What To Look For When Buying An Ergonomic Office Chair

If you have read my article What Is An Ergonomic Office Chair you will be aware of the features that go into the make up of an ergonomic office chair. Here's a quick summary of the essential features to look for when buying a new seat.

  • Pneumatic Seat Height Adjustment
  • Back Height Adjustment
  • Seat Depth Adjustment
  • Arm Height Adjustment
  • Adjustable Tilt Tension

So assuming your chair has these must have features, let's go a stage further with your potential purchase and consider key components and their quality to make sure you still get the best office chair for your needs.

Chair bases - these come in a variety of different finishes including plastic, aluminum, steel, (either painted or chromed) and wood. The 5 star swivel base is pretty universal these days and old style 4 star bases are virtually unheard of.

A good quality heavy duty nylon base is fine, mostly these chair bases are black and handle office wear and tear well, however if you are heavily built you would probably be better to consider a metal base.

Avoid cheap plastic bases as they are prone to castors snapping off and could cause an accident or injury. You will find better quality ones have reinforcing struts as part of the molding, if you run your hand underneath the chair base you can feel them.

Aluminum generally makes for a good quality, strong, lightweight base for an office chair, particularly where something a little more stylish is required like an executive office chair. Aluminum is easier to fabricate and shape then other materials. Most aluminum chair bases are natural self color, occasionally they come painted or anodized, but the finish can soon show scuffs, so natural is probably best.

Steel bases are quite popular for ergonomic office chairs as they are strong and durable and generally come either painted or chromed. Chrome is probably the best wearing finish as it doesn't scuff or mark easily.

Wood bases actually aren't really wood at all but rather wood casings fitted over a steel chair base core. Wood isn't very durable in terms of scratch resistance and so is probably best avoided for your choice of office seating base. Having said that, if you are matching your ergonomic office chair with the overall theme of your office, then you may well choose to go for a wooden base.

The next thing to check is the pneumatic height adjustment of the gas lift. There are two issues to consider here in relation to an ergonomic office chair, first what height range is it designed to operate between, typically 17" - 24." Manufacturers of quality chairs will often supply special height gas lifts these can be very useful for helping petite and big and tall users achieve the ideal adjustments for their needs.

Here's a quick check on the chair and seat height that you will need. Standing without shoes on, measure the distance from the floor to the height of the inside of your knee joint and that will be a close guide to the height you will want to set your office chair seat to.

Second, check the weight rating of the gas lift the chair comes with, generally up to 20 stones, if you are large framed you may well need an up-rated gas lift and should specify this when ordering your office seat.

On to the chair itself, it should be both wide and deep enough to seat you in comfort, so check the dimensions when ordering. However, if you are small framed make sure the seat isn't too big for you. Look to have a clearance of an inch or so on both sides when sitting.

The seat pad should be finished in a durable fabric that is both non-slip and breathable, additionally the padding should be firm and not overly spongy or scalloped.

If you do a lot of computer work then a forward tilt mechanism is something you may want to consider as it can help you sit more comfortably when inputting data for extended periods.

Alternatively, a fall away or waterfall front edge to the seat pan will probably be fine.

Turning to the chair back, the most important part of an office chair back is the section that supports your lower back, it should be firmly padded to support your spine's natural lumber curvature.

Avoid chairs with exaggerated chunks of mountainous foam as it won't be possible to support your back properly unless they match your back's shape very closely, which is unlikely.

As long as your mid to lower back is well supported in your office chair a very high back isn't necessary, these backs are popular with people who see big chairs as a status symbol. With that said a lot of modern chairs from top quality manufacturers go for a high back and usually build in an adjustable lumbar support and this is perfectly OK.

If at all possible try to ensure that you buy an ergonomic office chair with simple height adjustable arms so that you can get your lower arms and wrists optimally positioned. Wrists should be straight with upper and lower arms at right angles when working and with comfortable support from the arm rests.

Avoid low quality lift up ratchet type adjusters as they aren't very durable and frequently slip when weight is applied to them, check the chair has a minimum 5 year warranty warranty period it's a good indicator that the adjuster is made from quality components.

Finally, turning to the chair's functions, avoid permanent contact backs often fitted to cheap chairs as these can feel like they are trying to push you forwards. Remember you are the one wanting to control your seating position not the chair.

Choose either a chair with tilt tension adjustment or a fully floating mechanism. In either case once the mechanism is properly adjusted to your body size and weight you will find that your office chair responds to your body's movements and will give you far greater comfort in your ergonomic office chair.

Choose also an ergonomic office seat that has easily adjustable seat depth so you can set the chair's depth to suit your leg length. That way you will be comfortably and correctly seated and avoid the problem of sitting too far back of forward in your ergonomic office chair. The best adjusters are either knurled knobs or levers that move to allow adjustment and then lock in position, pick one you can easily operate whilst seated.

Next read How To Adjust & Set Up Your Ergonomic Office Chair


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