Desk-bound people spend most of their work days on a chair and at around 40 hours per week, they spend a large portion of their lives sitting on a chair. Office chairs are more than just padded seats and arguably more important than office tables. However, normally more money is spent on office tables than office chairs.
Same is true for home offices, making it important to use a supportive and comfortable chair both at the workplace and at home. All chairs are not created equal as they are designed for different purposes. This post covers some of the most common types of chairs and things to consider when buying one for an office as well as for personal use.
Types of Office Chairs
As the name suggests, these chairs are designed for extended use and most office chairs fall in this category. Durable frames, padded seat and back and armrests are the common features of these chairs, while most of these chairs also allow some ergonomic adjustments.
These chairs are lighter and smaller than regular office chairs, making them suitable for smaller people. The main reason anyone would want to consider a petite chair is better ergonomics as the armrests are appropriately positioned for people who have a shorter or smaller build.
It’s might be to differentiate between 24-hour and computer chairs, but 24-hour chairs are usually more ergonomic than computer chairs, allowing users to make adjustments for better comfort. A durable base with smooth rolling casters results in effortless movement at the office or home.
These chairs are more expensive than computer and 24-hour chairs and are designed for better adjustability and comfort. Ergonomic chairs feature lumbar support and allow users to make all the important adjustments, including seat and back height, depth, knee tilt and armrests. These chairs are highly recommended for people who sit for extended periods of time whether at office or at home. Gaming chairs are similar to ergonomic chairs in most aspects, but are specifically designed to help gamers maintain an appropriate posture.
24-hours or standard office chairs might not be a perfect fit for everyone, especially tall and heavy-weight users. These chairs have a weight capacity of more than 250 lbs. and provide extra room for users who want more space. Some people also consider them as chairs for managers and executives as they are expensive and feature a heavy-duty construction with extra padding and support. However, bigger chair can be inexpensive and use standard materials and cushioning.
Although these chairs look fairly similar to bigger/taller chairs, ample cushioning, use of high-end materials such as top-grain leather and better craftsmanship differentiate them from bigger chairs. Executive chairs are designed to make an impression and come with a matching price. Executive chairs also usually come with the full range of ergonomic features to justify the price tag and are reserved for top-level executives and senior managers.
Designed for meeting spaces and boardrooms, conference chairs are slightly forward leaning, allowing users to effortlessly engage in discussions and meetings. Compared to regular office chairs, conference chairs provide minimal seat adjustments and are not meant for all-day seating.
Drafting Chairs and Stools
Drafting chairs are fairly similar to regular office chairs when it comes to adjustments and other features, but they also have a foot ring and are mostly paired with drafting tables. Stools are more like a mobile chair for short-term use and are generally used in clinics and dentist offices.
Instead of positioning user’s thighs on a 90-degree angle, kneel chairs are designed to position them at a 60-70-degree angle. These chairs are recommended for people who want an office-like chair to reduce lower-back strain such as people suffering from chromic back pain. However, they are not suitable for use as a regular office chair as they are not so comfortable.
Since people usually sit for a short period of time at the reception area, it does not make a lot of financial sense in spending a lot of money on expensive office chairs. These single-person chairs don’t have any seat adjustments and come in different designs such as sled-base, cantilever base and four-leg base.
These chairs are affordable and somewhat comfortable, which makes them suitable for short-term seating. They are not recommended for regular offices/home office use as they lack posture support and it can become quite uncomfortable to sit on these after some time (1-2 hours).
Stacking and Folding Chairs
As the name suggests, stacking chairs are designed to save space when not in use and can be stacked together easily. They are lightweight and very portable and suitable for events such as fundraising or when more seating is needed for extra guests. Folding chairs also serve a similar purpose and work well as a temporary seating arrangement.
Armless chairs are versatile, allow easy movement and can accommodate different seating styles. Since there are no armrests, moving in and out of these chairs is a lot easier, which is particularly useful when scouting closely to a working surface. Armless chairs also help save space and can be placed right next to each other without wasting any space.
Tablet Arm Chairs
Instead of two armrests, these chairs have either a single or a double writing surface attached to the arms. The writing surface can be fixed or swiveling and is suitable for users who have to write a lot or work with input devices and prefer to keep things closer.
Benches are durable, save space and mostly used in hospitals, parks, lobbies etc. where it’s not possible to put a lot of revolving chairs for visitors.
Designed for more comfort and also known as couches, sofas provide more comfort and are typically used in guest areas and large corporate offices. Sofas that only accommodate two people are known as loveseats and some offices use pairs of these to accommodate more than two people.
Individual seats attached to a metal bar are referred to as beam or tandem seating. Compared to benches beam sitting provides separate seats, but takes up more space than benches. Beam sitting is mostly used in waiting and reception areas where there is a need to accommodate more people in a tight space. These seats are also easy to clean and maintain and come with or without armrests.
Things to Consider When Buying an Office Chair
It’s important to consider good office chairs when planning and designing an office as they can improve productivity and reduce health related issues. Although it can be difficult to invest in top-end office furniture with limited financial resources, there are a few things that can help make a better buying decision.
The frame of an office chair helps determine the kind of support and durability you can expect, while a quality frame also makes a visual statement. Aluminum frames are corrosion-resistant and offer a great balance between durability and weight. However, aluminum frames are easy to scratch and not as durable as metal or steel frames.
Chrome has a polished appearance, is very easy to clean and is durable, but it also costs more. Metal on the other hand is cost effective, but prone to rusting (without proper care). That’s why metal is powder-coated for protection and a polished look.
Steel offers the middle ground between metal and aluminum and although steel frame chairs are a little pricier, they are low maintenance and last for a long time. Wood is commonly used in executive chairs and has a higher initial cost than other frames. Nylon is lightweight, durable and cost-effective, but not so environment friendly as other options.
- Steel: Durable, corrosion-resistant, low maintenance, smooth appearance
- Aluminum: Lightweight, corrosion resistant, polished appearance
- Metal: Can rust without proper care, durable
- Chrome: polished appearance, durable, easy to clean, corrosion resistant
- Nylon: lightweight and durable, does not look as good as other materials
- Wood: Natural, durable and sophisticated looks
Bonded or faux leather is an inexpensive alternative to genuine leather and is one of the most commonly used seat materials. It looks sophisticated and elegant, but poor breathability, wear and tear and frequent maintenance makes it a less desirable option, especially for people living in hot and humid environments.
Mesh chairs are breathable and very well ventilated, but sitting on mesh chairs can be a problem for people who have to sit for long periods of time (can be uncomfortable). All seat materials have their pros and cons, making it important to consider different factors such as the environment and weather.
- Sophisticated appearance
- Long lasting
- Can shape according to the body
- Feels natural
- Requires occasional maintenance/conditioning
Faux leather/bonded leather
- Looks similar to genuine leather
- Wears out over time
- Not breathable
- Very breathable
- Sleek appearance
- Cost effective
- Better than other materials in hot and humid environments
- Dust can settle in pretty easily, becomes difficult to clean
- Not ideal for long term sitting
- Usually well-padded
- Low maintenance
- Can easily get damaged
- Wears thin after some time
- Stain resistant
- Does not fade easily
- Catches dust and hair pretty easily
- Easy to clean
- Blends well with different decors
- Not as durable as other materials
- High density
- Lacks padding
Proper support for lower back is essential for people who work all day sitting on a chair. Almost all ergonomic chairs provide adjustable lumbar support, while some regular office chairs also come with it. Proper lumbar support helps prevent back strain, sciatica and other spine related issues.
Although most office chairs allow users to adjust arm and height, these are not the only adjustments to consider. Some office chairs come with support for making up to 14 different adjustments, including seat and back angle, lumbar, tension control, arm height as well as width, seat back height and angle.
While almost all office chairs come with a wheelbase, not all are suitable for carpeted workplaces. Users should consider carpet-friendly wheels if they plan on using a chair in carpeted offices/home offices. An office chair should also be able to swivel freely without much resistance, but the wheels should also not be so ‘too smooth’ to prevent unwanted movements.
Try Before You Buy
It’s highly recommended that office managers get some input from the employees who will be using the chairs for extended periods of time. Trying on a chair before purchase ensures that it fits perfectly and gives a fair idea of how it would feel. Most office supply businesses are willing to bring different chairs to the office premises so employees can try them and make a more informed decision. Here are some key points to consider when trying an office chair:
A user should be able to rest his/her feet comfortably on the floor
The backrest should follow spine’s shape and support the lower back curve
The backrest should be easily adjustable
Memory foam cushioning is more comfortable, confirms to the body shape and lasts longer (but also costs more)
There should be at least a 2-3 finger gap between the knee and the seat, which should be long enough
Chair’s back should at least be high enough to touch the middle of shoulder blades, better if even higher
Users should be able to see the center of a computer screen when sitting and looking forward on a chair
Adjustable arm height helps prevent shoulder strain and should allow users to adjust it to match the desk height
Arm rests should allow users to relax their shoulders (should be closer to the user)
Design of the chairs should match office aesthetics and reflect the core values of a business. For example, the color of the chairs should match the brand colors of a business
Furniture items such as colorful ottomans, couches and beanbags promote a friendlier and comfortable workplace, and encourage staff members to socialize during breaks