Almost all office chairs have a height and arm adjustment; however, these are not the most important adjustments to look for when shopping for an office chair. The best office chairs have at least five adjustments with some having up to 14 different adjustments.
Important features that should be adjustable include lumbar support, arm width and height, seat back width and height, seat and back angle, and tension control. Many of the supports are dial controlled while a few are controlled with a hand-held bulb pump, similar to a blood pressure cuff pump.
Picking the right chair for desk can often be an afterthought, but it is advisable to take a little time to ensure you make the right choice, since you can easily end up spending a lot of time using it.
Seat Height and Tilt
You’ll want to look for a chair that allows you to adjust the height of the seat so that your knees are either level or just below level, and your feet are squarely on the floor. The lever or knob to adjust the seat height should be easy to reach and use while you’re sitting in the chair. Seat tilt isn’t essential, but can be helpful in maintaining ideal sitting posture.
Seat Width and Depth
Because we don’t all come in the same size, the width of the chair should be an inch or two wider than your thighs and hips when you’re seated. Choose a chair with a seat depth that ends an inch or two behind your knees, preferably with a waterfall front. Many chair seats are contoured for additional comfort; be sure the chair you choose has contouring that works with, rather than against, your body’s curves.
The seat material should be comfortable to sit on, whether it’s a stretched mesh or a padded cushion. You’ll spend a lot of time in your office chair, so you want to be sure you’ll still be comfortable even after you sit for hours. The seat material should enable you to stay cool—fabric and mesh are good, breathable choices. Don’t forget to look for durable materials that are easy to clean. You want a choice that will last.
Back Size and Adjustment
You can find a variety of back sizes and heights, from chairs that provide lumbar support only, to taller chairs with headrests. The height of your ideal chair will depend on personal preference, but be sure that the chair you select is adjustable to fit your body. The back of the chair shouldn’t be so large that you can’t move your elbows behind your torso.
You can find many chairs with lumbar supports that are adjustable both up and down as well as forward and backward to best fit your body. Chairs with adjustable lumbar support are especially important if more than one person will use the chair. If you choose a chair with fixed lumbar support, be sure it feels comfortable when you sit back.
Moving around while you are sitting helps keep your spine healthy. Look for a chair that lets you easily recline while maintaining good back support. Although the ability of a chair to recline is optional, it’s a good option, since reclining can reduce pressure on the back. People with lower back problems usually benefit the most from reclining chairs.
Armrests are another personal preference, but if you want a chair with armrests, ask yourself:
- Are the armrests broad, contoured, cushioned, and comfortable?
- While sitting can you easily adjust the height of the armrests?
- Can you move the armrests closer together or further apart?
- Can you easily move the arms out of the way if you need to?
Wheel Base and Casters
Most office chairs have wheels. The ability to roll around is important in preventing strain from reaching too far for objects on your desk or other surfaces. If you choose a chair with wheels, you absolutely want a chair with at least a five-pedestal base with casters. Chairs with four casters are easier to tip over than those with at least five. If your workspace is carpeted, look for a chair with wheels designed for carpet—or select a chair mat for rolling chairs.
You may or may not want a headrest, which provides support for your head and can help reduce the weight your neck supports. People with neck issues benefit the most from a chair with a headrest. Having a headrest also gives you the ability to lean back and relax from head to toe.