What To Look For In An Office Chair 2021 [Office Chair Guide]

What To Look For In An Office Chair Buying Guide

What To Look For In An Office Chair? Confused?

If you are considering buying an office chair, but contemplating some features for a better price, you may not be aware of the reality. Studies suggest that 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain spend most of their workday sitting.

This piece of study adds to the existing evidence linking office chairs to low back and neck pain. Moreover, back pain has far-reaching implications. It affects office productivity and results in lost wages as well as insurance overheads.

That makes the selection of chairs very important. People mostly compare chairs in terms of costs. In reality, however, you need to consider an array of features before you select a chair.

Sticking to these features while selecting a chair can be a shot in the arm for productivity and employee satisfaction, which may well push up your profit. Let’s delve deeper and go through factors that you must look for before buying an office chair.

What To Look For In An Office Chair — Office Chair Buying Guide

1. Ergonomics

Ergonomics refers to creating an environment that is suitable for your physical needs. When you are sitting on a chair in the office, the design of the chair must be ideal for your physical needs.

Physical needs in relation to your workstation must involve your chair, desk, keyboard, mice, monitor height, etc. This shows that the chair plays a significant role in providing an ergonomic environment.

Moreover, an ergonomic and adjustable chair can also help you conform to other aspects of ergonomics, such as having the desk monitor at the right height and alignment.

So, what does the ergonomics of a chair refer to? Needless to say, it refers to a lot. An ergonomic chair must offer an overall ergonomic feel to the user. This includes the height of the backrest and the seat, adjustable features, frame, base, wheels, etc.

A comprehensively ergonomic chair would offer support to the entire back, the neck, the buttocks as well as the lower legs; a slouching posture hurts the neck as well as the lower back. This is why most people feel stiff after long periods of sitting in a hunched posture.

Whether your posture is bad for your neck or back, it puts pressure on your spine. An abnormal posture may lead to improper load distribution along with the supporting structures of the spine. There is an intricate network of muscles, tendons, joints, and discs in your back working in harmony.

An improper posture and consequent improper load distribution can disturb this harmony and cause pain. To prevent this, you need a chair with all the ergonomic features, which lets you interact with the environment around your workstation without back or neck pain.

2. Backrest Design

The human spine has an “s” shape where the neck portion is curved inward, and the lumbar or lower back portion is curved outward. So while sitting on a chair, the cervical portion of the neck needs to be upright, the thoracic portion or upper back needs to touch the backrest, and the lumbar portion or lower back needs to be further from the backrest while the buttock is resting in close proximity to the inner edge of the backrest or touching it.

Needless to say, the backrest needs to have an “S” shape so that it can support the spine in its normal alignment. This is what an ideal ergonomic chair should have. There are also some chairs which have a short but contoured backrest. These chairs do support the upper back and lumbar, but not the neck portion.

3. Backrest Height

There are chairs whose backrest cannot support the upper back of the body as they are short in height. Such a design is far from ergonomic as it can hurt your back, shoulders, and neck.

So, the backrest has to be high enough to support the shoulders and the neck. Only when the chair can support the back comprehensively can the chair be called ergonomic from the backrest end.

4. Waterfall Seat Design

An abrupt chair seat ending adds a lot of pressure on the legs and may hamper blood circulation. If you select such a chair that is otherwise ergonomic and good, but you can’t sit for long hours and you feel numbness in your legs after sitting for a few hours. The remedy for this problem is a waterfall design in such a design the front edge of the seat is rounded.

[OSHA] or the Occupational Safety And Health Administration standards also called out individuals and employees to use the chairs with a waterfall design on the seat.

5. Chair Padding

Sharp edges are not good for long-duration seating. Whether it is the sides of the seat or the armrests, they need to be rounded and padded, so that blood flow to your arms and legs is not affected.

If you are seated for a long time, only a thickly padded armrest and the seat can ensure comfortable seating. So, make sure that there is enough padding in the chair that can deliver you great comfort.

6. Type Of Foam Used In Chair

Manufacturers may use different types of foam in the chair and claim that it is a comfortable chair with thick padding. However, the thickness is not the only feature to take note of while selecting a chair; you need to consider the type of foam.

There are varieties of foam that start sagging within a few months of use. A saggy seat and a saggy backrest is a recipe for disaster. So, if you are not taking care to select a chair with good quality padding, you may be better off with a simple wooden chair rather than an ergonomically designed chair.

The seat and backrest of a chair filled with low-quality padding take up a pancake shape over time. This can certainly hurt your back and legs. So, always look for memory foam. Such foam makes sure that the seat returns to its original dimensions after you get up. So, it does not flatten over time and make seating difficult and far from ergonomic.

Moreover, you can get chairs with molded foam as well as cut foam. Cut foam is inexpensive and easily loses its shape, while the molded foam is expensive but can retain its shape for a long time. So, make sure to get molded foam chairs.

7. Overall Chair Comfort

If seating over a long duration of time every day is what you need to do, you need to keep a tab on the overall comfort. In fact, feeling comfortable is an integral part of the best office chair. While impeccable ergonomics is a must-have to provide long term seating comfort, the chair also needs to incorporate features for overall comfort.

Even if you are sitting on the most ergonomic office chair, there is a gap between the backrest and your lower back. Over time this may lead to a build-up of stress and ache. This is why you need to support your lower back. A lumbar pillow can do an excellent job of supporting the lumbar spine.

Similarly, you need to support your neck too so that it does not develop stress and pain. Good head support can prevent the build-up of tension in the neck and avoid neck pain. However, while looking for head support and a lumbar pillow, you need to make sure that they fit your size.

In many cases, chairs do have lumbar support and headrest, but they are mostly out of place. Such add-ons and bolsters are not just useless; they are harmful since they may put pressure on the spine rather than helping it. So, it would be best if you made sure that the lumbar pillow and the headrest are adjustable.

An adjustable system would help you adjust the pillows to your requirement. Also, make sure that the pillows are not hard and are made of memory foam. Such pillows don’t get flattened with use.

8. Overall Size Of Chair

Employees have different height, width, and waist size, and the office chair needs to accommodate all of them. The seat should be able to accommodate all the users comfortably. The seat needs to have a depth of 15 to 17 inches and be wide enough to fit most of your employees comfortably.

In essence, the seat should be wide enough to let the user sit comfortably and without touching the bases of the armrests. A width of 18 inches can be good enough for a variety of users. The height of the backrest should be in proportion to the size of the chair so that even if you are a big guy, you can rest your shoulders and neck.

9. Adjustability

While going through models in any online website or store, you need to keep it in mind that aspects like width, depth, and height of seat are essential. However, there are chairs with adjustable features. In such a chair, you can increase or decrease seat height, enhance or reduce seat width, and also make other adjustments in order to transform its dimensions as per your requirements.

These chairs are helpful for everybody. So, chairs may come with seat sliders and width-adjustable armrests to offer custom seat width for a very broad range of employees. Height adjustability is one of the most common features of chairs. An ergonomic workstation needs to have the right seat height as well as the right eye level with the monitor.

It is possible to achieve such a balance in height if you have a height-adjustable chair. Also, you may consider two types of chairs – one for users weighing less than 200 pounds and the other for users weighing more than 200 lbs. The chairs meant for users weighing above 200 lbs can be useful for big guys.

10. Anti-Corrosion Powder Coating Steel Frame

An office chair is meant to accommodate users for long working hours. In a modern office setting, one may have to do multitasking and engage with different devices. This may lead to changing postures at various points. The chair needs to support the user in every posture to render a comfortable and ergonomic seating experience.

Whether you are reclining the back, pulling up the footrest, turning the chair, or adjusting seat height or armrests, you need a robust chair. If the chair creaks and clunks with every move, it feels very uncomfortable. In order to feel comfortable at every position, the chair needs to have a solid steel frame with a premium coating.

But a steel frame is not the only desirable feature. It needs to have an anti-corrosive powder coating, which can prevent it from corrosion and therefore maintain the robustness of the frame.

11. Stability Of Chair Base

The base of the chair is one of the most overlooked aspects of buying the best office chairs. You need to choose a chair with a strong base. The material of the base makes a lot of difference in terms of durability, weight, etc. You may have a chair with a nylon or plastic base, an aluminum base, or a steel base.

An aluminum base is strong and lightweight with a modern look, but a steel base is more robust and even more durable but is heavy in weight. If you are buying some chairs for big guys, make sure to get a steel base. For others, you can go for a nylon base.

The nylon base is also strong and durable but does not add much weight. Since wheels are common to office chairs, a robust 5 star base with double wheel casters can impart the required level of stability to the user. You also need to think about the caster/wheel material.

Metal casters last longer than plastic ones and can accommodate heavier users for a long duration of time. However, such casters may damage hardwood floors in the long run. You can go to rubber-coated casters. These casters roll smoothly, do not make noise, and do not damage hardwood floors.

12. Breathable Chair Cover Or Mesh

A chair with all ergonomic features may not be a good bet for you unless it has a breathable cover. One of the most uncomfortable aspects of long-duration seating is sweating. If the chair does not have a breathable cover, you may start sweating within hours. The sticky feeling makes matters worse.

To prevent such a feeling, you need to make sure that the chair has a breathable cover. This is why many people buy chairs with fabric covers. However, having a fabric cover is no guarantee against sweating. The fabric should be of good quality so that it absorbs the sweat and lets air flow through your back and seat.

However, while choosing a chair with a fabric cover, you also need to keep in mind that such chairs are prone to getting dirty and greasy due to continuous exposure to sweats. This makes cleaning these chairs a tough job.

You can also go for a leather cover. Depending on the quality of leather, an office chair may offer comfortable seating for hours without the sticky feeling. Real leather chair covers pore to absorb sweating while sitting for long hours. However, if you are using chairs with artificial leather or vinyl, you should not expect the same level of comfort.

Anything other than premium leather or fabric can trap body heat and bring down air circulation. Despite this, people often fall for vinyl and leather since they are more comfortable to clean and durable compared to fabric.

In fact, the chair may also have a mesh over its leather or vinyl cover. The mesh helps in airflow and therefore prevents sweating. So, mesh office chairs can also be an effective solution in preventing a sticky feeling after sitting for some time. Moreover, the mesh itself should be soft since a comfortable seating posture demands a comfortable area to sit on.

13. Reclining Backrest & Extendable Footrest

A reclining backrest is one of the most common requirements for office chairs. People may want to relax for some time by reclining the backrest. In fact, a reclining backrest can help the user comfort and spring back to work after some time. However, just by having a reclining backrest, a chair cannot offer comfortable seating.

The recline feature needs to be accompanied by something more. Moreover, it should be controllable. So, the chair must have built-in features to let the user control the extent of the recline of the backrest. This calls for a controlled recline or reclines lock.

Many chairs incorporate a recline lock feature. With this system, you can lock the backrest at several angles as per your convenience. You can easily find out the most comfortable angle of recline, although the backrest must be capable of 180 degrees recline, i.e., a full recline. A full recline will let you catch a quick nap and reinvigorate yourself.

It is pertinent to indicate that even if the backrest is capable of full recline, you would not be able to get into a coaching mode if there is no footrest. In essence, an extendable footrest can help you extend your feet and achieve an utterly relaxing posture. This shows that an extendable footrest best accompanies a 180-degree reclining backrest.

14. Adjustable & Padded Armrests

Armrests are essential parts of chairs. They help you to rest your tired arms after a long day at work. A pair of properly designed armrests can also help you to get the keypad onto your lap, recline the backrest slightly and carry on with your work.

However, this calls for adjustable armrests. Chairs should have 4d adjustable armrests. This means you can pull it up, put it down, slide it forward, and also drag it backward in trying to achieve the most comfortable position. Other chairs come with 3d or 2d adjustability.

While the adjustability of armrests is a prerequisite to achieving the best posture, you also need to make sure that stability is not sacrificed at the altar of adjustability. In fact, some chairs have 4d adjustable armrests, but those are wobbly and unstable. So, despite being adjustable, these armrests don’t offer any ergonomic benefits to the user.

Also, since armrests are required for resting your arms, they need to be adequately padded. Padding should be done with good quality foam like memory foam so that the pad does not sag and continue to provide rest to tired arms.

15. Durability and Eco-Friendliness

A chair is a significant investment. This is why you need to see that the chair is durable enough to last for years. However, durability does not mean only the strength of the material used in the chair. It also means the sustainability of design, components, joints, and features.

So, durability includes chair base, the armrests, seat, backrest, tilt mechanism, tilt feature, caster material, foot ring, swivel system, properties of foam and type of padding, etc. Chairs with several built-in features like specific tilt mechanism, tilt lock system, adjustable seat height, adjustable armrests, extendable footrest, etc., tend to become unstable after a few months.

This is why you must go through our(thechairsguide.com) reviews to get a good understanding of the durability of features and chairs. Also, eco-friendliness is an essential aspect in deciding your purchase. As a business, you are supposed to strive for using eco-friendly material on your premises.

Along with this objective, you need to look for chairs made from recycled materials. It helps to go by the GREENGUARD certificate while selecting the chair. Also, go for materials with low chemical emissions to help prevent the degradation of indoor air quality. SCS Indoor Advantage Gold or Silver certificate ensures that the chair contains material with low emissions.

There are other certificates, too, which ensure the use of sustainable material. This includes the Cradle-to-Cradle sustainability certification, Forest Stewardship Council seal, etc.

Final Verdict

True, there is a lot to consider while buying the best office chair. Ensuring that the chair has all the necessary facets of a good chair that can help you attain the best posture is a thorough job. However, zealous pursuit of all the above features may not be enough in determining the quality of a chair.

Many chairs do incorporate all the features but bear all the marks of flimsy workmanship or poor quality material. You need to avoid selecting them. This is why reviews are such great things to follow.

After selecting a chair by its features, you need to go through several reviews about it and see if there are any complaints about make, design, or material. It may be time-consuming, but it is worth your hard-earned money.

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