How to make an informed decision on the most comfortable chair for you
There is a huge amount of choice when it comes to office chairs it can be difficult to know where to start. Chairs get a lot of attention in the workplace and are often blamed when people start to feel uncomfortable. They are an important aspect of the workstation system to ensure you’re supported, comfortable and not exacerbating an injury.
Many people are now creating office workspaces in their homes, they need a chair that will fit into a home environment as well as providing comfort and adjustability for working all day.
A quick google search for 'office chairs' returned 549,000,000 results and to be honest the options towards the top of the list weren’t the best choice.
How to choose the right chair for your needs
The first thing to establish is how intensively you’ll be using the chair and what tasks you’ll be doing. For most people, they will be sitting at their desk, working on a computer for the majority of the day, up to 8 hours. For others, it may be less or broken up with standing or conference calls, understanding this can help with the decision.
If you’re choosing a chair for your home office, where will it live? Is it in an office where you can close the door or will it be in your living space? If the chair sits somewhere you’re going to see it all the time, you’ll want it to look good as well as have great functionality.
Photo: Sarah Kobos
The first two considerations will likely inform your budget, I’d say spend as much as you can afford. Investing in a good chair that fits and is comfortable will save your back in the long run and improve your overall wellbeing. It also allows you to stay you focused on your work rather than focused on any pain your experiencing. Has your company provided some budget to spend? Some companies are providing money for buying office furniture for the home and the government, here in the UK, are making this tax free to businesses.
When choosing a chair make sure it's easy to use. Can you find and understand the controls quickly and easily? Is it just you using the chair or will it need to be adjusted for others too? Make sure you are able to return the chair if it’s not comfortable because sometimes a chair that is comfortable for a 10-minute sit test may not be after an hour or two.
There are some key adjustments you should ensure your chair has:
Seat height. This will allow you to adjust the chair to the correct height for you and the desk or table you’re using.
Seat depth. Changing the length of the seat provides more support for those with longer legs and ensures those with shorter legs can sit against the backrest. Check this when trying a chair, can I sit with my back against the backrest and fit a clenched fist behind the back of my knee?
Backrest and lumbar support. Being able to adjust the backrest height ensures you are getting the right support in the right places. Lumbar support is common in office chairs and should sit in the natural curve of your lower back, about waistband level.
Movement. Many chairs provide movement through the backrest which is great for encouraging you to change postures but you need to be able to control this to this.
Adjustable armrests or none. Armrests can help to take the strain but if they’re positioned in the wrong place they can lead to discomfort so adjustment is key.
You’ve chosen your perfect chair! How do you get it set up correctly?
Start with the height of the chair, you’ll need to get this right in conjunction with your desk. Sit on the chair and raise the height so that you create a right angle at your knees.
Now move the chair to sit at your desk, can you sit comfortably above the desktop? Ideally, you want to be able to sit with your arms at a right angle, a couple of centimetres above the desk, you may need to raise the chair slightly higher. If your feet are no longer firm on the floor grab a footrest or box, something firm to ensure your feet are supported.
To get the seat depth correct, sit on the chair with your back against the backrest. Do your thighs feel supported or does the chair seat dig into the back of your legs? Adjust forwards or backwards so you can sit comfortably without any pressure points under your thighs or back of knees.
The backrest and lumbar support will provide support for your back. Again, sit with your back against the backrest and check where you feel the most support. Raise the lumbar support up to the natural curve of your lower back, this should feel comfortable not forcing an awkward posture.
Chairs with movement built-in allow you to regularly and passively change posture but you need to get the adjustment right so you don’t feel as if you’re going to fly off the chair backwards! This is usually done by adjusting the tension of the backrest, you want the tension to be set so that you can sit upright comfortably without falling backwards but not so tight that you really have to push the backrest to move.
Armrests can be great to support your arms but they should be used with caution as they tend to encourage poor posture if used incorrectly. You should position your armrests so they sit just below elbow level so that you can rest on them in between typing but they don’t get in the way whilst you’re working.
Making an informed choice about your office chair will enable you to get on with your work without discomfort. Making sure the rest of your workstation is set up to support you is also critical because sometimes, even with the perfect chair, other aspects of the workstation have a big impact on your posture too. The most important thing is that you’re comfortable and it provides good support for the tasks you’re carrying out throughout the day.
Do you need more help choosing the right chair or have any questions? Get in touch using the contact form and we'll get back to you shortly.