The best office chair has:
- Several adjustable features. At a minimum, you should be able to control your seat height, backrest tilt and armrest height; for other tips on minimizing pain, see Spine-Health.com’s handy checklist.
- Appropriate weight capacity and seat size. Most chairs are adjustable enough to accommodate a variety of shapes and sizes, but workers with smaller or larger frames should see if there are special versions that will better suit them.
- Comfortable, durable upholstery. Regardless of upholstery type, a chair should allow for at least some airflow and resist stains. Stitching should hold up to wear and tear, and seams should be placed where they won’t irritate skin.
- A solid warranty. Office chairs have to stand up to daily abuse, and companies should stand behind the product with a fair, straightforward warranty — the longer and more inclusive the better, particularly for high-end models.
Know before you go
Try before you buy. Choosing the best chair will take more than a few minutes on a showroom floor. Check the retailer’s return policy; you may be able to test the chair for a couple of weeks and send it back if it’s not the right pick.
How do you prefer to sit? If you tend to lean forward, certain task chairs that allow a more forward tilt might be a wise pick. On the other hand, if you like to recline while working, you’ll want to check your chair’s tilt limiter to make sure it allows for your preferred range of motion. If you prefer an unconventional position, such as cross-legged with a keyboard in your lap, you’ll want a chair with width- and depth-adjustable armrests that won’t get in your way.
Do you have existing aches and pains? If your lower back gets sore, make sure your chair has adjustable lumbar support. If you’re prone to aching legs, make sure the seat has a sloped front edge to allow adequate blood circulation, and be sure your feet can comfortably rest flat on the floor. However, keep in mind that while a good chair can keep pain to a minimum, no chair can cure chronic pain — and, as experts note, the best thing for your health is tolimit the amount of time you sit as much as possible.
Does your workspace have solid floors or carpet? Most casters will roll smoothly on hard surfaces, but that might not be the case with carpet. You may want to consider a chair mat in that case — it will also save your carpet.
Consider your upholstery choices. Mesh promotes airflow and keeps workers cool — potentially a good pick if you sit for hours at a time. Leather can offer a plush, luxurious feel, but it can also retail body heat. Vinyl is easier to clean than leather, but has the same breathability problem. Fabric is comfy for most, but is also most prone to stains. Higher-end fabrics will likely be more breathable and stain-repellent, however.
What’s to come
Green products are taking root in nearly all consumer categories, and office furniture is no exception. Manufacturers are churning out an increasing number of eco-friendly chairs that feature recyclable, sustainable materials treated with a minimum of harmful chemicals. This is particularly true of high-end models. Mother Nature Network singles out five pricey chairs that it says are good for your back and the Earth, too, including the Herman Miller Embody and Steelcase Leap. Pre-owned office chairs are growing in popularity, notes Robert Strauss, president of Arizona Office Liquidators and Designs