Finding the right office chair can be a challenge. Given the host of options in the market, sorting through them can take a tremendous amount of energy. Nothing is worse than being stuck with an office chair that isn’t right for your body, and that causes discomfort at work. Good news is you’re not alone. About half of working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year. The question is—what can your chair do about it?

Quite a lot, in fact. In this blog post, we set the record straight on what to look for in an ergonomic office chair. There is no one-size-fits-all answer; instead, we present a list of key features you can consider in your decision process. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be best equipped to select the office chair that is uniquely right for you—and your back.

Backrest Design and Adjustability

Backrests are present on nearly every office chair, but they weren’t all created equal. The key is to find one with a shape that follows the natural curvature of your spine. The best backrests curve to support your lower back, known as the lumbar region. This extra support prevents you from tiring as quickly so you can continue sitting upright and avoid slouching.

Advanced models allow you to adjust the depth, tilt, and vertical positioning of your backrest. By catering the backrest to the unique shape of your spine, you ensure your lower back makes contact with the lumbar support. Any adjustment features on the backrest, therefore, increase the probability that you’ll find your ideal support level. If you’re buying office chairs for an organization, the wider the adjustment range, the more body types the chair will effectively support.

Features to Look for:

  • Backrest shape follows the natural curvature of the spine, supporting the lumbar region
  • Adjustable depth, tilt, and vertical positioning

Seat Cushion Sculpting and Materials

The degree to which an office chair seat enhances your posture and reduces discomfort depends on its shape, adjustability, and materials.

best office chairIn terms of shape, you’ll want a seat that angles slightly downwards toward the backrest, which encourages you to lean back naturally in your seat. Sitting back in your seat activates the power of the backrest and helps counteract the tendency to hunch forward towards your computer. Another nice-to-have is a slight downwards curve in the front. This design feature reduces pressure on your legs at the point where your thighs leave the chair seat.

We take some seat adjustability in chairs for granted, such as ample height adjustment to ensure your feet stay flat on the floor. However, some elite chairs offer more tweaks to further optimize for an individual’s body type. Two of the most popular office chair features are depth adjustment and tilt, which again help position your body so you make comfortable contact with the backrest.

One other thing to keep in mind when evaluating seats is cushion compression level. If your seat cushion is too ‘cushy’, you may end up sinking deeply into your seat, reducing mobility, increasing skin temperature, and reducing the flow of blood. While tempting to go with a comfy seat cushion at first glance, there are longer-term effects, and you should generally choose a breathable seat material (mesh is common, like in the classic Aeron chair) that you can sit on lightly with a feeling of buoyancy.

Features to Look for:

  • Shape angles slightly downwards in the back and forwards in front
  • Adjustable height, depth, and tilt
  • Breathable seat material balancing comfort and support

Armrests

Armrests - office chairWhile armrests are sometimes left out of modern office chairs, they continue to play a vital ergonomic role. In fact, they also do their part to keep you sitting up straight. By supporting your arms at a 90-degree angle, they help you sit back straight in your seat, instead of leaning forwards to brace your arms on your desk.

A key component for armrests is their adjustability. The most important adjustment is vertical motion. Armrests often get in the way when you’re trying to tuck up closer to your desk. They collide with the desk surface, blocking you from sitting close enough for comfortable typing and screen viewing. To solve this dilemma, modern chairs allow you to lower your armrests (or completely remove them), so you can sit as close to your desk as you like while retaining the same ergonomic benefits.

Features to Look for:

  • Armrests
  • Adjustability, especially vertical, but including forwards, backwards, and side-to-side

‘Active’ Office Chair Elements

The latest trend in office ergonomics is ‘active sitting’. With the heightened awareness of how sitting all day negatively affects your health, chair manufacturers are seeking to make the sitting process itself involve more movement. Opting for a chair with one of these features may be unconventional, but it can be extremely effective in alleviating the discomfort that comes from static sitting all day.

While rocking back and forth is an age-old feature for chairs (and a good one), some new office chairs permit you to rock side-to-side as well, for a full 360-degree motion. Sometimes these devices go by the term ‘balance chairs’. Still a nascent field with room for further product refinement, these chairs are already a great way to activate your underutilized core muscles during the day and strengthen your sitting posture.

Features to Look for:

· 360-degree motion
· Core-muscle activation

By keeping the above features in mind when you’re looking for a new office chair, you’ll be better prepared to find a product that truly relieves back pain and promotes proper posture. However, there is no substitute for trying products out in real life. We highly recommend going to your local office furniture dealer and experimenting with several chairs yourself. That way you can be sure your chair will lead to a more comfortable, productive, and healthier time at work.

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