An office chair can seem so ubiquitous to our workday as to be insignificant. You might be surprised as to how much consideration you need to give to the style and size of your chair but also how it impacts your health.
The wrong chair can leave you sore, frustrated and tired while the right one can protect your back, keep your energy up and help you nail that upcoming project.This ultimate guide can help you choose the correct chair for your office needs, and provide you with tips on how to stay healthy and comfortable in an office environment.
We divided our guide into seven sections:
Let’s get on with it! 😎
Every office has an assortment of seating options. Here’s a quick breakdown of the different seats you’ll find in most offices.
The conference chair is a traditional office chair. Usually non-adjustable and made with static legs as opposed to wheel casters, they are made for sitting and listening during a meeting or presentation.
They are not ideal for computer work and are intended for short periods of sitting.
The ergonomic option is meant to improve one’s posture as they sit. They offer the most lumbar support, distribute the user’s weight and remain reasonably comfortable for prolonged times. These chairs can help those with back problems.
What types of ergonomic chairs are there?
They are available in a variety of options besides the traditional format and most promote active sitting such as the saddle, kneeling, exercise ball and recliner chair.
This desk or computer chair is in the shape of a saddle and allows the legs to drop naturally.
It can help strengthen the back muscles and is often used by those with lower back problems.
The height can be adjusted and helps to eliminate slouching and tech neck.
This backless chair makes sitting in the proper position effortless. The design promotes good posture and reduces spinal compression.
The forward-slanting seat places the spin in a natural position.
The bouncing ball encourages constant movement and active sitting promoting good posture and improving circulation while burning calories.
They can be modified to add wheels and a backrest.
People suffering from back pain such as degenerative disc disease or other lower back problems are most comfortable when sitting in a reclining position with their feet propped up. A recliner office chair allows them to recline comfortably.
The chair can be modified with a side table attachment for additional comfort.
These chairs tend to be the more expensive, more personalized chairs in each office. They have the most padding and are therefore very comfortable and have more options for adjustment than a typical chair.
Typically made of leather with a broad back and headrest, these are made for lengthy phone calls, extended time emailing or interviewing while maintaining comfort.
Made to keep the user fresh and comfortable, the mesh chair is made with a light, woven fabric in the back support to prevent overheating and sweaty sitting.
The seat is usually cushioned, and are built for comfort. They tend to be very comfortable for both traditional and home offices.
Task chairs are favored by people who do more intensive computer or other seated work.
Fully adjustable and padded for comfort, they can help the worker stay focused as they get through a day of coding or design. They include wheels for smooth movement and can be swiveled from side-to-side without any strain.
All the rage in the mid-2000s, this backless seat is still popular with employees looking to engage their core and improve their posture.
It increases spine flexibility and burns more calories than a regular office chair because the user must work to remain balanced.
This backless stool used by dentists and doctors maintains the spine’s natural lumbar curve and prevents slouching because it is on wheels.
It also burns more calories than a regular office chair because the user is forced to engage their core. And, yes, it’s almost the same as the saddle chair option above.
Another backless office chair is the active sitting chair.
This chair requires you to continually move to keep your balance, much like the stability ball. Your core muscles continually adjust to preserve an upright posture. The constant motion means you are expending calories while sitting at your desk.
The best choice for any office worker is an ergonomic chair that will offer support throughout the day.
A chair should have several features to help you sit safely and maintain good posture while providing support.
Here is what you need to know about office chair features before you purchase a new one.
Your chair should have a full, broad back to protect your spine and encourage you to sit up straight. They should also adjust into a recline as well as in height to protect your spine.
The front edge of your chair seat needs to spill forward in a smooth edge known as a waterfall seat. This will keep it from hitting the back of your knees as you sit. The pan of your chair seat should also help distribute your weight to avoid any additional compression or strain in your hips or lower back. The sitter should be comfortable at a 90-degree angle.
Keep in mind that a breathable fabric on your chair will make you much more comfortable during the day and less likely to overheat. Look for a medium texture fabric that isn’t abrasive or itchy when it touches your skin.
You should be able to get your chair precisely the way you want it in every direction, even the side-to-side tilt, without any special tools. This will help you maintain a good posture and protect your body during a long day. If you can try your chair before buying give it a spin or ask a salesperson for a demonstration of how it adjusts and to what degree.
If you find you avoid sitting back and up against your backrest in your chair, you may have the wrong model. You want a chair that has a seat and back that work together to keep you sitting up straight and comfortable.
A well-made chair will keep you supported as you move and help maintain healthy circulation as you work. A good chair will facilitate movement, not hinder it. When you chair shop, think of test-driving your chair before you buy it as opposed to only checking to see if it’s comfortable.
A good chair will also support your arms, elbows, and shoulders as you work throughout the day. The armrests should be adjustable and allow the user’s arms to rest comfortably. Do not place your forearm on the armrest while typing because this can adversely impact your posture.
The chair should rotate easily so all areas of the desk all workstation can be reached without effort and straining.
When it comes time for a new chair, you want to consider several factors as you shop. While you want your chair to be comfortable, the number of choices can be truly overwhelming. Here’s how to get started.
Whether you must spend money out of your pocket or you have a per diem from your boss, your budget is a huge consideration. Chairs can run from $100 to as high as $1,000. Know exactly how much you can spend before you walk into a showroom or log onto a shopping site. If you are planning to spend more, ask if the chair includes a warranty for the additional cost.
For those working in a warm place or who tend to get hot as they work, a mesh chair may be a good option. Colder offices will lend themselves to a leather chair as they’re warmer and cozier. Metal and polymer plastic will also be more durable and need less in the way of replacements.
A shorter worker is going to want a chair that can help them sit at their desk without any discomfort. A good chair will allow them to add a footrest, (if necessary), or may include an additional part for the feet. A taller worker who can touch the floor with their feet when seated needs to focus on a comfortable backrest that encourages proper posture.
Does your office have a hardwood floor or a thin layer of carpeting? A rolling office chair will tear up hardwood and will need some additional protection on the wheels. A stationary chair can have some small, floor-protecting casters added to the base to keep the floor beautiful. Do you have the standard, gray floor in your office? Go for the wheels.
Neck, back, and shoulder pain are unfortunate realities for those who sit throughout the day. There are some great chairs on the market to help relieve these problems and make work more comfortable if you take the time to seek them out.
A stiff, painful neck can be the result of a poorly adjusted desk or chair. Make sure your arms can type at a 90-degree angle, and you can reach your workstation without slouching. Break up your workday with walks or quick exercises at regular intervals.
Look for a chair with a fullback and arms that keep your elbows at a right angle. A headrest is a great option as well to ensure you can sit up straight back in your seat as you work. Avoid chairs that encourage you to sit at a forward angle as that will add to your discomfort.
Many workers experience either upper or lower back pain and must compensate for extended periods of seated work. Some choose to put a desk converter on their workstation to help them stand for short periods of the day while others work on their seated posture.
When adjusting your chair, make sure the height allows your feet to sit flat on the floor – no raised heels or feet swinging in the air above the floor. Your thighs should angle down a bit to encourage better posture and weight distribution on your hips and lower back. Your keyboard should be accessible from this position without any slumping, and your monitor needs to be directly in front of you.
Anyone suffering from back pain should avoid slouching and incorporate short amounts of activity into their day to keep from being fatigued. Some basic stretches or exercises can also help keep back pain to a minimum.
If you find your hips are continually aching, the contour of your office chair seat may be to blame. One option is to alternate between seated and standing work, while another is to look for a chair that offers a flat, even seat.
Chair design became more contoured in the 1970s to provide more comfortable sitting, but for many the opposite became true. As their seats dipped, they encountered more pain in their hips. When chair shopping, look for a chair that doesn’t drop in the center or that can have the seat switched for a flatter option. Incorporate activity into your workday to keep your hips warm and loose.
If your pain is more central at the base of your spine, you may be putting too much pressure on your coccyx or tailbone. Luckily, several new chair designs are available to relieve the pain. Look for chairs with a short seat, (think director’s chair), or an open area where the coccyx would typically sit. Let the sales representative know you have pain issues to help find the best option for you and your back.
Legs can suffer a lot in the wrong position or the wrong chair. Poor circulation can keep you from focusing on your tasks. The right chair at the correct height can give you the relief you need.
Check the height of your chair first. Take off your shoes and stand next to your chair. The seat should meet the same level as your kneecaps. Sit in your chair and make sure your feet can rest flat on the floor. Then, fine-tune the angle of your seat. You want about a 110-degree angle to maintain healthy circulation. Shorter and taller people will want to find a chair with adjustable gas lift support struts. This will help a more petite person keep their feet on the floor, and a taller individual keep from feeling cramped.
Leg pain can also be a sign a chair is too old as the support foam in the seat has been flattened over time. Check your seat’s overall appearance as well as wear and tear. It could be you just need to go shopping.
While sitting and focusing for long periods of time seems ideal, the long-term effects of working at our desks while seated are shockingly bad for us. The simple act of sitting for more than two hours at a time can break down our bodies.
Sounds pretty bad…
Getting to the gym is often the last thing a busy worker has time for, even on days when they come to the office with their duffle bag packed and a spare pair of shoes hiding in their file cabinet. We all know we need to exercise, and we want to be healthy, but how can we wedge a trip to the gym into a busy day?
Many health professionals have stopped fighting the eight-hour day of sitting and working and instead have developed stretches and exercises we can do without leaving our desks. Here are some great ways to stay limber and in shape without leaving your cubicle.
Seated in your office chair, come forward to the edge and plant your feet flat on the ground. Sit up nice and tall. Now, nod your head yes in an exaggerated motion. Do this gently and hold each stretch forward and back. After a few repetitions, switch to a “no” motion, again being gentle and slow to get a good stretch on each side.
Lift your right arm, then bend your right hand behind your shoulders, so your elbow sticks straight up. Use your left hand to bring the right elbow close to your head, (again, with kindness), and hold the stretch for ten to thirty seconds. Repeat with the other arm.
Place your hands on the back of your head, elbows open. Sit up nice and straight, feet planted, and do a slight backbend. Don’t force anything, just curve back in a gentle motion as you inhale. Exhale and release after about ten seconds.
For more relief for back muscle strain, sit as far back against your chair as you can and reach your arms around the back. Clasp hands or elbows, (depending on the size of your chair) and hold that position for a few seconds. This opens the upper back as well as the shoulders.
For your lower back, you want to do a forward bend. Come to the front of your chair, sit up tall and cross your left ankle over your right knee. Leading with your chest, bring your torso forward and down over your hips. Remember to take deep breaths. Rise up and then repeat on the other side. This will open your hips and help your spine as you sit at your desk.
Extra pounds around our middles do a lot more than hinder the buttons on our fly – it poses a real threat to our health. Unlike fat around other parts of the body, belly fat directly affects our major organs and intestines. This means we can make ourselves sick by being thicker around the middle.
A more prominent belly means a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and painful back problems. Surprisingly, your desk chair can be your first line of defense against the wave of belly fat, so many office workers find themselves battling.
Training your core helps you maintain your balance and stability. The muscles involved in your core are the hips, lower back, pelvis, and abdomen.
To up your core game, you need first to make sure your chair is in good shape and stable enough to support your weight. Also, it should be well balanced and not list to either side or tilt forward or back. If your chair is doing any of these things, fix the issue before continuing.
Get started with some Leg Lifts. Sit on the edge of your chair with both feet flat on the floor, hold the edge of the seat with both hands and then extend your right leg out. Lift it so that it’s parallel to your hips, then lower it down. Do ten lifts on the right, then switch to the left side for ten more. Repeat on both sides for a second round to get the most out of this move.
Try an anaerobic move to really burn up the fat. Sit all the way back, nice and tall with your feet flat on the ground. Exhale out all the air from your diaphragm and tense up your abdominal muscles as tight as you can without inhaling. Hold for ten seconds, then release. Repeat this at least three times.
Chair Swivels. Roll your chair back a bit from your desk until you can just hold the corner. Lift your feet just off the floor and cross your ankles. Now twist as far as you can to one side while holding your desk. Twist to the other side. Feel free to pop in your headphones and enjoy this one. Do ten on each side, then repeat the process two more times.
These are great for your lower abs. Slide out to the edge of your chair and lean your upper back against the back. Hold the corners of your seat and extend your legs out as far as you can. Hover your feet above the floor and then do little, alternating kicks without setting your feet down. Tense your abs to maintain your position and repeat until you’ve done ten on each side.
Ready for something more advanced? Try the Magic Carpet. Again, make sure your chair can hold your weight evenly. Lift yourself up by pushing on the chair arms and extending fully. Don’t lock or bend your elbows and don’t collapse into your shoulders. Your neck should be nice and long.
Repeat the movement but this time fold your legs in the air between your torso and the chair and tense up your abs. Breathe and hold the position for about ten seconds or longer if you can. Lower yourself down slowly to release.
You can find a lot more great exercises online for the office or a chair such as Chair Running or Chair Crunches.
Staying healthy at work is more than quick workout breaks. Most offices are packed full of junk food, colleagues itching to hit the happy hour special at the local watering hole and plenty of excuses to forego healthy choices and indulge in bad ones.
There are ways to avoid an unhealthy office life. All you need to do is make a few small changes.
Rather than pray for the willpower to avoid grazing between meals, (or replacing a meal with a quick bite), plan for midday munchies. Talk to your colleagues about signing up for a snack delivery service like Graze or Urthbox or another option to make sure your office has delicious treats that won’t pack on the pounds. Most services will let you choose how many snacks you need per week, and then you can split the cost amongst the office. If you have some talented cooks at work, start a signup sheet and take turns bringing healthy, homemade goodies.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a bike-friendly city, try riding your bike to work on nice days. Ask the boss if there’s anywhere in the office you can store it to keep it safe and pack extra clothes in case your riding gear gets sweaty. Walking is also a great alternative, but conduct a test walk on your day off so you can be confident of how much time it will add to your journey.
One of the best things we can do during a busy day is taking a few minutes for ourselves. Rather than refill our coffees, we really should do a quick meditation.
Meditation can happen right at our desks if we do give ourselves five to ten minutes. It takes practice, but with daily meditations, we can become more centered and more focused.
Make a Do Not Disturb sign for your door or desk, try out a meditation app and get centered right at your desk.
One of the best things to help deal with stress is getting away from the office environment. Find an outdoor space near the office and go for a short walk once a day.
Don’t make this your lunch break, take some time to breathe and get some perspective. Stress is a danger to our overall health and nature can cut down on our stress levels significantly. A quick stroll can be a real lifesaver.
Can’t get away from your urban surroundings? Post images of forests or beautiful trees up in your space so you can take a mental break during your day.
Rather than coffee breaks, take plenty of water breaks. Regular hydration can keep your energy up, refresh your mental process and improve your skin. A shortage of water in your system can make you moody or fatigued. Keep yourself feeling great with lots of H20 throughout your day.
Take the time to decorate your desk. Add images, a corkboard of affirmations and inspirational quotes, small plants or knick-knacks that make you happy.
Talk to management about starting a committee that can work as a resource to keep the whole office focused on good health. That way everyone can feel supported and have several people to consult for help with managing his or her habits, weight and stress levels.
A committee can do things like setting up a once-a-week yoga class in spare space, set up walking buddies or help scout out nearby gyms and group discounts.