The chair is probably the most important piece of ergonomic equipment in the office. There is no chair that is ergonomically superior for all people – we come in many shapes and sizes. There are two key factors to consider when choosing a chair:
- Adjustability / Features
- Personal comfort.
Adjustability / Features
Purchasing a chair that may have to serve a number of people in its lifetime requires it to be adjustable. Here I describe the key components of adjustability and some features that I consider to be important and desirable.
- Height – This is the most important requirement. All chairs must have adjustable height.
- Backrest forward/back – This is important to ensure that the back is receiving support it needs.
- Backrest up/down – This ensures that the support is in the best place and that the lumbar inward curve is maintained (important to reduce postural back pain)
- High backrest – this is generally recommended to provide additional support of more of the spine.
- Right size – considerations should be made for short, tall and large people as they may need a non-standard size.
- Seat angle – I generally recommend that this stays fairly level, so don’t consider it an important adjustment for most people. It is helpful for some experiencing back pain to recline the seat slightly forward (reduces the likelihood of slouching). Others like a slight tilt back as it helps keep them at the back of the chair.
- Arm rest height – Arm rests are a matter of personal preference, but if they are present then they should not be at a height that pushes the workers shoulders into a hitched posture. The arms must rest comfortably on them. For this to be achieve in most situation they will need to be adjustable.
- Head rest –not required for most. Only recommended in specific situations.
This is the hardest part of choosing an office chair – i.e. the individual side of the equation. What one person loves, another may not. Some things that might help when making this choice are:
- Seat padding – One consideration here is the AFRDI (Australian Furnishing Research & Development Institute) rating. Ratings run up to 6 and although higher does not mean more comfortable, it does mean a higher quality of material will be used and the chair will be more durable.
- Trial – most good supply companies understand that it is hard to choose off a catalog for something that has a personal comfort nature to it, and will offer trials of chairs. Ask for this if you can. Let them know you are interested in finding a new supplier for your office furniture, and in my experience many companies will come to the party. I think this is one of the most important considerations of all.
- Material – consider fabrics / mesh etc. however do not trade looks for the feature mentioned above.