So, you’re wanting to get a new office chair, but you aren’t sure which one to get. While it’s fun & easy to just go online and buy the trendiest or least expensive option (after all, it’s just a chair, right?) that may not be the best idea.
The average office worker spends anywhere from 6 to 10 hours a day sitting. That’s a long time. And, if you don’t have a chair that offers you the proper ergonomic support you need, all that sitting is going to take a toll on your back over time. (Say hello to regular chiropractor visits.) One of the best things you can do for yourself is to invest in an office chair that gives the proper support for maintaining a healthy spine.
Here are some key factors you’ll want to consider when buying an office chair:
1. Lumbar support. A good office chair should support the inward curve of your lumbar spine. Long periods of sitting without proper support often lead to slouching, which flattens the natural curve (this is not the curve we want to flatten!) and distresses the structures of the lower spine. Ideally, a good chair will allow you to adjust both the height and depth of the lumbar support so you get just the right fit for your body.
2. Proper seat width and depth. You want the depth of your seat to allow you to sit with your back against the backrest of your chair and still have about 2-4 inches of space between the back of your knees and the seat of the chair. For width, 17-20 inches is typical and allows most users to sit comfortably. However, if you have specific needs that don’t fit within the standard 17-20 inches, you may want to look into some more customizable options. Sometimes this requires special ordering, but it is well worth it!
3. The right height. The best position for a healthy spine is feet flat on the floor with your knees slightly higher than your hips. To achieve this, you need to make sure that your chair’s seat height is easily adjustable. The average range for adjustable chair height is 16 inches to 21 inches. If you are taller (or shorter) than average, you may need to look beyond the standard office chairs to ensure you get a chair that fits your height. Again, that could mean special ordering, but it’s well worth having the lasting comfort of a chair that perfectly fits you.
4. Adjustable armrests. Armrests should allow the shoulders to be relaxed, not dipping too low or lifting up so high they’re nearly touching your ears. Having armrests that are adjustable ensures that you can customize them to your personal arm length for achieving relaxed shoulders.
5. Swivel. You want a chair that swivels. This allows you to reach for things around you without causing unnecessary strain. (Added benefit: when it’s a slow day with nothing else to do, you can have a contest with a coworker to see who can go around in circles the longest without getting so dizzy they can’t stand up.)
6. Cushion. The hard surface or mesh seat chairs can look really cool, however, they are rarely comfortable for enduring long periods of time sitting in them. Make sure you get a chair that has plenty of cushion to support you without feeling the base of the chair through the cushion. Memory foam cushions are ideal as they are neither too soft, nor too firm, and provide ample support for maximum comfort.
As you take into consideration these key factors, keep in mind that a good chair is going to give you sufficient support to help you keep a neutral posture. A neutral posture means sitting with your feet flat on the floor with knees slightly higher than your hips. In addition, your hips, shoulders, and ears should all be lined up with each other. (Think, if someone held a plumbline up beside you, you want your ear, the center of your shoulder, and hip all to line up with that plumbline.)
The best way to determine if a chair is the right fit or not is to demo it. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the description says online, once you get it you find that either adjustments are difficult to make or the cushion just isn’t quite as “cushy” as it looked online. Spending about a week in a chair should give you enough time to play with its features and determine if it’s for you or not.