An ergonomic office chair can maximize your comfort and productivity, while minimizing your chances for back problems down the road. But office chairs can be tall or short — just like the people who use them. Read on to learn how to find the right fit for you.
Americans currently spend more time sitting than at any time in our country’s history. Not only can this increasingly sedentary lifestyle put us at higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, and heart disease, but spending all those hours sitting in a poor-quality or ill-fitting office chair can lead to back problems and costly surgeries down the road.
In addition to taking frequent work breaks and working exercise into your daily schedule, it’s crucial that you choose an office chair that actually fits and supports your body.
If your office chair is too tall, you could be tempted to scoot forward, thus canceling out the chair’s lumbar support and putting you at risk for muscle fatigue, swelling, pain, numbness, or decreased circulation stemming from your awkward posture.
If you squeeze into a chair made for someone smaller than you, your knees will be higher than your hips, which can result in back pain.
Functionality to Consider
While you can easily find a solid ergonomic office chair to fit your budget, finding one that also fits your body can be a little more of a challenge.
Consider the following functionality when shopping around:
• Seat Height: You want your knees to be at 90 degrees and your feet to rest flat on the floor. Choose a chair with a minimum seat height of 16 inches (If you are five-foot-six), 15 inches (if you are five-feet-two), or 14 inches (if you are shorter.)
• Seat Depth: Find a chair with a minimum seat depth of 15 or 16 inches so that the front of the seat sits roughly 1 to 2 inches away from the backs of your knees.
• Footrest: If you’re having trouble finding a chair with a minimum seat height small enough for your needs, adding a footrest can help your knees rest at 90 degrees without the need to lower your chair.
• Arm Width and Height: Your chair should allow you to rest your arms naturally at your sides with your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Choose a model with a minimum arm width of 16 inches or less (if you are under five-feet-six) or 13 inches (if you are five feet or under.) The arm height should be 9 inches above the seat (if you’re under five-feet-six) or 7 inches or less (if you are five feet or under).
• Desk Height: Most desks stand roughly 30 inches high. Your typing height should be 8 inches above your seat height. If your seat height is 16 inches, you’ll either need to be able to lower your desk height to 24 inches or make up the difference with a footrest. Since many fixed height desks can be too tall for shorter people (or too short for taller people), adding an adjustable keyboard tray underneath your desktop can be a great way to maximize the ergonomic benefits and comfort level of your workstation.
• Headrests: If you spend long hours at your desk, a headrest can prevent neck stiffness and shoulder strain. That said, if you opt for a chair with a headrest, make sure to choose a model (like the Series 1 Chair below) that can be adjusted to fit the curve of your neck. A headrest that doesn’t fit quite right can push your head forward and lead to worse posture, not better.
The stylish, durable, and affordable Series 1 Chair by Steelcase was designed with a lightweight, slim profile for today’s smaller office footprint without compromising ergonomics, comfort, and all-day support.
With its distinctive arc, Herman Miller’s Sayl Chair mirrors the curvature of the spine, while its unframed back both supports the spine and encourages a full range of seated movement.
Designed with busy people in mind, the slightly more pricey (but still very affordable) Amia Air with 3D Microknit Back by Steelcase offers dynamic back and leg support, and 4-way adjustable arms that move to support any posture.
• Seat Width and Depth: Taller people typically require chairs with more width and depth. Start your buying journey by looking at your current chair and estimating how much extra width you’ll need, if any. Note: While some models feature fixed widths, many allow you to adjust the seat depth to create the ideal fit for your legs.
• Seat Height: Trial and error is important here. The seat height in most standard office chairs ranges between 16 and 20 inches, which can be too short for some people. In order to find a good fit, adjust the seat height until your feet lie flat on the floor and your legs rest at a 90-degree angle.
• Weight Capacity: While taller people can also be heavier people, not all bigger chairs carry a high enough weight capacity for all users. In order to ensure your chair works comfortably and lasts a long time, pick a model with a weight capacity at least 10 percent higher than your current weight.
• Back Height: Most chairs feature a back height between 19 and 22 inches, which is typically fine unless you’re taller than six-feet-two. In that case, make sure that design — as well as the materials used to make the backrest — feel comfortable.
• Headrests: If you opt for a chair with a headrest, make sure that it’s tall enough to reach your head, and not just your shoulders.
• Adjustability: Bigger people can benefit from chairs that allow for maximum ergonomic adjustment — which can cost a little more, but will also prevent you from having to buy another chair sooner than later.
If you’re looking for a supportive, entry-level office chair designed for maximum and adjustibilty, you could do far worse than Flash Furniture’s High Back Mesh Chair with Nylon Base.
The sleek, comfortable, and endlessly adjustable TC-223 Office Task Chair by BDI simply shouldn’t include all the features and settings it includes at its price point, but its manufacturer disagrees.
Inspired by the design of the human body, the Gesture Chair by Steelcase features a series synchronized interfaces and flexible arms that support your tech-minded movements.
Developed by more than 30 top minds in the fields of biomechanics, vision, physical therapy, and ergonomics, the Embody Chair by Herman Miller is the modern benchmark for pressure distribution, natural alignment, and healthy movement.
Your chair is the single most important workspace investment. If you’re still unsure which model will provide a perfect fit for you, we’ll be glad to help. Contact our team today!