In the market for a new office chair? Here is some advice.
1. Do you really need a new office chair in the first place?
As a primary recommendation, searching your workplace for a chair that meets the below criteria (found in #3) should be completed before making any chair purchases. I’m surprised of how often perfectly good chairs are unused in the workplace. Sometimes these chairs may require some subtle adjustments to make them usable to you.
Other times, the overall chair is still very usable except for one part of it, usually because of normal wear and tear. It is usually much more cost effective to replace that one piece rather than getting an entirely new chair. An example of this is the chair’s lumbar (lower back) support. Many times the lumbar support doesn’t give the user a suitable amount of support that can lead to a lot of lower back discomfort. For some higher end chairs, you can easily just replace the back support or lumbar pump (depending on the make and model of the chair) for a fraction of the cost of new chair. Also, many people don’t keep their warranties or are aware that a warranty for some chairs last as long as 10 years – think, you may be able to get a chair repaired entirely free! For other chairs where the backrest cannot be replaced, then a portable lumbar support can be used, where these units provide supplemental support that are usually attached to the chair’s backrest with a strap. Depending on the brand, these cost between $20-$100. With portable lumbar support there are different sizes and densities that are available so trialing a variety before purchasing is recommended.
If your chair is broken beyond repair, if there isn’t sufficient overall cushioning, or if your chair causes you discomfort, then you will likely need to find a new chair and there is criteria to make your decision easier, found in #3.
2. Optimal chair set-up is critical
Before replacing your chair, you might want to make sure that your chair is optimally set-up for you. Many times people have told me that they need a new chair, but really it’s just that their current chair is not set-up optimally for them.
If after optimally setting up your chair you still feel discomfort or if your chair is broken beyond repair, then you will need to find a new chair. Remember, a new chair can either be from a vendor or from another location in your workplace.
In ergonomics there is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’. So before making your decision, you must try a variety of chairs for comfort and overall fit. Some vendors will allow chairs to be trialed at your workplace, while others may suggest you visit their showroom to try available chairs.
3. The following features should be considered when you are selecting a chair:
- Lumbar (lower back) support (adjustable whenever possible)
- Backrest height adjustability
- Multi-tilt, (ability to angle and lock the backrest)
- Synchro-tilt functionality (ability to change the angle of the seat pan)
- Chair tension adjustability
- Seat height adjustability
- Seat pan depth adjustability (request slider)
- 5-prong base with appropriate castors (wheels) for floor type
- Option: Armrests, (ensure height, width adjustability), Headrest
4. Once you have your chair, it must be adjusted to your workstation.
This is to ensure that you are getting the best possible fit to your workstation. Most chairs are shipped to take up the least room possible, meaning not optimally adjusted for the majority of the population. It is surprisingly common to see people in expensive chairs that aren’t adjusted! Buying an expensive chair doesn’t necessarily mean that is is automatically adjusted for you – remember, one size does not fit all! See this post on the value of hiring a certified professional Ergonomist to complete your office ergonomics assessment.
5. Learn how to make chair adjustments yourself!
I often see signs on the back of people’s chairs with ‘do not adjust’ on them. Or, people will tell me during an assessment that a colleague borrowed their chair and ever since, it hasn’t been the same. Learn how to make the adjustments to sit comfortably. Keep the chair’s manual on hand just in case you forget how to make appropriate adjustments.