If your job involves sitting at a desk for most of your day, you might already know how important a good chair is. Having a chair that is comfortable and supportive can make it easier to get through a long day with less back and neck pain. Being more comfortable can also increase your productivity by allowing you to focus more on your work than on any pain or general discomfort.
You may have seen commercials claiming that “sitting is the new smoking” and “comfort kills careers.” Don’t believe it. It is absolutely true that sitting for hours on end can be hard on your body and mind. Taking a short break from sitting at your desk once an hour or so can be a good way to stretch your muscles, which helps promote healthier circulation in addition to being good for your muscles. A few minutes away from your workstation can also help clear your head and refocus your energy. Sitting in an uncomfortable, unsupportive chair is far worse for your productivity than being well supported. When we’re uncomfortable, our focus drifts away from what we should be doing while we fidget and try to find a reason–any reason–to get away from our desks. If your office allows standing desks (most of which will easily convert from a standing desk to a more conventional one), it’s certainly something to consider, but unless you want to stand all day, you’ll still need a great chair. There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a new chair. We’ll take a look at a few below.
One thing to consider in a chair is the height of the back. A well-made chair will offer a good degree of support for users of all heights, but most high-backed chairs and even some mid-height versions are uncomfortable for a lot of shorter users. The curve of the back tends to line up poorly with their own spines, and the added height of the chair back can add to neck strain by making it difficult to to get full neck range of motion. Taller users, on the other hand, may find that shorter backs are less supportive and less comfortable.
Whether or not a chair should have arms is largely a matter of preference. Having chair arms at a height that allows for a natural resting position of your arms can help ease back and shoulder strain if you spend a lot of time sitting, but not necessarily always typing or otherwise bent over your desk. Larger people and shorter people sometimes find arms on a chair to be constricting or otherwise inconvenient.
Generally speaking, lumbar support is one of a chair’s most important factors. If you need to sit for much of your work day, finding a chair that offers the best lower back support is critical. The best support might feel odd if you’re not used to it, but you’ll very quickly adjust to a chair that matches the natural curve of your spine and then you’ll wonder how you ever functioned without it.
One feature that can actually all but negate good lumbar support is a seat that is too shallow or, worse yet, too deep. You need a chair that allows you to sit fully against the back while your feet rest fully on the floor with your knees at a roughly 90-degree angle. If you have to “scoot up” to rest your feet on the floor, you won’t get any back support at all. Likewise, if you’re tall enough (or the seat is shallow enough) that your knees are practically bumping into your keyboard tray, your upper body might get decent support, but the awkward lower-body angles could be detrimental.
Comfort features such as great cushioning versus a breathable mesh are strictly a matter of preference and should be secondary to finding the most supportive chair. Your best bet will be a chair that offers multiple adjustments unless, of course, you have the resources to be professionally fitted for a high-dollar chair.
You can go here for reviews (including comparisons and pros and cons) of several top ergonomic office chair models.