Work might not always be fun, but it can always be comfortable—as long as you’re sitting in the right office chair. Choosing the office chair that’s right for you depends on a number of factors, starting with your body position when you’re working. Then you’ll need to take into consideration the amount of adjustability you need and at which points on the chair. Sound confusing? It can be, but Pronto’s Office Chair Buying Guide will eliminate the confusion and make clear which office chair is best for you.
How you work at your desk is the first step in finding the right office chair. Choose a task chair if your work requires you to lean forward over a keyboard, mouse or stacks of paperwork. If you spend a lot of time on the telephone or in meetings, you’ll lean back more than you’ll lean forward and will benefit from an executive office chair.
Look for office chairs that offer the greatest variety of adjustable features and a healthy combination of key adjustment points (seat height/depth, armrest height/angle, backrest height/angle, lumbar support and tilt tension). Adjustment knobs and levers should be easy to reach and manipulate while you’re seated. Choose carpet or hard-surface casters based on the type of floor in your office.
Promote proper blood flow by buying an office chair with a seat edge that’s rounded and points down under your legs. If you have health conditions like carpal tunnel or lower back pain, shop for ergonomically designed chairs that meet standards set by the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association (BIFMA), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and/or the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
Choose leather and vinyl office chairs for easy cleaning. Look for mesh office chairs if you want the best ventilation. Fabric-upholstered office chairs may offer thicker seat cushioning, but are harder to clean. Look for stain-resistant synthetic fabrics or get a spray-on fabric protector for natural-fiber upholstery.
It takes days, not minutes to know whether you’ve purchased the right office chair. Buy from a retailer that offers hassle-free returns in case your office chair brings pain instead of pleasure.
As the name implies, these office chairs are specially designed for workers who are taller, heavier or wider than average. They typically provide greater structural support and also have wider seats and higher backs.
An office chair designed with the needs of proper comfort and support in mind. Ergonomic office chairs tend to be tailored to a specific type of need, such as increased lower-back or arm support.
Levers or knobs that enable you to raise or lower the seat height of an office chair so that it most effectively complements your body size. These adjustments also allow one chair to be used by several people of different heights.
A knob or lever that lets you set an office chair’s resistance to backward tilting.
What kind of work do you do? Like a lot of people, if you’re seated at a desk with a computer in front of you, you’re probably leaning forward toward the keyboard or paperwork and need what’s called a task chair. Task office chairs are designed with this desk-leaning behavior in mind and are the chairs most of us think of when we hear the term “office chair.”
If you spend a lot of time at your desk in meetings or on the telephone, chances are you lean back more than you lean forward. You’ll need an executive office chair designed to support your body while it leans back, and you may want to recline without sacrificing stability.
Regardless of whether you choose a task chair or an executive office chair, there are features common to all office chairs that you’ll need to consider during the buying process.
The kind of adjustments you should look for will, again, depend upon the kind of work you do and the position of your body when you sit. If you do a lot of close work, for example, you’ll want more control over armrest height than someone who isn’t sitting as close to the edge of a desk.
Not all office chairs offer the same points of adjustability, so look for office chairs that offer the greatest variety of adjustable features. Key adjustment points to look for include seat height and depth, armrest height and angle, backrest height and angle and lumbar support. Adjustment knobs and levers should be easy to reach and manipulate while you’re seated.
If you have the budget, you can consider high-end office chairs that adjust to your body movements automatically. If you’re buying an executive office chair, you’ll also want to look for adjustable tilt tension that allows you to control the resistance you’ll feel when you recline or rock.
While some chairs claim to fit all people regardless of height and weight, that’s not always the case. Better office chairs avoid the one-size-fits-all design mentality by offering office chairs that come in two to three sizes. “Big and tall” office chairs are structured to provide optimal comfort to individuals who are taller, heavier or wider than average. With wider seats and higher seat backs, big and tall chairs are also more structurally durable than basic office chairs.
The floor covering in your office is another important consideration when shopping for an office chair. Some office chairs are equipped with casters intended for use on carpets, while others come with casters designed for hard floors.
Just as a bad office chair can contribute to pain in your neck, back and wrists, a well-designed office chair can help you avoid or eliminate these complaints.
Look for office chairs with seats that have rounded front edges. These seat edges curve down beneath your legs and aid circulation, while an office chair edge that presses uncomfortably against your legs may compromise circulation, which can lead to blood clots.
Is there a particular health issue you need your office chair to address? Ergonomic office chairs provide specialized support to help those with many common conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back pain or chronic neck pain, to name just a few. You’ll pay more for these office chairs, but the health and productivity benefits of the added comfort will likely outweigh the extra cost. Look for office chairs that meet standards set by the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association (BIFMA), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and/or the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
Office chairs provide a range of common upholstery options, including fabric, vinyl and leather. If easy cleaning is a priority for you, choose leather or vinyl. Don’t like sticking to your chair in warmer weather? You may do better with an office chair that features mesh fabric and breathes better, like Herman Miller’s Aeron office chair. These office chairs lack padding and cushioning on the seat, but heat won’t get trapped between your body and the chair.
Fabric upholstered seats may provide thicker padding and a softer place to sit, but spills can be difficult to clean and the fabric may stain over time. Some synthetic microfiber office chairs actively resist spills and stains, but these fabrics don’t breathe as well as natural fibers. If you choose an office chair with natural-fiber upholstery, consider investing in a can of spray-on fabric protector to keep it clean.
When you first sit in your office chair, make sure your feet reach the floor and rest there comfortably. Then use the adjustment knobs and levers to find your perfect office chair fit. Does your new office chair move across the floor as smoothly and quickly as you’d like? It can take a few days of actually working in your office chair to determine whether it’s really the best chair for you. Buy from a retailer with a good return policy so you can return your office chair without a hassle if your love for the new chair ends within a week.