Choosing The Best Office Chair: An Ergonomic Guide
Choosing the best office chair might be more important than you think. And not just for your productivity. Making sure you are in the correct position for the majority of your workday is crucial in preventing strains and musculoskeletal problems.
Neck, upper limb and above all, back pain are among the workplace ailments most commonly complained of. Unsurprisingly then, it’s also one of the biggest causes of absenteeism in Australia. And for the sufferer, it can cause great discomfort and pain, and hit productivity.
And the no.1 cause of these problems is poor work posture. The tendency to lean over the desk and look downwards places strain on the neck and back muscles and curves the spine. On top of this, most people still don’t correctly align their chair with their desk and keyboard, which can lead to a host of repetitive strain injuries.
All of this happens because, in reality, we did not evolve to be sat in one position all day. Sounds pretty bleak huh? Well, the good news is that 90% of these problems can be prevented. Even in the home office, finding and maintaining the correct posture is the best way of staving off future issues. With the correct office chair and a little understanding of the ergonomics involved, these problems can be prevented.
So how then how do you choose the best ergonomic chair, and what should you be looking for? Below we explain everything you need to know to choose the best chair for you.
Which Chair Is Best For The Office?
To begin choosing the best office chair for you, first of all you need to consider how you use it, and what you use it for. And the answer won’t be as simple as just sitting! Not only do we all have different frames and builds that require a different chair set up. We all have different needs depending on the exact job we do, and even then, we all have our own work styles. And if you have a home office you need to consider the style of the entire house too!
The best office chair will always be the chair that works the best for your frame, your job, and your office. Ergonomically designed chairs take account of all of this, allowing the flexibility to alter your position and find the best and safest position for you. An ergonomic office chair will offer lumbar support to protect your back. They will often come with many other ergonomic touches in the chair design, of course. The subtle slope of the armrests, or the curve of the front of the seat: they might not seem it at first sight, but all of this is designed to keep you in the best position.
But the type of chair must suit the job. Architects and designers will require an ergonomic draft chair so they can work on drawings, whereas most office staff will be best suited to a task chair. Some people will find they are better suited to a kneeling position, or prefer to use an active stool to keep themselves moving.
What’s not in question though is that whichever office chair you choose, paying careful attention to the ergonomic benefits it offers is crucial. To help, we created this best office chair guide just for you.
What Is The Best Ergonomic Office Chair?
Choosing the best ergonomic office chair can be a complicated business, so we've listed the key things you should be looking for when selecting an office chair.
Chair Seat Material
The material of the support and the seat of the chair itself is important as it affects the amount of padding and support you experience. You also want to choose an office chair made in breathable materials that allow airflow, to help keep you cool during the workday.
Height Adjustable Headrest
Most people have a tendency to lean into their work station. If you work on a computer all day this is only natural. However, it leaves us in a position that is very unnatural for human frames. This leads us to the importance of the headrest. Choosing a chair with a range of options for the headrest setting helps you to relieve the strain on your neck easily.
After all, your head is heavy, so having a headrest that allows you to support or rest your neck, whilst maintaining optimal typing position could save you a lot of pain in the long run.
One of the key causes of lower, middle and upper back problems in the office is the leaning posture adopted by many at work. Many of us use our chairs as little more than stools, ignoring our backrests as we lean closer into our screens. However, this is a mistake. Curving the spine can lead to a host of spinal and muscular problems.
An adjustable backrest allows you to optimise the angle between seat and back, so you can maintain the natural curve of your spine, without placing strain on your back.
Adjustable Lumbar Support
Lower back pain can be very debilitating. When you consider the amount of weight the lower spine and lower back muscles have to support every day, it’s really no surprise these ailments are so common, or that they’re so painful.
However, the vast majority of lower back problems can be easily avoided simply by maintaining the correct seated posture, using a chair that supports the lower back. Lumbar support is designed to fill in the natural curve in the lower back, providing support to the muscles that most need it, and maintaining the natural position of your spine.
And as we are all built differently, the ability to adjust this is crucial to find the best support for your frame.
Adjustable armrests are a must if you are to avoid repetitive strain injuries (RSI’s) like the dreaded Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. RSI’s occur, as the name suggests, when the tendons and ligaments in are subjected to the same stresses day after day, week after week. These little microaggressions build up to cause inflammation, tendonitis, and much worse ailments.
Anyone who has suffered from this will testify to the importance of correct wrist, shoulder and arm positioning. Typing with the arms bent extends the tendons and ligaments in the arm, making them more prone to strains. Selecting the correct seat height is obviously important here: but then you need to support your arms in the correct position. Which is why you need adjustable armrests.
Height Adjustable Seat
For all of the reasons above, making sure you have your seat height correct is crucial. There’s no point in setting all of your other parameters correctly if your chair height is wrong. A height adjustable chair (and seat) is a must for good posture.
The perfect seat height allows you to move in as close as possible to your desk, whilst keeping your eyes level with the top of your screen. Your arms should be parallel to your body, bent at 90° at the elbow, and be perfectly in line with your keyboard.
Choosing an office chair with adjustable seat depth will allow you to find the best position to suit the length of your legs. This relieves strain on the hips and knees. it also directly affects the amount of lumbar support provided, as the correct seat depth will help prevent problems.
Chairs with adjustable tilt allow you to really fine-tune your position and can be especially helpful if you switch between positions often. Even better, once you’re done for the day, you can lean back and enjoy the warm glow of a hard day's work safely done.
For most of us during the workday, issues come from all angles. Even on a quiet day, we often still need to turn around to access files or papers, or just chat to the intern. That’s why the ability to spin your chair to speak to colleagues, or customers, quickly, and without twisting the spine in the process, is so important.
Many spinal injuries are the result of sudden twisting movements, so a revolving office chair allows you to change the angle of your seat whilst maintaining your optimum seated position.
As above, you might not be staying in one position, or indeed in one place, for the whole workday. Being able to easily scoot your office chair over to your drawers or files, or wheel it over to team meetings, means you have your optimum set up in all of these settings.
Mesh Back For Support And Comfort
Mesh back chairs offer the same level of support, if not more, to chairs with upholstered backs. The key difference is that a mesh back chair allows for airflow, keeping you cool during the workday. Trust us, this can be a godsend on the hotter days! So you can keep cool even when everyone about you is losing theirs.
Chair Seat Material
The material of the seat of the chair itself is important as it affects your comfort. You also want to choose an office chair made in breathable materials that allow airflow, to help keep you cool during the workday.
What Is The Best Office Chair For Sitting Long Hours?
The best office chair for sitting long hours will be the one that allows you to find the best position for you, where the neck, back and arms are all correctly supported. So, there’s no one answer to this question.
Also, this will be defined by the type of work you do. An architect will most likely need a different chair to an administrator, for example. What is certain though, is that you need a chair that is ergonomically designed to provide the support you need.
That means a chair which is fit for purpose, but allows the flexibility to find the seating position which best suits your frame. If you are seated for most of your workday, correct lumbar support and maintaining the correct angle and level to your desk, keyboard and monitor is crucial. See our home office setup guide on the right desk and accessories to pick.
Below we have listed some of the different types of chair, along with the best and most common uses.
Different Types Of Office Chairs
Ergonomic Office Chairs
This describes a wide range of chairs, but lets you know that the chair was designed with supporting the human frame, and ease of use, foremost in the designer's mind. Ergonomic chairs are the best for supporting your frame and preventing strains and injuries, and make sure you remain healthy and productive.
Mesh Office Chairs
Mesh backed office chairs look great, and allow you to stay cool. The breathable mesh material allows for airflow, which is crucial on a long day sitting, especially in summer. A mesh backed office chair will also protect your back, so there is no compromise on your long term wellbeing.
Executive Office and Boardroom Chairs
Often high back, and a little fancier in design, an ergonomic executive chair offers all of the support and ergonomic features of the office chair, but with a little more luxury. Boardroom chairs will most often be found in meeting spaces, but just because they are not technically workstations, doesn’t mean ergonomics are not important. Far from it.
Sitting all day in meetings can be just as bad for the body. This is why it is important that boardroom chairs are easily adjustable, so everyone using them can find a comfortable position.
Architects or designers often work in an upright position at drafting tables or a standing desk, but this doesn’t mean they don’t need the same level of support in the office. Drafting chairs provide lumbar support and back support, whilst allowing for a high work position. Draft chairs normally feature a footrest so the user can remain comfortable at higher settings.
Task Office Chairs
Task chairs are often the most adaptable and flexible chairs, designed for spaces where they might be used by more than one person. In shared workspaces and hot desking environments, the task chair really comes into its own. It allows for nearly anyone to find a comfortable position easy. Although often not the fanciest of chairs, the task chairs awesome functionality means it is one of the most commonly seen workplace chairs.
Is An Ergonomic Chair Worth It?
Ergonomic chairs allow you to easily find your most comfortable position, boosting your sense of wellbeing and your productivity in the workplace (or home office!). They also provide support to the areas of the body which suffer most from extended periods of sitting. So, if you want to protect your health in the long term, and remain happy and productive into the future, investing in an ergonomic chair is definitely worth it.