chairs don’t have backrests at all. It is like being seated on a horse. The premise behind the saddle office chair is to put the hips and knees in a 135-degree angle rather than a 90-degree angle.
Saddle chairs also sit about 10” higher than a traditional chair. This type of chair encourages the body to keep the spine in a natural S shape which gets rid of shoulder and back pain. The seat of a saddle chair comes in one solid piece or two separate pieces. The models that are divided have the capability to adjust the gap between the two seats.
Men will do better with the divided seat. Other adjustments that can be made include the height of the seat and the amount of tilt it can have. Some accessories that a saddle chair user can add are arm and wrist supports. Don’t forget that because the saddle chair is higher, the desk will need to higher as well.
- Recliner Chairs – If you have health problems such as lumbar spinal stenosis or another type of disc disease, sitting in a reclining position with your feet elevated may be just what you need. There are small tables that can attach to the reclining office chairs that swivel over the lap and allow the user to do paperwork or work on a computer. These are an excellent choice for a home office.
There are many different features that office chairs may offer. Before you decide on an office chair, decide what features you would like your chair to have. We’ve outlined the most common features below.
- Backrest – even though not at office chairs have backrests, it is a good feature to have and makes the chairs more comfortable to sit in. Not having back support can be tough when you have to sit in the chair for long periods of time.
Look for a backrest that supports the lower back and the natural curve of your spine. You also want to look for backrests that can have the height adjusted as well as the tilt. Height adjustable backrests are not as common but they are a great feature to look for.
- Chair height – People are all different heights and sizes so having an office chair that has adjustable height is a big benefit. You also want to look for a chair that adjusts the height easily. No one wants to battle the chair to get the right height. Most often this is achieved with a lever that is located right underneath the seat.
Most adults need the seat to be 16 to 21 inches from the floor. The objective is to have the chair at a height that allows for your feet to be comfortable on the floor, your thighs to be horizontal and your arms will be even with the height of the desk.
- Chair Seat – Make sure the chair you purchase is wide enough for you to comfortably sit. Most chair widths are between 17” and 20” wide. You also want to make sure that the chair is deep enough for the user to sit with their back against the backrest and still leave 2-4” between the back of the knee and the front of the seat. Another higher end feature is fir the chair to be adjustable forward and backward.
- Armrests – While arms rests are not a necessity and some may not even use the arms rests, they can still be a nice addition. The purpose of the armrests is to keep the arms level with the desk. They also help keep your body in alignment which is important when you sit at the desk for long periods of time. If they are not adjustable but are at the wrong height, you are better off removing them rather than using something that doesn’t promote good positioning for your arms.
- Stability – You don’t want to feel like your office chair is getting ready to break every time you sit down. Make sure that the chair has a 4 prong base along with casters. This is the most stable design that works for most people.
Finding a good office chair is one way to ensure good productivity and health for yourself or your employees. When you have a good chair, you will notice that you don’t have unexplained aches and pains. You will have an easier time concentrating on your job and will not have the same tiredness you will feel when the chair is wrong for your body part.
Ergonomic chairs will be a better choice overall providing they have the necessary features and adjustments. Most office people spend more time in their chairs than they do sleeping so they should purchase the best chair they can for the budget they have to work with. It is an investment not only in improving productivity at work but in your health too.