There is an overwhelming selection of office chairs on the market today. Many of them claim to be “ergonomic” but the features may only make them suitable for certain individuals. The key to a truly ergonomic chair is adjustability! In this blog post we break down the main features of an ergonomic task chair to help you make a more informed decision when purchasing a new home office chair.
Comfort will vary significantly among users, so it is important, if possible, to test your chair prior to purchase. Ultimately one of the most important things about your home office chair, is that it is comfortable to sit in!
Upholstery versus Mesh These days chairs are constructed of either traditional upholstered foam or mesh stretched over a plastic or metal framework, or some combination of the two. Some users prefer the comfort and warmth of the padded chairs, while others favor the breathability and “springiness” of the mesh. Both options are ergonomically sound and we recommend users select a style based on their personal preference.
Seat Depth A seat slider allows the depth of a chair (seat pan) to change to accommodate people of different statures. When sitting in an office chair, you always want to ensure you sit so your hips are all the way to the back of the seat and your shoulders are anchored against the backrest. However, if you are on the shorter side, when you attempt to do this in a standard size chair, your calves may butt up against the edge of the seat pan. We frequently see petite individuals perching on the edge of their chair to relieve this pressure on the back of their calves, which in turn results in a lack of support for their back. Having a seat slider allows these individuals to shorten up the chair, so they can sit with good posture. Conversely, taller individuals may find their legs hanging excessively over the edge of the chair, so they would want to extend the seat pan to offer more support for the lower body.
It can be difficult to figure out which size of chair will work best, and we always recommend that individuals test chairs prior to purchasing, but as a good starting point:
- If you are <5’ 3” then you should look for a chair which has a small size seat pan, or a seat slider that can adjust to approximately 15-17” seat depth
- If your height falls within 5’4”-6’2” you should be fine in a standard sized chair with a seat slider which adjusts the seat pan depth to approximately 18-20”
- If you are taller than 6’2” (especially if you are all leg) you may be more comfortable in a large size chair, or a seat pan which can extend to 21-22”
Height Adjustable Having a chair which adjusts in height in any office is a must. Chair height coordinates with desk height, and the goal is to have your relaxed elbow height level with your typing and mousing surface. This is often very difficult to do unless the chair has a pneumatic or “gas” cylinder allowing it to raise and lower.
Note: If you need to raise yourself up considerably to get your elbow level with the work surface, you may need a footrest to allow your knees to be bent at approximately 90 degrees.
Adjustable or Fixed Angle Backrest Office chairs come in two main styles: adjustable or fixed angle backrest. Fixed angle backrests are designed to position the user in a slightly reclined position when seated with their shoulders blades resting against the back of the chair, and as the name implies, this angle cannot be changed. An adjustable backrest allows the user to manipulate the angle of the backrest, and works well for those individuals who prefer to sit more upright, or who may be experiencing discomfort, as it provides more ability to customize the fit.
Backrest Height Chairs often come with 3 heights of backrests – mid back, high back and extended high back. When selecting your office chair you want to ensure you can sit back with your shoulder blades anchored against the back of the chair to provide good upper body support when working from a seated position. Taller individuals need high or even extended height backrests, while smaller individuals are often fine with a mid back style of chair.
Lumbar Support Ideally an office chair provides some lumbar support, to allow the spine to maintain a neutral 3 curve alignment. Better still is the ability to tailor this support to suit different body types. Different manufacturers accomplish this in different ways: air pump, foam bolster, spring tension to name a few, but the end result is the same; adjustable support for your lower back that you can tailor to suit your body. This is a great feature to have on a chair and one we always look for when recommending chairs to our clients.
Armrests Armrests should adjust up and down and the arm caps may slide inward and outward and pivot to provide support when typing and/ or mousing. The need to have armrests on your office chair is often a debatable topic. If you are experiencing upper body discomfort, armrests can provide some necessary support for the shoulders or forearms. Overall if the armrests adjust to provide support without impeding appropriate positioning, then they are beneficial. If they are getting in the way of you tucking close to your desk, or they are too wide for you to comfortably rest on, then you may be better off without them.
Not all chairs on the market will possess all the features mentioned above. When shopping for chairs, you first must determine what feature set is needed, based on your individual body type and any discomfort you may be prone to experiencing. Regardless of your choice, comfort will vary significantly among users, so it is important, if possible, to test a chair prior to purchase.
Provided below are links to distributors who sell office chairs in the Lower Mainland of BC and in Alberta.
- Steelcase Leap
- Steelcase Amia
- Global Tritek