Office chairs come in a wide range of styles, shapes and sizes. From simple seats intended for short stints in front of the computer at home, to sophisticated ergonomic designs intended for long hours sat down at work, office chairs are also manufactured to serve a range of purposes.
When choosing an office chair, the key factors to consider are comfort, posture, support, mobility and flexibility. Depending on the specifics of how the each chair will be used, purchasing decisions usually involve prioritising one or more of these factors over the others – and then, of course, bringing cost into the equation.
In this brief guide, we run through some of the main varieties of office chair available, highlighting the pros and cons of each and indicating where they make a good option.
Standard computer chairs
‘Computer chair’ has become something of a catch-all term for office-type chairs marketed for home use. Often lightweight and easy to move around, they take up less space than bulkier business-class varieties and pose no difficulties being moved around from room to room. Often armless and with only basic adjustment features, these chair types are not designed for prolonged periods sitting in front of a computer as they don’t provide much in the way of ergonomic support. Great for catching up on emails for an hour or two at home in the evening or playing a few video games.
Ergonomic work equipment is designed to promote comfort and productivity, the idea being that higher comfort levels will promote the latter. In office chairs, comfort also encompasses long-term protection of posture. Ergonomic chairs are therefore intended for people who spend most of their working day sat in front of a computer which, with incorrect support and posture, can risk physical damage over extended periods of time.
The three main features of ergonomic chairs are arm supports, multiple adjustment options and swivel motion. The adjustments to height, back tilt, seat tilt, armrest height and so on are intended to make it possible for any user to achieve a comfortable, upright, supported position. Swivel motion reduces the risk of strains caused by reaching around a desk or turning to speak to someone.
Some ergonomic chairs take a highly innovative approach. One example is so-called kneel chairs, which feature a rest at the front where the user rests their bended knees. Maintaining such a kneeling position helps keep the back straight.
Heavy duty chairs
In some places of work, chairs are put under more strain than normal. In round-the-clock operations, for example – in security, process control, 24-hour call centres – office chairs may be in use with barely a break seven days a week, 365 days of the year. In these scenarios, a sturdy, heavy duty build becomes as much of a priority as comfort.
Standing chairs and active seating
While a ‘standing chair’ sounds like an oxymoron, it reflects growing recognition that encouraging people to stand even when they have traditional sedentary jobs brings significant benefits to long term health and well-being. As more and more companies introduce standing-height desks, they are also investing in taller, stool-like chairs which provide the option to switch easily between sitting and standing throughout a shift. Active seating takes this a step further by requiring users to balance, rather than taking their full weight in a seated position. The idea is that balancing keeps critical muscles in use and improves posture, as well as discouraging sitting still for long periods without a break.