Office chairs – a buyers guide

If you are looking to buy some office chairs please make sure you read our top ten tips before making your purchase. It’s your back you are damaging for the sake of a few pounds so ignore this advise at your peril :-

1 ) Don’t buy cheap – Spend as much as you can afford, even if you have to spend less on your desk. Your desk is just a surface, whereas your chairs need to support you correctly for long periods of time. It needs to be adjustable to suit your weight and size, and others who may also use your chair.

Many back problems are caused by bad posture, and sitting in a badly designed chair or one which is not the right size for you will not support you properly and this will lead to a bad posture


2) Floating backrest -The chair should have a decent floating back mechanism. Very cheap ones have a screw clamp which allows you to alter the rake of the backrest, but then you have to clamp it in that position.

A better version is a permanent contact mechanism which allows you to leave the back rest “floating” to support you as you move. The amount of tension in the backrest is adjustable with a hand-wheel, usually located underneath the chair.

You really should pay a little more for a synchronomic mechanism, where the seat of the chair moves in relation to the floating backrest. These are the most comfortable (and priciest) but will encourage you to keep the backrest in the floating position, and not locked.

3 ) Height adjustment – All chairs should have a gas ram to alter the height of the chair, but many now have independent backrest height adjustment for very little extra cost. This is a worthwhile feature as it allows you to get the chair back in the correct position for you size.

A decent chair will have been designed to support your spine in the correct curvature. You therefore need to lift the lumbar support area to suit your height.

4 ) Seat Slide – The same applies to the seat base, which again is contoured to support you body in the correct position. A tall person will have no support behind their knees and a short person may find that they have too much support. A seat slide mechanism will allow you to get the chair adjusted to suit you perfectly.

5 ) Support – Think about how firm the chair will be in a few years time. The foam will soften and the fabric or leather will stretch. So if the chair is soft and squidgy now it will offer very little support in a year’s time. Go for a firm chair now, and in a year or so it will have softened a little and adapted to your shape.It will provide a much higher level of support, and you will feel less tired and won’t ache so much after extended periods of use.

6 ) Upholstery –  Cheap chairs have cheap coarse weave fabrics that are hot and itchy in the summer and don’t actually wear too well. More expensive chairs will have a tighter weave made from a wool mix material. They will feel better and look nicer, and are harder wearing. And remember that cheap leather chairs are usually only leather faced. You may sit on leather but the rest is vinyl.

7 ) Armrests –   These are very useful in most circumstances but be careful if you sit at a curved desk, so designed so that the desk supports your forearms. Fixed armrests will get in the way and drive you mad. Height adjustable armrests are great because you can lower them when you don’t need them, and once again, height adjustable armrests allow you to change the position to suit your height.

8 ) Guarantee –  Most cheap chairs offer a 5 year guarantee but of you read the small print you will find that the guarantee does not cover the fabric or any moving parts. So think very carefully about the value of this sort of guarantee

9 ) Gas rams –  Cheap chairs have gas rams rated for 8 stone. More expensive chairs are rated to 14 stone and above.  Overloaded cheap one will fail, and will not be covered by the guarantee.

10 ) Castors – Makes sure the chair has a wide 5 star base with the correct castors for the type of flooring you have. Most office chairs are supplied with hard wheel castors, suited to short pile carpets. Soft wheel castors are available for use on wood or laminate floors, and some are even braked when not under load. These are used on hard floors to stop  the chair from moving away from you when you stand up.

All of these tips are pretty obvious if you think about them. The more comfortable you want to be the more adjustments you need, which means more expense. Reliable and comfortable chairs are designed and made to be so; cheap chairs are just made to be cheap.