Modern Office Furniture

Everything You Need To Know When Buying An Office Chair

Autonomous Autonomous | Sep 19, 2017

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Buying an ergonomic chair can be both wonderful and confusing all at the same time. Wonderful because of the prospect of feeling better while sitting at your desk all day. Confusing because there are just so many options available—from height adjustment to seat pan size to the presence or absence of armrests—that you may not even know how to start shopping.

But before you give up completely and resign yourself to your old, uncomfortable office chair, let the experts at Autonomous show you how easy picking out the right office chair can be. Along the way, we’ll answer questions such as:

  • Should you try the office chair before you buy it?

  • What’s the best way to test the chair when you’re in a showroom?

  • Do you need armrests?

  • Is the seat pan the right size for your body?

  • Would another type of ergonomic office chair work better for you?

Additionally, we’ll also give you a ten-point checklist that you can use to pick out just the right ergonomic office chair for you. But before we get to that list, here are two tips you should always keep in mind when shopping for an office chair.

Tip #1: Try Before You Buy Whenever Possible

The best way to get a feel for the vast array of ergonomic office chairs, and to know which one is right for you, is to try them out before you buy. You’ll often be able to narrow down the options just by sitting for a few minutes in each chair. That’s why we recommend visiting a store or showroom like Autonomous’ showrooms in San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles. We can help you find the perfect ergonomic office chair to fit all your needs.

Tip #2: Position The Chair At A Desk

When you try out an office chair for the first time, it’s important to do more than just sit in it. You need to work in it too. That means positioning the chair at a desk to see how it fits. Ideally, it means positioning the chair at an adjustable-height desk like Autonomous’ SmartDesk 2 or brand new Smart Desk 3.  What’s within reach without moving the chair? Is the chair at the right height to keep your elbows, knees, and hips at the proper angle while typing? Does the chair allow you to move without armrests or other pieces of the chair getting in your way? Can you move the chair easily to other parts of the desk or the office space? Answering these questions can help you choose the right office chair for your space and work style.

With those tips in mind, here is a list of ten questions you should ask when selecting an ergonomic office chair.

1) Who Will Be Using The Office Chair?

This is an important question if more than one person will be using the chair. The nice thing about modern ergonomic office chairs is that they’ll be adjustable enough to accommodate just about everyone. Unless the chair is for a child or someone taller than six feet five inches, most of the different office chair models should fit.

If the chair will be used by multiple people (say, in a conference room), answer these questions with a variety of different-sized people (and preferences) in mind. If the office chair is just for you, you only need to answer these questions for yourself.

2) Does The Chair Have Height Adjustment?

Height adjustment is one of the most important features your office chair needs to have. It’s important because your feet should sit flat on the floor while your knees are bent at a ninety degree angle. A height-adjustable office chair makes this possible regardless of the shoes you’re wearing (or not wearing). We recommend an adjustable seat height of between fifteen inches and twenty-two inches. This will allow anyone between five feet and six feet five inches tall to sit comfortably and with good posture.

3) Can Each Part Of The Chair Be Adjusted?

Office chairs vary in the amount of adjustability they offer. As a general rule, though, you should select a chair that has as many adjustable features as possible. Key adjustable components include:

  • Height

  • Seat pan

  • Backrest

  • Armrests

These components should be independent of one another, meaning that you can adjust the backrest without changing the seat pan, or the overall height without changing the armrest height.

4) Do You Need Armrests?

The need for armrests is one of the most personal decision you can make when selecting an office chair. Some people can’t live without them. Others wouldn’t be caught dead using them. If you’re purchasing the chair for yourself, it’s just a matter of yes or no. But what happens if you buy a chair without armrests and then find that you need them a year later? To avoid this problem, we suggest that you purchase an office chair with armrests that can be adjusted (lowered) out the way. That way, if you need them later, they can be immediately be put to use without having to buy another chair.

5) Does The Office Chair Have Good Support For Your Upper, Mid-, And Lower Back?

A good office chair will provide support for all parts of your back—upper, mid, and lower—and conform to your back’s natural elongated “s” curve. This top-to-bottom support prevents injury, strain, and a lot of the pain associated with sitting for long periods of time. A good backrest should have the following adjustments:

  • Vertical height of the backrest independent of the seat pan

  • Lumbar forward and back

  • Horizontal movement of the entire backrest independent of the seat pan

  • Headrest forward/back and up/down angle

  • Degree of recline from the seat pad up

Most office chairs don’t allow for width adjustment of the backrest, so we suggest you look for a chair with a backrest that is between twelve inches and nineteen inches wide.

6) Do You Need The Backrest To Recline?

Like the armrests, the need for a chair that can recline is a very personal decision. Manufacturers understand this fact, so they build some office chairs to recline, and others to stay vertical. Again, though, what if you buy a chair that doesn’t recline and you suddenly find the need for this option? You’ll be stuck with the chair or have to buy a new one. That’s why we recommend buying a chair that reclines even though you think you won’t need it.

Modern ergonomic office chairs can be set so that the backrest is locked in the upright position. Later, then, it can be unlocked if you feel you need to recline. It’s always good to have the option to do something even if you never use it.

7) Is The Seat Pan The Right Size For Your Body?

People don’t give much thought to the size of the seat pan (the part you sit on) when selecting an ergonomic office chair, but this simple variable can have a huge impact on your health and comfort. For one thing, the seat pan should be about one inch wider than your hips when you’re seated. For another thing, the seat pan shouldn’t touch the backs of your knees when you’re sitting comfortably. Getting these variables right provides the right amount of support and can mean the difference between less pain and a sore back and neck at the end of the day.

8) Is The Base Of The Office Chair Stable And Does It Swivel?

Stability is another feature that gets taken for granted when selecting an office chair. But an unstable office chair can make the workday so much harder, and can actually lead to injury. A good ergonomic office chair should have a wide enough base that the chair doesn’t wobble regardless of your body position.

A good office chair should also swivel easily. This prevents the need to twist and reach with your body. Two activities that, when combined, can lead to injury or strain.

9) If The Chair Has Wheels, Do They Move Easily?

Have you ever pushed a shopping cart with a bad wheel? Not a pleasant experience, is it? Now imagine dealing with that kind of headache everyday! That’s what can happen if the wheels (casters) on your office chair don’t move freely and easily. Good casters will roll easily when force is applied with your feet, but stay still when you stop pushing.

It’s also important to try the chair you are considering on a surface similar to the one in your workspace. Is your office carpeted? Does it have tile, concrete, or laminate? These surfaces can have different effects on the wheels of your chair so always try before you buy.

10) Would Another Type Of Office Chair Work Better For You?

There are plenty of office chair options out there these days with styles ranging from the traditional to the unique. And if you just can’t find a traditional ergonomic office chair that fits your needs, you might consider one of these other great options:

  • Saddle chair

  • Kneeling chair

  • Balance ball

  • Reclining chair with footrest (like a La-Z-Boy)

Because these options are so different from the traditional ergonomic office chairs, be sure to try them at a desk before you buy.

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