How to Choose an Office Chair That Will Serve You Well

Last Updated on by Artem

Choosing a great office chair at a great price given the sheer number of different options on the market is NOT easy so…

This guide is here to help YOU find the absolute best office chair that brings you comfort and joy.

Let’s get right into it!

What To Look For In a Perfect Office Chair?

BIFMA is the not‐for-profit trade association for business and institutional furniture manufacturers. One of their duties is to develop and monitor certain furniture standards that are used by producers.

Here is a set of BIFMA guidelines for office chairs (provided by Environmental Health & Safety department of Oregon State University):

  • A: Seat Height: 15.0” – 19.9”
  • B: Seat Depth: No deeper than 16.9” (fixed); 16.9” included (adjustable)
  • C: Seat Width: No less than 18”
  • D: Backrest Height: At least 12.2”
  • E: Backrest Width: 14.2”
  • F:Backrest Lumbar: “Most prominent point 5.9” – 9.8” from seat pan, in and out 1”
  • G: Armrest Height: 6.9” – 10.8”
  • H: Armrest Length: None
  • I: Distance Between Armrests: 18” (fixed); 18” included (adjustable)

It important to note that this guideline is not compulsory but can act as a goo reference point.

How Do I Choose The Right Ergonomic Office Chair?

In order to pick a perfect chair you want to make sure it fits your requirements, frame and budget.

Let’s start with the latter – your budget!

In the world of office chairs you get what you pay for! There are budget office chairs and crazy expensive office chairs.

Depending on how much you are willing to pay, you would get different ergonomic office chair features and options available.

Here’s what the price breakdown looks like.

Ergonomic Chairs Under $100

These office chairs are the cheapest you can get. They may be quite well-made but lack crucial things like:

  • Back support for lumbar region
  • Ergonomic backrest etc.

Office chairs at this price point would include basic features:

  • Adjustable height
  • Seat tilt lock
  • Mesh back etc.

Here is an example of a good chair at this price range without any exceptional ergonomic features (though it still has lumbar support).

They will also have a fairly cheap material quality and almost non-existent warranty (e.g. 90 days).

All in all, ergonomic chairs at this price won’t last for long and will have limited health-promoting effects.

Ergonomic Chairs Under $200

Chairs that you can get at this price range start showing signs of right ergonomic design. This is when you start seeing:

  • Height adjustable armrests
  • Adjustable lumbar support
  • Backrest adjustment that’s separate from seat height etc.

The warranties you get with these chairs tend to last for around 1 year. However, you still may not get the longevity you are looking for in an ergonomic chair at this price.

Ergonomic Chairs Under $300

This when your ergonomic office chair looks more stylish, the materials used are of better quality and squeak a lot less (if at all).

You can expect a reasonable amount of adjustment features that help to maintain good posture even if you sit in your desk chair for extended periods of time.

  • Thicker seat cushions that last
  • Breathable mesh back
  • Better ergonomic design

Warranty and weight capacity get better as well.

Ergonomic Chairs Over $300

Office chairs priced at the higher ranges tend to be branded and provide unique, patented ergonomic features that can only be found on the specific model. Let’s look at some examples.

Herman Miller’s Aeron ergonomic office chair (priced at over $1300) is made with Pellicle mesh which is nowhere near a typical mesh back you’d get on an average chair. It acts a supportive mechanism of its own. Another feature is PostureFit SL which “affords the ideal sit — chest open, shoulders back, pelvis tilted slightly forward”.

Another one is Steelcase Amia’s LiveBack (TM) technology that’s designed to move with your spine as it’s helping you to maintain a proper posture. It makes a big difference when you sit for long periods of time.

It is at this price level that you find absolute best office chairs.

Office Chair Material: Mesh, Leather or ?

Generally speaking, any ergonomic office chair is made with either, mesh or leather (faux leather on cheaper chairs). Each material has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s break them down against most important characteristics real quick.

Breathability

Mesh is breathable and leather is not. Better air circulation helps to keep any ergonomic office chair tidier by reducing bacteria growth.

Style

Leather tends to have a more executive look. However higher end mesh ergonomic office chair looks great too (look at Aeron).

Feel

Leather, especially real leather, may feel nicer than mesh. However the same doesn’t apply to cheap PU/faux leather so make sure you get the proper thing when buying an ergonomic chair.

Durability

Mesh tends to be more durable than faux/PU leather which tends to dry and crack rather quickly. However a real leather office chair can last just as long.

Comfort

Leather can feel more comfortable because it provides better grip with additional cushioning offering more lumbar support for lower back.

Cleanliness

Leather is easier to clean if you spill something on it. All you need is a wet cloth and you got it sorted. Cleaning mesh office chair may be more troublesome so make sure to be careful when drinking coffee over it.

What Makes a Great Office Chair Good For Sitting Long Hours?

Your best office chair should make your lower back, neck and spine feel great while you are sitting in it. According to Grand Valley State University, here are some of the key characteristics you want to achieve for maximum comfort:

  1. Your neck should maintain a natural curve and look directly at the monitor
  2. In case you are typing or using computer, your elbows should be at 90-110-degree angle
  3. Your knees should be bent at 90-degree angle; the back of your knees should be 2 to 4 finger widths away from the seat edge of your ergonomic chair
  4. You should keep your feet flat on the floor

Here is what it looks like:

And here are some of the vital chair specs you need for comfortable sitting and good posture.

Seat Width

A typical chair seat width can range from 16″ to 21″. There are also big and tall chair models that come equipped with much wider seat width ranges.

Ideal seat width would allow you to sit freely without your thighs touching the armrests. At the same time you would not need to reach for them in order to have your elbows rested.

Lumbar Support

According to a study published in 2013:

lumbar support pillow with a cut-out for the posterior pelvic tissues improved an objective measure of comfort in healthy individuals and patients with low back pain

Comfortable back support is important for your lower back and spine health. A proper backrest will support your body in a position that will allow it to relax. Look for ergonomically shaped backrest that would help to align your spine in a healthy position while providing lower back support.

Having an adjustable lumbar support is a plus because it can be tweaked to find the “sweet spot”, which is a position that will provide maximum support for your body ensuring good posture.

Optimal Seat Height

By default, all chairs come with adjustable seat height but they will have different min/max values which generally float between 16″ and 22″. Seat height range of 16” to 22” (41cm to 56cm) fits people from 5’0″ to 6’10” (152 to 207 cm).

You will need an office chair that is appropriate for your size. If you are a shorter person, look for mid-back chairs. And if you a taller guy or girl, look for high back office chairs.

This table will help you to height adjust your ergonomic office chair so it’s just perfect:

Adjustable Armrests

According to research paper published in 2012:

Electromyographic (EMG) studies have reported that a chair which is height adjustable and has adjustable backrest and armrests can reduce the muscle activity of the neck, shoulder and back, and also decreases the inter-vertebral disc pressure

Comfortable armrests that can be moved up and down are essential if your work consists of a lot of typing or basic computer work.

Armrests must be adjusted to accommodate your elbows in order to make sure they are resting on them in comfort. This setup reduces tension in the upper back, neck and shoulders which is something you want to benefit from even when sitting in your ergonomic office chair for long hours.

Tilt Tension/Rocking Mode

A research paper published back in 2006 concluded that it is at 135-degree sitting angle your spine experiences the least amount of pressure. While this is not exactly true for everyone, it’s nice to have the ability to tilt a char that much. Some chairs can tilt back to 120 degrees, others to 150 degrees and some can even go all the way to (almost) 180 degrees essentially transforming into a sofa you can sleep in.

Apart from that, an ergonomic chair that can go back and forth allows to decompress the spine and “reload” on the go and without the need of getting up. The ability to adjust tilt tension helps to adjust it to your weight.

Steady Sturdy Base

The industry-standard 5-claw base should be made out of solid material that can hold your weight during the time when you are using your seat.

Steadiness is especially important if the chair you are picking can recline to 120+ degrees backwards as at this angle it’s far easier for the chair to flip.

Other adjustments to consider:

  • 2D or 3D Adjustable Armrests. These can not only go up/down but can also be adjusted by width and angle that can allow for better fit and support.
  • Separately Adjustable Backrest. Some chairs come with a backrest that can be moved up and down separately from the chair itself. It helps to set the best fit for when you place your back against the backrest. It can also be nice if you have other people using your chair and they are of different height.
  • Seat Depth Control. This adjustment allows to extend the “seat of the chair” helping you to sit “deeper” into it. This can be useful for taller people sitting on shorter chairs or for shorter people using tall chairs.
  • Waterfall Edge. This is a basic feature that helps to improve blood flow and circulation to the legs and feet. Improved blood flow helps to support work output, overall health and well-being. It is able to reduce swelling of the feet (especially for people predisposed to this health condition).
  • Neck Rest. Another great feature that is useful for prolonged sitting at work or at home. Headrest on your ergonomic office chair helps to support your neck reducing the strain. It also helps to support good posture and natural curve of the spine.

Conclusion- What Type of Office Chair Is Best for Office Work?

Choosing the right ergonomic office chair that will suit your work is not rocket science…especially now that you’ve gone through the guide and should be ready to find the best seat there is for your home or office.

An ergonomic chair that comes equipped with adjustments that are important for long-term health and productivity is your best choice.

Make sure that you are choosing a chair that has best support for your body in general and for your lower back specifically. Remember that if you need to spend extra dollars for a more expensive offer but with better specs, consider going forward with that investment because it is about YOUR health and…you’d be a lot more productive without aches and pains.

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