How To Avoid Buying A Halloween Horror Office Chair: 3 Ghoul Rules You Need To Heed

Avoid Halloween Horror Chairs

Just a few days from now it will be Halloween and families will be having parties with kids enjoying their tricks and treats. Fortunately it’s all just harmless fun and folks have a great time as the nightmares are only make believe.

If you are looking to replace your office chair you need to avoid making for real Halloween mistakes. Because if you get it wrong the ghouls will be with you every minute you sit in your new chair.

It’s actually very easy to be sucked in by what seems like a great office chair. When you are shopping in your local office supplies store chances are you may be tempted by the glitzy display of office seating. And when you sit in the sample chair it feels comfortable too. That's not surprising, when you've been wandering around for a while it’s nice to take the weight off your feet, so it likely will feel welcoming.

It’s only when you've used a chair for an hour or two that its limitations become all too clear.

In this article we’re going to take a look at 3 key ways of avoiding buying the wrong office chair

  • Buying a chair with no tension adjustment
  • Buying a chair with fixed arms
  • Buying a chair solely on price

So let’s look at the first problem.

Don’t buy a chair which lacks tension adjustment
When you spend all day working in a desk chair it’s only natural that you want to relax and recline every now and then. Many cheap chairs have no way of altering the pressure required as you lean back in them.

What you get is a preset tension based on the manufacturer’s best guess on what’s right. You might get lucky, however for many it soon becomes a nightmare.

Light framed people find themselves gripping the chair arms and straining to get the thing to go back. And as soon as you relax the damn thing flips you forward again.

Heavy built people have the opposite problem. The chair just lurches backward without warning threatening to pitch you on the floor.

So, make sure any chair you're thinking of buying let’s you adjust the tilt tension. Some automatically adjust to suit your weight but you won’t find this feature on budget chairs.

Onto the next rule.

Don’t buy a chair with fixed arms
The right arms on an office chair are important. Humans all come in different sizes and it simply isn’t possible to cater for individual preferences with a fixed arm.

You need to make sure the arms on your chair are height adjustable. That way you can set them so your lower arms are comfortably supported with you shoulders resting naturally.

Some arms have additional features like being able to move them forwards, backwards or in and out. These arms are often called highly adjustable and the added features can be useful.

And the last rule.

Never buy an office chair just because it’s cheap
More often than not cheap office chairs turn out to be a very poor bargain in the long run. Occasionally there is an opportunity to get a genuine reduction on a quality chair, maybe a discontinued range or ex showroom item. And that’s fine.

However, what you must avoid is chairs priced around $100 or less. The reason is simple. Chairs like this are made to meet a price point. The only thing on the maker’s mind is how it can cut costs to meet the price. There are a lot of things in a task chair you can’t see and this is where corners get cut.

Low quality seat foam that goes flatter than a squashed ant after a couple months use.
Poor quality steel components that quickly wear and become sloppy or break altogether.
Cheap upholstery that just doesn't last.

Buying on price alone truly is a false economy tempting as it may seem.

So to save yourself from horror chairs:

  • Make sure the chair has tension adjustment to let you relax easily when you need to
  • Fixed arms rarely give good support; make sure you can adjust the height of the arms
  • Don’t buy solely on price; it’s a false economy which you will quickly regret.

Make these part of your selection criteria and your chair won't haunt you the rest of the year.

Here's a useful video and article on the key features that make up a proper ergonomic office chair to help point you in the right direction.


Why Fixed Arms On Office Chairs Work Against You: A Case Of The Tail Wagging The Dog

Of course there’s nothing wrong with using an office chair with fixed arms. What's the big deal? As long as I've got somewhere to rest my arms that’s OK isn't it? Well, yes if you're very lucky it might be but the odds aren't good.

Why fixed arms on an office chair are never a good idea
Even today with all the awareness about potential problems with Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) and carpal tunnel issues fixed arms are still the norm on many office chairs. This inflexible way of working is not good for as number of reasons.

First, most fixed arm designs are based more on coming up with a sexy shape than what they should do – support your arms and shoulders properly. Some have straight tops while others drop away alarmingly at the front, but hey they look cool.

Second, they are usually made from rigid hard plastic and are just plain uncomfortable to use.

Third, little or no thought goes into the design of them in terms of their height. It’s really all a bit of a lottery as to whether they are right for you. We are all unique and so a fixed arm can never work for more than a small minority of users.

It’s not a good idea to rely on luck that a fixed arm will be right for you. What can you do to find a better solution to fixed arms?

A simple step up adds loads of flexibility
Fortunately many chairs now come with standard adjustable arms and this is a major improvement for your comfort and proper arm support.

There's nothing particularly revolutionary about this sort of arm. Quite simply they quickly adjust up and down, normally by about 3 to 6 inches. Straight away you're able to set the arm height at the right height for your own personal comfort. For the vast majority of people standard adjustable arms are all you need. A number of manufacturers offer even more arm choices.

Adding further comfort refinements
One option you will always find worthwhile is selecting padded arms if available. These include foam padding on the arm tops and greatly increase comfort for the underside of your lower arms. Others are made with a soft plastic on the arm tops, however this isn't quite as effective as foam.

The next level of arm is often referred to as highly adjustable arms. These will have added functions and can include some or all of these features:

  • Tops that can be angled in and out for a wider range of arm support
  • Tops that slide backwards and forwards – useful for getting closer to your desk
  • Arms that can be adjusted in width to give your shoulders better aligned support
  • Arms that can be temporarily moved out of the way effectively making your chair armless

Is there a case for having no arms on your chair?
Most people find they need arms on their chair. However this isn't universal. If you prefer to work in a chair with no arms there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. Office workers who spend a lot of time typing and keying in data frequently find it preferable to work in close at their desk.

Effectively the desktop provides support for the user’s arms instead of the chair. In fact when you work up close to your desk many chair arms can actually hit the desk edge and prevent you working in this way.

Let’s quickly summarize the key point we've covered here.

  • Fixed arms are inflexible and uncomfortable
  • Getting fixed arms of the right height is a lottery
  • Height adjustable arms make it easy to set the arms where you need them
  • Padded arm tops will greatly enhance your working comfort
  • Highly adjustable arms have many useful refinements

Here's where you can find a summary of office chairs with adjustable arms. Some of them have highly adjustable arms with great additional functions to enhance working comfort.


Why Desk Set Up Is Vital For Working Comfort: How To Make It Interactive

A desk is a desk. It’s a rectangular lump of wood supported on legs that you work at all day. It doesn't move or change it’s a fixture. It holds all the stuff you need to do your work, so how can it be interactive? It is what it is, inanimate, dead and fixed.

Whilst all of this is undoubtedly true, proper desk set up is important for your working comfort, and as we'll see it's not as permanent as it seems.

What is desk set up?
Setting up your desk is all about making sure you that you make the best use of your workspace. It’s making sure that the things you need to complete your work in comfort are all positioned in the right place, so you aren't straining to reach them. I know this is all obvious and yet many people have a lousy desk set up.

Who needs to have a good desk set up?
Pretty much anyone who spends more than an hour or so a day at a workstation needs to ensure that their workspace is organized efficiently. So, if you working time is spent in front of a desk you need to know how to get it properly organized.

How to set up your desk correctly
As already pointed out your desk is a permanent fixture, it’s rather like a house the thing doesn't move once it’s built. Everything that you use with your desk is movable and that is the key to successfully achieving a healthy, comfortable way of working. So think of your desk as your house and all the things you use with it are the furnishings.

The first thing you need to do is make sure your office chair is properly adjusted. Your feet should be firmly on the floor with your thighs at a slightly open angle to your upper body. If your chair has adjustable arms make sure they are positioned to support your lower arms properly with your shoulders in a natural relaxed posture. And be sure you can reach your keyboard and mouse easily too. Lastly set your chair back to give good lower back support in your lumbar region.

Once you’re happy that you are sitting comfortably, it’s time to look at the rest of your equipment.

Next in line is your monitor
Set the height of the screen so that your eyes are lined up with the top area of screen. Move the monitor in or out as necessary so that you can comfortably read the screen without craning your neck forwards. This is very important to get right as continually leaning forwards puts huge stress on the neck muscles and is a major source of neck and shoulder pain.

Other equipment
Now it’s time to consider all the other things you use continually during your working day. Things like phones, printers, scanners, files etc. Prioritize them and make sure the things you use most frequently are close to hand so you aren't straining to reach them.

Visualize an imaginary arc extending about 12 inches from the center of the front of your desk immediately in front of where you are sitting. Try and get all your most frequently used equipment within this space if at all possible.

Finally the things you use less often can be located at more remote areas of you desk, maybe not even on the desk top at all if space is limited. All that is called for is a little bit of forward planning.

This all sounds a bit complicated I don't know if it’s worth the hassle
I know it all sounds a bit complicated and yet if you follow this simple step-by-step procedure it will ensure you have all the corners covered making it easy.

Some simple tips
Here are a couple of simple tips in case you're feeling reluctant about making any wholesale changes.

First keep a note of the equipment you actually use frequently over a 2 or 3 day period. Don't assume you use something regularly you might be surprised that what you thought you need a lot isn’t actually used that much at all.

Second, take note of any regular aches and pains you suffer while working. See if you can spot something you're doing that could be causing any discomfort. Maybe sitting badly, or straining to reach something several times a day.

You'll find if you if you prepare before plunging into making radical changes it should make the whole process easier and help you gain a healthier working posture. It’s all pretty straightforward when you stick the process.

Let’s quickly sum up the key points we've covered in this article.

  • Good desk set up is all about working more efficiently
  • All office workers need to set up their desk properly
  • Start by getting your office chair correctly adjusted for good comfort
  • Position your monitor accurately so you aren't straining to read the screen
  • Place commonly used items within a 12 inch radius
  • Move less frequently used things to the back of your desk or elsewhere
  • Keep a log of what use most frequently for a couple of days before making changes
  • If you have aches and pains can you spot any bad habits which may be causing them

Yes it’s true. That desk is an inanimate fixed lump of wood on legs however if you don't use it properly it’s likely to be a source of pain and discomfort. Following these simple ideas will give you an excellent chance of good working comfort throughout the day.


Arm Options For Office Chairs: Making Sure You Make The Right Choice

If you look at chair manufacturers’ price books you will see that most chairs are offered without any arms at all. Why is this? There are occasions where this makes sense, more on that later.

What choices of arms are there?
Increasingly these days chairs come with adjustable arms enabling the user to set the position to suit their way of working and this makes good sense. Nonetheless, there are still a huge number of chairs sold with fixed arms. These are a permanent part of the chair and don't move and can be a hindrance.

What arms should you avoid?
You may just be lucky and find that fixed arms are the right height and shape for you. Frankly this isn't very likely, so choosing them is all a bit of a lottery. For this reason it’s always best to avoid fixed arms because they can often get in the way when you're working if their shape and position doesn’t suit your body. Given the choice between fixed and adjustable arms it’s always best to opt for adjustability, even the most basic versions are a big improvement on a rigid arm.

What features are available on adjustable arms and which should you go for?
Adjustable arms come in a wide variety of levels of sophistication. Entry-level versions usually just adjust in height and this is by far and away the most important feature. It means you can set the arm height to support your shoulders naturally and safely. So the good news is even the most basic adjustable arm will offer you major benefits.

From there you can get highly adjustable arms where the arm tops swivel inwards and outwards. This can be very useful for people with narrow shoulders as the arm width is often too wide for them.

Additionally some arm tops also slide backwards and forwards and this again can be handy for fine-tuning the arm supports. It’s particularly convenient if you like to work close to your desk because you can push them backwards so they aren't in the way yet still support your arms.

Some top end chairs allow the width of the arms to be adjusted making it easy to set them to suit your shoulder width, so your arms hang at a natural angle.

If offered it is always a good idea to opt for padded arm tops because prolonged use of hard plastic arms can create a lot of discomfort to the underside of your lower arms.

A few manufacturers take things a stage further and offer arms that can be completely moved out of the way. HÅG’s Futu chair allows you to quickly push the arms behind the back of the chair. With Neutral Posture’s swing arms it’s possible to rotate them by 180 degrees to achieve the same effect. Effectively your chair becomes armless.

When don't you need arms on an office chair?
As mentioned at the beginning of this article there are instances when an armless chair makes sense. Some people like to work close up to their desk and so for them the actual desktop takes the place of the chair arms. And if this is how you prefer to work then this makes good sense.

It’s all down to how you like to work and if you're not sure whether you want arms or not, why not decide later? Many chairs allow you to retrofit arms so you could start out by buying a chair without arms and see how you get on. If all goes well that’s good and if not buy a set of adjustable arms and add them later. Just make sure they can be fitted later as not all chairs allow this.

Let’s summarize the keys points I've covered in this article.
Chairs often include the option of no arm, fixed arms and adjustable arms
Avoid fixed arms where possible they're uncomfortable and inflexible
Adjustable arms come in varying levels of sophistication to suit how you work
Armless chairs can be good for people who like working close up to their desk
If you pick the right model you can try armless first and add arms later


Are The Missing Functions On Your Office Chair Ruining Your Health?

Most biking nuts will have ridden on a fixed wheel at some stage and a moment’s loss of concentration can rapidly inflict pain on the rider. Let me explain. A fixed wheel only has a single cog on the rear wheel meaning the rider’s pedalling pressure is always the same uphill, downhill or on the flat. So there are no gears to take the strain.

And if that wasn't bad enough there is no freewheel function you have to keep pedalling and you actually brake or stop the bike by gradually slowing your pedalling and then back pedalling when the bike has slowed sufficiently to bring it to a halt.

So, there you are biking along and you forget you’re using a fixed wheel so you relax and stop pedalling and wham! Before you know it the pedals are making mincemeat of your feet and ankles because they keep rotating and clattering them as they do so.

Chairs with missing functions are a lot like fixed wheel biking, you can never relax in them. They always seem to be controlling how you move in them and inflicting pain with their lack of flexibility.

What functions do all office chairs have?
It’s fair to say that all office chairs will have at least 2 functions, because without them they couldn't perform at all.

First, they all have height adjustability and this is pretty important because the ability to be able to set the correct seat height relative to the user’s leg length is essential.

Second, they all have a 5 star swivel base, which is critical for being able to move quickly and easily when addressing work at your desk. If you’ve ever used a 4 legged chair working at a computer you'll know how limiting it can be the first time you want to move to reach something.

Many believe that these 2 functions are all you need, let’s look at why they will never be sufficient on there own.

Why aren't they enough?
OK, so you might think that being able to move freely around your desk area and setting the height of your chair’s seat to suit your body is enough. Sure it’s a good start and to be honest if you only work at a desk for an hour a day you may get away with it. For those working long hours at a workstation the lack of other functions will quickly become apparent.

The inability to alter the chair’s back position will pretty soon start causing you back pain and probably neck and shoulder discomfort too. Unless you are extraordinarily lucky the back won’t be correctly placed for good support.

Incorrectly positioned legs is a prime cause of leg pain, not surprising when you think about it because when you place any part of your body in an unnatural position it won’t be long before it starts resonating pain signals.

There are other potential problems when you don’t make sure you get the right features.

What other features should you insist on?
You need to be able to move the chair’s back up and down to get it placed in the optimum position for the shape of your back. Having said that some chairs come with fixed full height backs which include an integrated adjustable lumbar support and this achieves the same thing. So, always make sure your chair will allow you to set the back adjustment to fit you.

No two people’s legs are the same length and so you must make sure your seat’s depth can be set to match with your leg length. This is usually achieved with a seat slider or occasionally the back depth can be moved in and out. Either way, you need this functionality and unfortunately far too many chairs don't allow this, which is frankly ridiculous.

Arms should always be adjustable to let you position them in such a way that they support your lower arms and shoulders naturally. Fixed arms are little more than a lottery and too many are based around some funky cool shape without any thought as to whether they will be comfortable.

Being able to set the spring tension of your chair’s recline is another key function to insist on. Without it, light framed people will always feel they are fighting with their chair back when they recline. And heavy built people may well find the opposite effect, as the chair just seems to fall away on reclining. So, insist on tilt tension and leave yourself in control when relaxing.

Let’s quickly recap on the points I've outlined in this article

  • Seat height adjustment and a wheel base isn't enough for proper comfort
  • Proper comfort can only be achieved with proper functions
  • Make sure your chair’s back adjusts
  • Make sure you can alter seat depth to suit your leg length
  • Adjustable arms are necessary for proper arm and shoulder support
  • Tilt tension put you in control when you recline, not the chair

When you insist on these important functions you greatly increase your chance of good sitting comfort. Don’t get stuck with the seating equivalent of fixed wheel biking, always ensure your chair has the necessary gears.


Neutral Posture’s New 5 Way Arms Offer The Ultimate In Office Seat Comfort

Neutral Posture 5 Way Arm

5 Way Adjustable Arm

Neutral Posture has recently upgraded its adjustable arms and these are available  for all its chairs.

The previous arms already had great functionality.

However its new 5 way arms offer outstanding adjustability and flexibility and are unequaled in features on any other office chair I know.

Here's what you can do with these latest arms and all this can be achieved while still sitting in you chair.

Armrest Height
The arms can be adjusted over a generous 4 inches in height, simply press the squeeze button on the side and move them up or down to suit your needs. This gives the ability to set them in a choice of 10 different positive pre-set positions.

Arm Angle Rotation
The head of the arm can be rotated through a full 360° and set in a choice of 24 different angle settings. This is very useful for different tasks like data entry, reading books and reports, intensive mousing etc.

The settings are easily controlled by a squeeze lever under the arm.

Arm Pad Side To Side Setting
This is a fine tuning adjustment allowing the width of the arms to be varied by an 1 inch to ensure the arm pads are fully supporting your arms correctly.

Arm Pad Front To Back Adjustment
A very useful feature when you need to get in closer to your work and still have good arm support. It enables the user to move the arms 2 inches front to back and is controlled by a squeeze button on the edge of the arm pad.

Arm Width
This is a feature far too few office chairs have and allows you to adjust the overall width of the arms by up to 4 inches. Using a simple lock release lever at the base of the arm makes setting this up very easy.

This feature is likely to be useful if you have narrow shoulders as it will enable you to support your arms squarely. All too often fixed width arms are too wide for smaller framed users and they end up having to splay their arms outwards which can cause discomfort when working.

All in all the flexibility and comfort of these arms with their soft urethane pads are unrivaled; here's where you can find more detail on the 5-Way 360° adjustable arms. This article takes a look at Neutral Posture's most popular office chair ranges.


Office Chair Arms Getting In The Way? How Swing Back Technology Fixes The Problem

Most office chairs tend to be fitted with arms and in most cases this is a good thing. And yet often arms just get in the way usually when you want to work close at your desk or move your chair around a tight space.

This most frequently happens with fixed arms which don't adjust at all. So not only can you not move them when you need to, you can't adjust them to suit your individual needs.

As a result you end up with double trouble. First, not being able to get your chair under your workstation and second, suffering discomfort in use because the fixed height isn't a good match for you.

The obvious answer is to go for adjustable arms and yet this may very well only solve one of the two problems.

Swing Down Type Arm

Swing Down Type Arm

The good news is that at least you can set the arms at a height matching your needs and so avoid potential neck and shoulder pain. Frequently though even adjustable arms won't go low enough to fit under your desk edge or move through tight gaps.

Fortunately a number of manufacturers have taken steps to provide an answer to the problem by designing what are known as swing back arms. They are still height adjustable for personal user comfort.

As the name suggests this type of arm can be readily swung out of the way.

Typically they come in two styles, the first type allows the user to release the arms at the base and quickly swing them down towards the rear of the chair.

Swing Behind Arm

Swing Behind Type Arm

The second type remains at the same height but allow the user to push them back and swing them behind the chair back.

Both types achieve the desired effect and quickly convert the chair temporarily into an armless chair until you are ready to push the arms back into position.

Typical examples of the swing down type include Via’s Riva ergonomic chair and Neutral Posture’s 5000, 6000 and 8000 series.

HÅG’s H05 chairs use the swing behind approach which is perhaps the slightly better way of moving arms out of the way.

So, if you find your present chair’s arms limiting in use, these alternatives are well worth checking out when it comes to time to buy a new chair.


Correct Setting Up Adjustable Arms On An Office Chair

Adjustable arms on an office chair are a great feature to have and it's important you set them up correctly for your exact needs.

The level of adjustability of chair arms will vary depending on the features the manufacturer includes.

All adjustable arms at least allow a person to set the height of them and indeed this is the most critical setting.

You should make sure the chair arms are set about half an inch below the normal natural resting position of your elbows and arms when relaxed. Avoid having the arms set too high causing your shoulders to point up as this will allow muscle tension to build up in your shoulders.

If you are able to set the width of the chair arms get them the same width or slightly wider than your shoulders, try and avoid as far as possible stretching your arms too far outwards.

More sophisticated arms allow you to push the arms backwards and this can be very useful when you like to get close to your desk to work.

Pivoting arms can also be useful for closer working too, when your chair has this function.

Overall the most important consideration is that your chair's arms allow good support of your elbows and lower arms in their natural position.

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