Hello, I'm Duncan MacIntyre welcome to my website Blog, I've been involved with quality business seating for over 30 years now - it's a market I'm passionate about.

The aim of the Blog is to keep you up to date with new developments in the office seating market, useful hints and tips as well as health issues like back pain and RSI (repetitive stress injury). We all seem to spend more and more time sitting at PCs and laptops so this is an important matter.

Your comments are welcome as your individual experiences may very well be beneficial to other visitors to the Blog.

Is Your Desk Chair Causing Office Chairitis?

You certainly won't find the condition office chairitis in any medical book. Nonetheless there are thousands of people suffering its effects every day without even realizing it. So what exactly is office chairitis and how do you know if it's affecting you?

Office chairitis is my way of describing the sorts of problems people put up with daily by spending long hours in poorly designed desk chairs.

What are the signs of office chairitis?
Here are some of the clues that your chair is the cause of of this condition.

Lower Back Pain From A Bad Chair

Do you find that after you've been working for an hour or so your shoulders and neck start to ache? And as the day wears on so does your pain.

Maybe for you it's more a case of lower back pain. The base of your back just aches and when you do eventually get up out of your chair you feel as stiff as a rusted hinge.

For others it shows up in the form of nagging discomfort in the undersides of your thighs. No amount of wriggling and moving about in your chair seems to help ease things.

And if you are really unfortunate you may even suffer from several of these problems at the same time.

So much for the problems, what is at the root of them?

What causes office chairitis?
Almost always the cause comes down to sitting in low quality seating.

 Worn Out Chairs Don't Support You

The reason your neck and shoulders are aching is because of the lack of a properly designed seat. Cheap chairs often place your body in a lousy posture and as a result your neck and shoulders end up being badly supported.

This inflicts undue stress on the muscles in your neck and shoulders and as they tire they start protesting in pain.

It can even be down to something like fixed arms on your chair. When they aren't at the right height your shoulders often get hunched up in the air forcing your upper body into an unnatural posture.

A similar problem arises with your lower back. For good back comfort it's necessary to maintain the natural curvature of your spine, known as lordosis.

When a chair lacks the correct support for your lower back what happens is you start to slump in your chair. Your lower back becomes rounded and what results is this all places a huge additional strain on your lumbar region. Bring on the pain says your brain.

And when pain in the undersides of your thighs is your problem, there's a good chance it's down to your chair too. One of the commonest causes of this is cheap chair foam. The quality of foam in office chairs varies enormously. In cheap chairs it's frequently little more than packaging foam. This type of foam isn't designed to take the constant pressure of your body sitting on it.

Typically after a few months of use this type of foam starts to deteriorate and no longer retains its shape. As it gradually breaks down it isn't long before it all goes flat. And that's when the underside of your legs start to ache from sitting too long on a hard flat surface.

Let's take a look at what you need to do to fix these issues.

How can you tackle it?
When you job involves sitting long hours in a desk chair, unless you want to be in constant pain you have to invest in a proper chair.

HÅG Futu Ergonomically Designed

A well designed chair takes care of all these problems because it's properly engineered to do the heavy lifting for you.

So it places your body in a good and well supported posture. This prevents the aches and pains so you can concentrate on doing your job properly.

Of course you are looking at a sizable investment around $500 or more. And before you protest that you couldn't spend this much on an office chair lets look at the cost over it's lifetime.

Chairs at this level are designed to last between 5 and 10 years. We know this because the makers guarantee them for these sorts of periods and in some cases even longer.

So let's be conservative and assume we will get 7 years use form our chair and run the math on it. Working on a 40 hour week and 48 working weeks a year for 7 years our $500 chair works out at an overall daily cost of just under 30 cents.

So the cure for office chairitis is only 30 cents a day. Unfortunately there is no payment plan for this, I just want you to know this is the barrier to having a proper chair that isn't going to screw up your back.

I was at a computer and electronics fair recently and there was a guy selling clones of the iPhone 4S for about 10% of retail. At first glance they appeared to be the same. However when you looked at the screen you realized that HD in this case stood for horrible definition, the resolution was like a sixties TV set.

Exactly the same thing happens in office chairs. There are loads of cheap copies out there, they may look great. However reality only hits home once you start to use them. Your eyes may be fooled, your muscles won't. You really do get what you pay for.

Here's a quick checklist of the points we've covered:

  • Office chairitis is caused by badly designed seating
  • Fixed arms can often lead to neck and shoulder pain
  • Chair backs lacking the right support cause lower back pain
  • Worn out seat foam leads to upper leg discomfort
  • The cost to cure office chairitis with a proper chair is under 30 cents a day

Further information
This short video explains what you need on an office chair to get proper comfort. And here's where you can find some great chairs built to support you for many years.

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Is It Possible To Exercise In An Office Chair? Simple Tips For Keeping Fit At Work

We all know that sitting in an office chair all day isn't the healthiest pastime in the world. Still, as we're stuck with it it's a case of making the best of a bad job. Hopefully you have a decent chair and you have taken the time to set it all up correctly to make sure you're working as healthily as possible.

So what else can you do to keep your body fit? How about exercising in your task chair?

Is it possible to exercise in an office chair?
It may seem odd and yet it's really quite simple to exercise in you chair as you go about your daily tasks. Not only that it makes a lot of sense to build in these routines into your working life. It's important to keep your muscles moving when you want to keep them in good shape.

Let's take a look at some ways you can exercise while sitting at you desk.

Exercises to keep your neck and shoulders healthy
For most people it's likely their neck and shoulders take the most strain when sitting all day. This is no surprise because it's just too easy to lock your head frontwards as you work away.

Here are a couple of ideas for exercises you can do in your office chair to help things.

Sit in your chair facing forwards and grip the side of the seat of your chair with your left arm. Next tilt your head down towards your right shoulder and feel the stretch in your muscles on top of your left shoulder. Hold this for about 15 seconds, then relax and repeat.

Follow this by doing the same for your right shoulder using your right arm to grip your chair seat.

Next, sit facing forwards, rest your left arm on top of your left leg with your right arm hanging naturally from your shoulder pointing to the floor. Gently turn your head to the left and look over your shoulder. Keep things relaxed and don't overstretch. Hold this position for about 15 seconds, then return to face forwards and relax for a few moments before repeating the exercise.

Finally do the same for your right hand side by switching the role of your arms.

Next let's move to your legs.

Exercises for keeping your legs toned
Your legs tend to take a lot of hammer when you sit all day, so let's look at how we can rejuvenate them.

Turn your chair to one side so you have space to stretch out your legs with feet on the floor. Lift your right knee upwards and grasp the front of it just under the knee with both hands. Pull the bent leg towards you gently and hold this position for about 20 seconds. This will get a good stretch into your leg muscles. Lower your leg and relax and then do the same for your left leg.

Next, again sitting to one side place your legs out in front of you with feet on the floor. Place your right leg over your left leg so you are sitting cross legged. Take your left hand and grip the outside of your right knee pulling it to the left. At the same time turn your head to look over your right shoulder with your right arm by your side. Hold this position for about 20 seconds and then return to your original position and relax for a few moments.

Repeat the exercise for your other side. This stretches the muscles in your trunk which tend to get very little activity when you are sitting.

What else can you do?

How else can you keep fit in the office?
As well as exercising it's important to get up out of your chair frequently during the day. Keeping things moving is the best way to prevent muscles from tiring and getting overused. When you get the opportunity move out of your chair and walk for a short while. Do some simple stretches too as this all helps get mobility back into your body.

How often should you exercise?
It's a mistake to think that one set of exercises a day is enough. You should aim to do these simple stretches at twice in the morning and again in the afternoon. And it goes without saying if you have any health issues always seek professional advice before trying out new exercises.

So what are you waiting for? Make a start on toning up those tired muscles by exercising in your office chair.

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What Is The Most Popular Office Chair? Lifehacker Poll Result

Lifehacker the site dedicated to tips and tricks for getting things done has just produced the results of one of its Hive Five polls on what is the most popular office chair.

It had earlier published an excellent article about spending money where you spend your time. The article identified your bed and your office chair as major contenders for where you spend most of your life.

It argued that it made sense to invest the right money in the right solution for your needs.

Back to the poll.

How did it conduct the poll?
Lifehacker invited readers to nominate their favorite office chair and from these submissions it then produced its Hive Five shortlist of the five contenders. Readers then cast their votes and in total there was an impressive 4884 votes.

Here are the chairs that made the final five

  • Herman Miller Aeron
  • Herman Miller Embody
  • Steelcase Leap
  • Raynor Ergohuman
  • IKEA Markus

And how did it all turn out?

Which chair came top of the poll?
Herman Miller's Aeron came first with a commanding 41.84% of the votes cast.

Aeron chair

Reclining In An Aeron Chair

It's perhaps not altogether surprising that it won the most votes as it's probably the best known office chair in the world. It's likely many of those who voted have used one where they work.

Mind you there were plenty of dissenters about the merits of the Aeron, like these.

“Although I love the customization of the Aeron, I hate how it feels sitting in the chair. The seat is essentially elastic mesh, so bigger, taller, and larger people sink into the center; being 6ft 3 the frame cuts into the back of my legs.”

“I was so uncomfortable in my Aeron chair at work that I replaced it with a $20 yoga ball. Best decision I've ever made.”

It's always been a chair that that tends to attract both positive and negative reaction from users, most love and yet some hate it.

Miller also took second spot with its Embody chair attracting 13.84% of the poll's voters.

What about chairs that didn't make the shortlist?
A number of people were surprised about the chairs that weren't in the list like the Humanscale Freedom. This is always going to be a problem with a poll like this, a worthy contender will often get overlooked.

Nonetheless it's good to see a lively discussion about quality office seating for a change. Far too often people end up sitting in rubbishy chairs for long hours and wonder why they suffer discomfort and back pain.

Further information
Here's where you can find the Lifehacker article with poll results for the most popular office chair. And in case you maybe feel it's not worth investing in a good chair take a look at the Lifehacker article The Comfort Principle: Spend Money Where You Spend Your Time it's paints a convincing picture of why it makes sense to invest in a proper chair.

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What Some Office Chair Suppliers Don’t Tell You: Is It Really As Good As It Looks?

The office chair industry is made up of many reputable suppliers who are very open about their products and what they are intended for. However there are also those in the industry who choose to hide deficiencies in their products, usually by omitting to tell you certain things.

Chances are you've bought something at some time that simply didn't live up to your expectations. Maybe the supplier made false claims about it, or simply chose not to tell you about significant shortcomings.

Let's take a look at some of the things you're not always told about office seats.

How long should a chair last under normal usage?
Virtually no chair manufacturer comes right out and tells you how long its chairs will last. This perhaps isn't altogether surprising as the amount and type of use a chair gets can vary enormously.

Nonetheless, to find the answer to this question is actually fairly simple. All you need to do is to see how long the supplier is prepared to guarantee the product for. So if it's 5 years or longer then this is a very positive indicator because it shows a good level of confidence by the manufacturer. After all, would you warrant a product for longer than you expected it to last?

Anything under 2 years shows little confidence in the quality of the product and is best avoided, unless you like buying new chairs every 18 months.

Some suppliers are prepared to go the extra mile.

What sort of use is the chair suitable for?
The majority of chair suppliers don't tend to tell you what the chair is suitable for, leaving it up to you to decide. However some companies rate their chairs for usage. They will state whether it's intended for long term computer use and this is a good thing. At least you know whether it's built to be used for 8 hour a day or not. If it's not stated, use the guarantee period as a quick guide, if it's 5 years or greater chances are it will handle all day use.

As an extra vote of confidence, some even state that their warranty covers multi year 24/7 use. This is a very positive indicator.

What other things do you need to be wary of?

How about the quality of the seating foam?
This is a really difficult one to assess. The foam used in office chairs varies enormously. The problem is when it's new it all feels great and supportive whether it's good or bad. It's how it performs in the months ahead that matters.

You frequently see people complain that the foam in their chair is no longer resilient and is hard and flat. The reason this happens is the manufacturer used low quality foam which quickly breaks down and goes rigid.

At the other end of the spectrum firms such as Humanscale guarantee its chairs for 15 years, so you won't have flat seat syndrome with its seats.

Unfortunately, there is no simple way to assess foam quality other than to check the warranty period and use it to guide you.

Another area to be wary of is the product's description.

Common meaningless or misleading terms
One of the buzz words in office seating is the claim that a chair is ergonomic. What does this mean? In reality very little, I'm afraid.

There is no set standard for an ergonomic office chair, consequently it can mean pretty much anything. Although many chairs described as ergonomic are quality chairs, an awful lot aren't. Less reputable suppliers just add it to the product description to make it sound better. You'll find a link at the end of this article on how to know if a chair deserves the description ergonomic.

Something you see more and more, especially on low end chairs is the description faux leather. It's a neat way of making plastic sound more like leather. It doesn't alter the fact that faux is really fake. With that said, there are some very good vinyls made to look like leather because of the environment the chair will be used in which just wouldn't be suitable in real leather.

More often than not though faux is just a way of making something inferior sound like the real thing.

Putting it all together
Here's a summary of the key points we've covered:

  • When you want to know how long a chair will last – check the guarantee
  • Many chairs don't tell you what usage they are suitable for
  • Seating foam quality varies a lot – let the chair warranty guide you
  • Ergonomic office chair has no meaning, some suppliers use it to mislead
  • Faux means imitation, it often flatters to deceive

Further information
To help you choose a good chair take a look at this short video which helps to demystify what an ergonomic office chair really is and needs to include.

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You Only Get One Back: Is Your Office Chair Ruining It?

Have you ever observed a young baby as soon as it has learnt to sit up? If you have you may well have been struck by the beautiful posture of the child's back.

The spine is straight and shoulders sit naturally by it's side. Not only that, the side movement of the head is huge compared to the average adult. Babies can easily turn their heads well over 90 degrees to the left or right.

Sadly, in a few short years it all starts to go downhill. Sitting in lousy seating at school and then hours in front of a TV or computer soon starts to take its toll.

So, even by the time you start work, it's likely you will have lost a fair amount of the natural back movement you had as a young child. This makes it important that you pick a good office seat if you spend most of the working day sitting in one.

Let's look at how the wrong chair only makes things worse.

How a bad office chair damages your back
To keep your back healthy you need to avoid office chairs with poor back supports. Chairs with low fixed backs aren't a good idea as they leave large areas of your back unsupported.

Chairs that have no lumbar support should be avoided too. The most important area of you back to support is the lower back or lumbar region. Unshaped chair backs are unlikely to give you the support you need. And backs with exaggerated shapes can be just as bad and should be avoided to.

If you prefer a mesh back chair make sure it doesn't have a poorly designed hard plastic frame because it can dig into your back.

So, what should you look for to get proper back support?

What should you chair back include?
The most important feature of any office chair back is that it provides you with good support for your lower back. Ideally it should be able to be adjusted to nest comfortably into the small of your back.

On a chair with a small or medium height back it should be height adjustable with some light shaping allowing it to rest comfortably into your lumbar region.

Alternatively, it may include a separate lumbar support which can be positioned to suit your needs. This is quite popular on chairs with high backs which may well be fixed. Often they have an adjustable lumbar support to fine tune things.

With mesh backs it's best to avoid really cheap chairs as the mesh won't support your back. Better quality chairs use mesh designed to give good support and these sometimes use two or three ply mesh specifically made for the purpose.

And even when you have a chair with good back support you can always do more.

How else can you look after your back?
Sitting for hours on end is not a good idea even in the best of chairs. Our body craves movement and when it doesn't get it it starts to ache. This is nature's way of saying it's time to move.

Getting up out of your chair every 30 minutes or so is a good idea. Take a quick break and make yourself a cup of coffee or tea. Also, do some quick stretches to keep your body supple. This doesn't mean you have to start doing some strenuous exercise routine. Just a few simple stretches is all that is needed to keep things moving healthily.

The older you get the more important this becomes. Unfortunately you will never get back all the healthy posture you had as a baby. Nonetheless it's vital that we maintain our backs by giving them the best support and help we can.

A good chair combined with some basic stretches will go a long way to looking after your back.

Further information
Selecting the right chair back is important, however there are other features that matter too. This short video explains what a good ergonomic office chair should include.


Is A Mesh Chair Right For You? Video


In the short video below we're going to look at whether a mesh office chair is the right chair for you.

When did mesh chairs first appear?
Mesh office chairs really all began with the Aeron back in 1994 and it's still the 800lb gorilla of mesh office seating. Its open weave upholstery called the pellicle created an alternative type of seat covering. It allows excellent air circulation around the body and works well for people who sweat a lot. However it's not for everyone.

When can mesh chairs cause problems?
Many mesh office chairs including the Aeron are a lot firmer to sit on. So if you've got used to a well padded seat changing to mesh might cause you discomfort.

Light framed users often find this because they have less flesh on their bodies. They sometimes find they miss foam padding which used to form a cushioning barrier between their bottom and seat. For most people this shouldn't be a problem as long as you are aware it's likely to be a firmer sit.

Why are mesh chairs so popular?
As soon as the Aeron took off seating manufacturers rushed to create their own me too versions. Whilst some of these seats are very good the bulk of them are best avoided. The mesh doesn't support you properly even though it allows air to circulate.

Which are the best mesh office chairs?
With so many different mesh chairs to choose from these days it's difficult to make a finite choice. Obviously the Aeron has to be on your shortlist and provided you're happy you can handle its firmer sitting posture it should work well for you.

However if this is a problem there are a couple of hybrid mesh chairs worth looking at. Both have lightly padded seats and top quality form sensing mesh backs for great support. First there is the Liberty chair a very elegant looking chair which will support you comfortably for hours. Then there is the more recently introduced Diffrient World chair. This was named after its designer Neils Diffrient who designed both of these chairs. There is also an all mesh version of the Diffrient World too.

As you can see from the photos there is an absence of the usual levers and knobs on these chairs as they are both self-adjusting. Apart from seat and arm height you just sit and let the chairs do the support work. And the 3D mesh moulds to your body supporting it comfortably.

If you are on a tight budget Balt's Ergo Ex Ergonomic Mesh Chair is well with considering. It is highly adjustable and comes with a padded seat.

So let's summarize:

  • Mesh chairs all began with Herman Miller's Aeron
  • Bear in mind mesh seats are a firmer sit and so aren't suitable for everyone
  • Mesh chairs allow excellent air circulation which is great if you tend to sweat
  • Modern hybrids like the Liberty and Diffrient World offer all day comfort and if you are on a tight budget Balt's Ergo Ex is definitely worth a look.

Further information
For more information about mesh office chairs and which one is right for you, be sure to visit


Anatomy Of An Office Chair Part 4: The Chair Back

In this final part of our look at the key elements of an office chair it's time for the chair back to take center stage.

Chair backs come in many different formats, the commonest is the foam padded back usually upholstered in the same fabric as the seat.

Typically backs are offered in low, medium or high versions. If you going for a low or medium size back then you want to make sure it's height adjustable so it can give you proper support.

The most important thing is to ensure your lower back gets good support. Although some high backs are also height adjustable it's less important, provided it offers good lumbar support.

Let's look at how backs adjust.

How adjustable height chair backs work
Chair backs adjust in a number of different ways. A popular method is the ratchet back which is very simple to set up. Built into the back support is a ratchet mechanism. To move it up you would normally grip the back on each side at its base and push it up gently. As you do so you will find the back clicks a little higher to a number of preset positions. So once you find the one that works for you that's it.

And in case you need to start out again if you lift the back up to its maximum height it usually drops back down to the lowest position so you can start over if necessary.

Sometimes there may be a couple of buttons to press in while you adjust the back. As soon as you reach the desired height just release them to lock in your preferred height.
Some chairs use a locking knob. You would undo it to let you move the back and then tighten it again to save the height setting.

So much for adjustable backs what if it's fixed?

Is it OK to use a fixed height back?
In the right situation a fixed back is fine. It needs to be a full height back so it covers up to your shoulders or beyond. Ideally it should include some sort of lumbar support which needs to be adjustable. That way you can fine tune it for your lower back.

Some chairs have exposed lumbar supports while yet others are built into the chair back itself.

Some of the more sophisticated chairs these days like Humanscale's Liberty and Diffrient World chairs have a 3 ply mesh specifically designed to give your back support where it's most needed.

Others like Herman Miller's Sayl chair uses a cleverly designed open plastic material. This is reinforced in the areas where most support is needed making sure you gain proper comfort.

In the case of Steelcase's Think chair it has an open weave fabric behind which are a series of lateral wire supports designed to take up the shape of the user's back.

All of these innovative back designs have the added advantage of providing excellent air circulation, which is a great help for sweaty backs in summer.

Here are the key points we covered

  • Low and medium height backs should be height adjustable
  • Backs usually adjust via ratchets, buttons or locking knobs
  • The most important thing is to get good lumbar support
  • It's OK for backs to be fixed provided they are designed to support you properly
  • Some modern chairs use specialist mesh or plastics to support you correctly

This concludes our look at the various parts of an office chair here's where you can find further information on some great chairs with all the features you need.


Anatomy Of An Office Chair Part 3: Selecting The Right Chair Arms

In the third of our series on the anatomy of an office chair it's time to turn to chair arms and what you need to do to get proper working comfort.

The majority of office chairs start with no arm versions and then have one or more arm options to consider. Most people prefer to have arms on their desk chair because they offer welcome support while you work.

However, all too many chairs have fixed arms and they are rarely a good idea. In fact you're probably better using a chair with no arms than one with fixed arms.

Why is this?

The drawback of fixed arms
As indicated by the name fixed arms don't adjust. No matter where you would like them to be they're always going to be in the same place. Unfortunately more often than not they set your lower arms in an unnatural position. And that's not all, they also push your shoulders and neck into an unhealthy posture too.

You might just get lucky and find they are alright for you.

That's rare though. What's needed is something with a bit more flexibility.

Simple height adjustable arms
This sort of arm allows users to move the arms up and down vertically.

simple adjustable arms

Simple Height Adjustable Arms Leap Chair

They are very easy to adjust normally it's just a case of pressing a button to move them up and down. So straight away you are able to rest your lower arms in a comfortable position.

However it's just as important to make sure your shoulders are correctly supported. They should be placed in a relaxed posture and not hunched up in the air.

Some arms have an option for padded tops and this is always worth going for. Hard arm tops can soon cause lower arm discomfort even when your arms are correctly supported.

What other refinements can you get with adjustable arms?

Highly adjustable arms
Whilst simple height adjustable arms will answer most people's needs there are some useful refinements worth considering on more sophisticated arms.

Here are some of the possibilities.

You can get arms which allow you to angle the actual arm tops inwards and outwards. This can be useful for people with narrow shoulders as it sets the arm supports closer together. As well as this some slide forwards and backwards which can also be handy for fine tuning your arm support.

A number of chairs let you alter the width between the chair's arms. Mostly this is done when assembling the chair, although a few can be easily adjusted at any time. The good thing about width adjustment is it means you can set the arms up to better suit your shoulder width. Once adjusted you arms sit vertically aligned with your shoulders so you aren't straining them at odd angles.

It's also possible to find arms that push out of the way when you don't need them.

swing arm

Swing Back Arm Detail HÅG H05

This can be handy when you want to work close in at your desk. Different chairs handle this in different ways. Humanscale's Freedom chair lets you rapidly drop the arms to seat level. On HÅG's H05 chair the arms swing back around the back of the chair. And Neutral Posture chairs let you swing the arms down towards the underside of the chair.

Let's recap on what matters on chair arms


  • Fixed arms are bad, they rarely support your arms and shoulders properly
  • Simple height adjustable arms are fine for most people
  • Choose padded arm tops if available
  • Highly adjustable arms can add some useful extra features

That's it for chair arms. In the next article we will be looking at the final part of the puzzle the chair's back.


Anatomy Of An Office Chair Part 2: The All Important Seat

This week we move on to the heart of any office chair, the seat. It's easy to think that the seat doesn't matter too much as long as it's comfortable. Nonetheless there is a lot more to office chair seats than it may seem. The chair may have loads of levers attached to it, however if those controls don't pull the right strings they won't be of much use.

It's not the levers that matter it's what they control and the way the seat operates that is important.

Seat functions
At first glance the seat of an office chair appears to be the place to park your butt while you work. While this is true there is a lot more to it than this. There are 2 functions that are critical if you are going to stay comfortable for any length of time.

Let's dive into them now.

Seat depth adjustment
When you sit for prolonged periods you may well find you suffer discomfort in your legs. One of the main reasons this happens is because the depth of the seat is wrong for the length of you legs.

seat slide

Seat Depth Adjuster on HAG 4400 Chair

So what results is your legs aren't properly supported and muscles get overloaded leading to pain.

A good seat will include a means of adjusting the depth to suit your legs.

This is usually done with a lever allowing the seat to slide forwards or backwards to set it to the correct depth for your comfort.

On some chairs the back moves in and out, overall it achieves the same result.

That's one problem solved, here's the next one to fix.

Seat tension adjustment
We all need to relax and recline in our task chair from time to time. Imagine if you just sat hunched over your work all day and couldn't recline, it would be a nightmare wouldn't it?

tension knob

Tension Controller On HAG H09 Chair

Nearly all office chairs recline, however it's only useful if it's easy to use.

Humans vary a lot in size and weight. Consequently when you recline in your chair it needs to be tuned to your weight so you can do so smoothly.

This is achieved by an under seat adjuster, usually a knob set centrally at the front. Turning it one way increases the amount of pressure required to recline easily. And the opposite way to decrease the pressure needed.

There is nothing worse than constantly fighting with your chair when you want to lean back. With a tension adjuster your problem is over and it's a one off thing too. Set it and forget it.

And some manufacturers have even automated these problems.

Self adjusting seats
Quite a few chairs now are designed to automate these settings.

Quite simply as you sit in the chair it senses your size and weight and automatically compensates without the need for any manual adjustment.

As technology improves more and more seats will come with useful like this.

So that's taken care of the critical functions you need, lets turn to the finishes office seats come in.

Seat upholstery
More often than not the seat will be finished in either fabric, leather, vinyl or mesh. In the case of the first 3 they can all be applied to the same basic make up which usually comprises a foam core supported on either a wood or plastic under frame. In the case of mesh it doesn't have these components and is usually self supporting being stretched over an outer plastic frame.

Let's consider each finish in a little more detail.

Fabric upholstery
This is the commonest finish and comes in a huge range of colors and qualities. It's always a good idea to check how hard wearing a material is and this is usually expressed as the rub count. The higher the number the better.

Leather upholstery
Leather varies hugely in quality. So when you see a leather chair for $50 be assured the leather will be of very low quality. If you want a good leather you should look for a hide finish. This is premium leather and doesn't come cheap, expect a 3 figure on cost for the best ones.

Vinyl upholstery
This is useful for where you have a finish that may get dirty quickly and can be easily wiped clean. It's also used as faux leather on many cheap chairs.

Mesh upholstery
The great thing with mesh is it's breathable and allows good air circulation. This is great for those hot sweaty summer days. There is also a wide ranging difference in the quality and comfort of mesh upholstery. Poor quality ones should be avoided as they don't support you properly and just sag as you sit on them.

Top quality mesh is often built up in multiple layers in a 3d structure to ensure your body is properly supported.

Selecting the right upholstery for your needs will come down to personal preference and available budget.

Here's a quick summary of what we've covered.


  • The functions on an office chair seat are critical for good comfort
  • Seat depth needs to be adjustable to fit your legs
  • Seat tension needs to be easily changed to match your weight
  • Some chairs adjust automatically
  • Upholstery may come in fabric, leather, vinyl or mesh

In the next post we move on to chair arms and what you need to look for and avoid.


Anatomy Of An Office Chair: The 5 Key Components

All office swivel chairs are made up from 5 key components:

  • Base
  • Pneumatic lift
  • Seat
  • Back
  • Arms

Most of these parts are critical to your working comfort. Over the next few weeks we're going to take a deeper look at them as we delve into what matters. We will cover the things you should be looking for as a minimum and what you should take care to avoid.

So let's get right into the first of them the chair base.

Different types of chair base
Swivel chair bases come in a number of different materials, including plastic, steel, aluminum, and wood (usually on a steel base). The one common thing with all these different types of base is they have 5 arms. Years ago 4 star bases were the norm, however these were superseded by 5 star versions as they are much more stable.

Let's take a look at each type and what matters.

Plastic bases

These are by far the most common form of office chair swivel base in use today. Modern plastic technology makes it easy to produce high quality injection molded bases.

5 star plastic base

Office chair plastic base

The main advantages of plastic bases are they are strong and lightweight. They are also cost effective to produce too.

It's important to choose a base with reinforcing struts as part of the construction as they make it far stronger and able to take the stresses applied to it.

So when choosing a plastic base make sure it includes reinforcing. The underside should have a honeycomb of plastic cross members which combine to keep it rigid.

Steel bases
Steel bases have started to become more common over recent years, particularly on cheaper chairs from China. These are very often chrome plated which makes them look high quality. Unfortunately they are often anything but. When you look at the underside of the base the steel is often heavily pitted and of low quality. Sometimes the ends of the arms where the wheels attach have been crudely crimped to form a curved shape. This weakens the steel at the very point where it needs to be strongest.

Definitely avoid these sorts of bases on cheap chairs. On better quality chairs steel bases are normally finished in paint, satin or polished chrome and are very robust. So no quality issues with these.

Aluminum bases
Aluminum makes a great material for a swivel base. It is both lightweight and strong.

aluminum base

Polished aluminum base

Due to its flexibility in manufacture it's often used to make great designs maybe incorporating curves or shaping to give it a unique look. The aluminum often has either a satin or polished finish.

Paint finishErgo Depot bases are also popular too. Generally speaking aluminum bases are only found on better quality chairs as it's too expensive to meet the price point of cheap chairs.

Wood bases
Wood bases are less common these days. They are mostly used where the user wants to match the chair finish to a natural wood desk. With these bases the wood is decorative. The base has a steel core and the wood is fitted on top of it. Unless you turn the chair upside down you wouldn't be aware it was made like this.

So much for bases let's move on to the gas lift.

Pneumatic gas lifts
The purpose of a chair's gas lift is to provide easy height adjustment for the user. Although they do come in different qualities generally speaking most gas lifts will handle the loads imposed on them. Just be sure to check the load capacity, most will support users up to 250lbs in weight.

Some suppliers offer more than one height of gas lift to cater for different height users. Here's a quick rule of thumb. When standing without shoes on, measure from the floor to your knee joint. Then make sure the gas lift will adjust a little above and below this measurement and you should be fine.

OK that's it for chair bases and gas lifts, the next post takes a look at the heart of any office chair, the seat.

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