Selecting the Best Ergonomic Office Chair for You

Just as the place of work has evolved so has seating.  Is there one type of seating that is superior to another?  The answer is complex; however at Ergoprise we understand the challenges that can be associated with selected proper seating, and it is our hope that this section will help you find the ideal chair.  As office chair fit experts, we can help you narrow your choices. Our chair selector questionnaire asks just ten questions. Complete the form and we'll email you back personalized recommendations for a chair that meets you needs.

There are many excellent chairs on the market but the best ergonomic chair for you to buy is going to be one that:

  1. Fits the way you work
  2. Fits your body correctly
  3. Fits your budget

Fits the Way You Work

The modern workplace now involves many fundamentals.  Users work in many environments.  From benching systems to coffee houses, the chair needs to function properly based upon the task.  Knowing where the individual will be working will definitely dictate how the chair should function.  The prerequisites of an office chair is going to be different than a conference chair.  A stool is going to have far more complexity than a side chair.  Chairs are constructed in many ways and understanding the different types of configurations especially its particular mechanism (how the back & the seat move) will be important to determining the type of chair to be selected. 

Multi Mechanism:  Independently adjust both the back & the seat. The user can also rock back and forth or lock it when needed. The chair can also have separate tilt.   This is a very popular class of mechanisms.  This type of mechanism is best for individuals who perform keyboard intensive tasks.

Syncro -Tilt Mechanism:  As the users reclines into the back of the chair the seat also follows and tilts.  Some lines may offer back angle adjustment.  Look for models that offer a cushioned front that slopes to reduce pressure on the back of the knees as the user reclines.  This mechanism has fewer levers.  This type of mechanism is best for individuals whose jobs require mostly reading. 

Counter Balanced Mechanism:  The weight of the user automatically balances the force required to

recline the chair.  The recline tension adjusts to allow movement while keeping the user fully supported in all positions.  This type of mechanism is best for individuals who multitask and are seated for shorter periods of time,

Fits Your Body Correctly

In a nutshell, your chair must be a size, or adjustable to a size, that will fit your body comfortably. As people come in many sizes, so do chairs. The majority of better quality ergonomic chairs are adjustable to fit most people, in most respects. Some chairs are highly modular and parts can be swapped out to modify an existing chair to fit a different sized person. Cheaper office chairs usually offer limited adjustability and will fit fewer people. Here are the key points to check:

Weight Rating –

The weight rating for a chair is a safety rating and does not necessarily mean a chair will fit someone nearing the maximum rated weight. Thus other size considerations listed below must also be examined. If a person is nearing the maximum weight, it may be wiser to choose a higher rated chair since weight fluctuates for many people.  RFM offers chairs that have a weight rating of 300 lbs. 

Seat Height Adjustment –

The correct seat height is one that allows your knees to be level, or slightly lower, than your hips when seated and your feet flat on the floor. Select a chair with a seated height range that allows your ideal seat height to be somewhere in between the lowest and highest settings. That way a variety of shoe heights can still be accommodated. Many ergonomic chairs are available with a choice of cylinders, each offering a different adjustment range. Just keep in mind that with taller and shorter users, seat depth must also be correct.

Special circumstances - in some cases, especially with shorter workers, the ideal seated height is not high enough to reach the workstation. Depending on the circumstances, here are some possible fixes:

  1. Add a height adjustable, articulating keyboard tray that allows the user to bring their keyboard and mouse into their lap. This is generally a good idea anyway as it can greatly reduce pain and stress on the shoulders, arms, and upper back.
  2. Add a foot rest. Again, this is a great idea for most users anyway because ergonomic foot rests also promote movement which improves circulation and alertness. If the goal here is to lift legs to accommodate a shorter user, pay close attention to the height range of the foot rest to ensure it will be adequate.
  3. For extreme height issues - Consider the Neutral Posture N-tune (N-step) seating, which are steps, in a variety of heights that can add leg support. For taller workstations, Neutral Posture's N'Tune Systems offer complete leg support.

Seat Size –

It seems that standard seat sizes keep getting smaller and smaller. Why does seat size matter?  A properly fitted seat is fits the hips with no more than about an inch on either side, and has a seat depth where there is a two to four fingers distance between the front edge of the seat and the back of the knee.  If at all possible for task chairs we highly encourage the chair be equipped seat depth adjustment also known as a seat slider.  This function helps to adjust the seat depth relative to back.

  • A seat that is too short will not support the thighs well and can stress the knees
  • A seat that is too deep may cut off circulation to the lower legs. Often a user that is too short for the chair will not sit back against the backrest, sacrificing valuable back support.
  • A seat that is too wide will, on most chairs, prevent the user from full use of the chair arms.
  • A seat that is too narrow may be uncomfortable for the user. No one wants to be shoe-horned into their chair.

 Chair Arms –

For most people, arms will help support the shoulders and arms and provide for more comfortable work.  Not all ergonomists recommend chair arms and for some users, may actually recommend against them.

  • The correct arm height lets your elbows rest in a natural position and do not cause you to raise your shoulders or hunch down.
  • The arm-pads should be close enough to the body to let your arms rest comfortably at your side. This is one of the hardest areas to fit, especially for thinner bodies as chair seat width can limit how close the arms can be set. A couple of things to consider:
    • If you're thin, pay attention to the seat width of any chair you're considering.
    • Get arms that offer a pivot, while this won't completely solve the problem of arms that are too far apart, it can allow for forearm support while typing.
    • Many office chairs now offer arms with lateral movement. This means you can slide the arm-pads inward, over the seat.
    • When existing the chair try not lean the armrests as support

Thoracic Support –  

Mom always said “sit up straight, shoulders back and chest out”; this statement is so import, since our posture has declined as a direct result of technology.  With the overuse of laptops, tablets and smartphones our head & back now resemble the letter C.  Younger individuals have greater posture challenges since they used technology devices at a much earlier age.  Seating manufactures are now offering chairs with Thoracic Support or Thoracic Ridge.

  •    A unique design (the seat back often looks like a nose) reduces elbow interference with the chair back providing greater freedom of motion and promotes “Shoulders Back” posture.
    • Here are a few seating lines that offer a scapula impendent chair – Neutral Posture 8000 with Thoracic Support, RFM Caramel, OfficeMaster Discovery Back and certain Soma Mid & High Back Backrests.

Lumbar Support –

Most office chairs claim to offer some lumbar support, either by contouring the back cushion to fit the back, or via an adjustable lumbar. The important consideration here is that the lumbar support needs to hit your back in the right place, where it supports the lumbar curve.  The AllSeating You High & Mid Back task chairs offers a “truly” adjustable lumbar.

  • The lumbar support should be, at a minimum, height adjustable. On many chairs this is done by raising and lowering the back. Some offer height adjustment only on the lumbar support, and some chairs offer both back height and lumbar height adjustments.
  • Many of the best ergonomic chairs offer depth or pressure adjustment too
  • The optimal lumbar supports offer both height and depth adjustment.

Fits Your Budget

Do not let a limited budget hamper your decision to purchase an ergonomic chair albeit for yourself or your work force.  We can respect budget restraints; however, do not sacrifice one’s health because you feel this purchase is unnecessary.  Here are some tips for staying within your means. 

  • Look for the seating manufactures’ warranty.  If you are not going to be replacing the chair for a few years it is a good investment.  For example, a Humanscale Freedom Chair with Headrest (configured with standard arms, wave fabric offers the following Warranty: Textiles & Cushions – Five years of single shift use; All other components – 15 years 24/7 use).
  • Forgo some of the prettiness of the chair and use the money towards functionality.  Instead of a polished aluminum base take the cost of that up-charge and outfit the chair with a more adjustable arm or add the seat depth adjuster.
  • Volume purchases can be offered at a better price than a single units so this may help the overall budget when planning.
  • Don’t be brand name snob consider manufactures such as Via Seating (the Riva II line ) or The Raynor  Eurotech (Apollo line) that offer a quality product at an affordable rate.

 Ergonomic Seating Chair Terms