How to buy an Office Chair

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When people sit in a chair all day working on a keyboard one of the most important things to consider is adjustabilityErgonomic chairs have that ability.  They are designed to adjust in every aspect to fit your body while you are sitting and working at a computer.  The idea is, that rather than having your body adjust to the furniture, the furniture adjusts to you.  It’s that simple! 

Generally speaking, you won’t find these kinds of chairs at retail furniture showrooms because they are more specialized toward the office environment, which means you may have to go to an office furniture dealership rather than a residential furniture store.  No matter what city you are in, you are most likely able to find an office furniture company.  You will need to confirm if you can buy a chair directly from them because many of them will deal with the trade only, business to business, so give them a call before heading out and see what their policies are for selling to the public.  Once you get to an office furniture dealer, most of them will have a variety of models for you to try on for size and they will show you how to work all the levers and adjust it properly for your body.

These chairs come in a multitude of available adjustments so the most important thing to keep in mind is your comfort.  To give you some idea of what I mean there are numerous levers and gadgets added to ergonomic chairs such as:

  • Five dual wheel castor bases – so the chair won’t tip over and it makes them easy to move around on carpet or hard floors. The castors also come in hard floor and soft floor options
  • Height adjustable seat pan – this allows you to go up and down with a pneumatic gas lift, meaning the chair will rise up to its’ highest position (adjust this while you are NOT sitting in the chair)
  • Seat tilt mechanism – allows you to lean back
  • Infinite tilt lock – allows you to lean back and lock the chair into the leaned back position
  • Seat slider – allows you to move the seat pan front to back creating a deeper seat pan, to allow for the length of your thighs
  • Back tilt adjustment – allows you to recline the back only of the chair 
  • Back height adjustment – allows you to raise the height of the back of your chair so that it hits you in the correct place across your shoulders and upper back. (Available on low and high back chairs) There are also lumbar support options on some chairs for supporting the small of your back.
  • Headrest adjustment – allows you to change the tilt on a high back chair with headrest
  • Height adjusting arms – allow you to raise or lower the height position of the arms to support under your elbows thus relieving stress on your shoulders and neck
  • Arm width adjustment – allows you to widen the gap between the two arms posts
  • Sliding arm caps – allow you to slide the arm cap of the chair forward or backward to create better arm support. (Some manufacturers have fold away arms to keep them out of way for days that you do not wish to have arm support)
  • Synchro-tilt mechanisms – allow you to press one lever or button on the chair to release the tension on all moving parts, (except arms), so you can pick your ideal body position and relock the lever to tighten all the moving parts of the chair
  • Tilt tension adjustment – this knob can increase or decrease the tension on the rocking to match the weight of the person using the chair, thereby reducing muscle fatigue

Your main objective is; finding a chair that you enjoy the feel and look of, that will work for you in your space.  More often than not people go to an office furniture showroom and they become confused by all the levers and options on the chairs.  Take your time and try them all.  Find a chair that you feel is hitting the correct body position for you and then try sitting at a desk for a ½ hour to see if you can really sit and work in the chair.  These units are expensive so you want to pick correctly from the start.

Ergonomic adjustable chairs are more expensive than a simple office chair sold at a retail furniture store.  You can expect a mid-range model to be $500 with about half of the adjustments on it.  High quality chairs can be $1,000 per chair, but there is a silver lining.  You will only need to buy one chair and it will most likely last you for 20 years, if you are taking care of it.  Most of the time the first thing to breakdown are the arm caps.  From body sweat and leaning heavily on them they tend to start to flake off around the edges and sooner or later chunks of arm cap will fall off.  The great news is that most of the manufacturers sell arm caps only for about $30 to $50 per pair.  You can order them from your office furniture dealer and they will call you when they arrive.  Most of the arm caps are attached by a couple of screws on the underside of the arm so they are easy for you to change at home.

There are countless foams being used in the back and seat pan.  Memory foam, molded foam, slab foam and so on, but you really only need to focus on the comfort.  Don’t spend your time worrying about what kind of foam they have added into the seat, but rather pay attention to how it feels on your body.  How does it feel when you sit in it?  Imagine yourself typing on the keyboard for the next three hours and ask yourself, “Could I take this fit and feel for a while”?  If your answer is no, then keep looking.  

The construction of most of the higher quality office chairs is outstanding, no matter which manufacturer you select from.  They design their product to withstand day-to-day usage from all walks of life, in countless different body sizes.  While in the showroom, check to see if the chair appears to be solid and rigid and not wiggly when you sit on it, but if it is, then ask the consultant if the screws/adjustments simply need tightening and have them do so for your confirmation.  If it is still wobbly, then move on.  Most of these companies will have some kind of warranty so be sure to check with your office furniture dealer to see if there is any long term protection for you.

Some chairs are available in different sizes such as a small, medium and large so that if you are 5’-0” tall they have a chair that will fit your body perfectly.  If you are going to be sharing the chair at home with other people, then the medium sized chair can usually make enough adjustments to fit a 6’-0” person as well as the 5’-0” tall person.  Once you start going from very short to very tall, it makes it hard to find a chair that will provide that quality fit for all users.

The best way to prepare for your shopping trip is to look online before you leave and see what is available in your marketplace.  There are thousands of different models to choose from, so having a quick peek before you go will only help you to make your decision easier once you know what factors to look for.

Just keep in mind that the key features of an ergonomic chair are; the fit, the feel and the comfort.  Most people sit down at their computer intending to stay for just a few minutes, but look how often it turns into a few hours, so you need that comfort right from the start.