What Are The Signs That Your Office Chair Needs Replacing? Cull That Productivity Pooper.

I kept my last car far too long. It was quality motor and for 10 years it gave excellent service. However, I deluded myself for a further 6 years into believing it still made sense to keep running it. It was only when it started letting me down that I saw sense and replaced it. People often make a similar mistake with their office chair making their working lives more difficult than necessary.

How comfortable is your office chair?
Your office chair is no different to any other piece of equipment. It has a finite life beyond which it needs to be replaced. One of the best indicators that it’s time for a new chair is when your old one is no longer as comfortable as it once was. This is a gradual thing and creeps up on you without you realizing it. Often you find you aren't as productive as you ought to be and start losing concentration, particularly in the afternoon.

Do aches and pains increase as the day goes on?
A strong indicator that your chair is ready for changing is when you find it starts getting really uncomfortable once you’ve been sitting in it for a few hours. And if it’s always been that way chances are you didn't have a very good quality chair to begin with.

Either way it’s probably time to take a look at the state of your chair and see if it’s time you parted company with it.

What condition is you office chair in?
Top of the list to check if your chair lacks comfort and your work is suffering is the foam padding. Has it lost its springiness and does the seat feel really hard? Cheap chair foams rapidly lose their ability to remain springy and often become brittle and hard after just a few months’ use.

broken chair

Broken Chair

Many people see an office chair as a throwaway item. Something that just needs to be replaced every couple of years. If you believe this to be true you will be locked into a spiral of discomfort and distraction as each new chair quickly deteriorates.

Have any bits worked loose or dropped off? Often screws fall out or knobs come off. Poor quality components wear prematurely and what started out as smooth moving parts become wobbly as they wear against each other.

It’s the combination of these sorts of things that start to affect your work rate.

What limitations is your office chair imposing on you?
It’s surprising how little things like these can affect your productivity. If you had to sit on a wood seat all day naturally you would expect it to be uncomfortable after an hour or so. Once the foam in your chair has failed, it’s effectively just like sitting on a wooden chair and it distracts you from your work.

When an arm work loose or the backrest slops around all over the place it forces you to compensate by moving your body unnaturally. Having to do this means you loose concentration and your productivity suffers as a result.

Why $100 office chairs aren't the answer
For a lot of people the thought of spending even $100 on a chair is something they struggle to accept. The truth is that a chair in this price bracket is always going to be made to meet the price at the expense of quality.

This is why these chairs don't last. The emphasis is on keeping costs to a tight budget and this is done by reducing the standard of components used.

If you have a problem with the thought of spending several hundred dollars on a new chair, try looking at things differently.

What is your time worth per hour? Let’s assume it’s $30 an hour. What if by having a good chair that properly supported you all day you gained an extra 10 minutes work? This would mean you got $5 a day more work done than before. Guess what? In just 6 months your gain would have saved you $600. Enough to buy you a top quality ergonomic chair designed to give you 8 – 10 years of productive service.

Once you look at things this way it’s easy to see how investing in the right tool for the job will benefit you many times over your initial outlay.

So, is it time to assess your chair?
Lets quickly run through the points we've covered:

  • Is lack of comfort causing you to be less effective during your workday?
  • Does it get worse as the day progresses?
  • Has the seat foam failed?
  • Are components falling off, worn or working loose?
  • Do the math to see why $100 chairs aren't a proper solution

Don't be like me with my old car, recognize when it’s time to replace your chair and keep yourself productive.

Here's where you can find a summary of some excellent quality office chairs.


Why Is it So Costly To Bring A New Office Chair Design To Market?

A major scandal broke out in China in 2008 when it was discovered that a baby milk manufacturer was cutting corners on costs and adding melamine to its baby feed product to improve its appearance. This resulted in the death of 6 infants.

Cutting corners on costs is a dangerous idea and something that a reputable business simply can’t afford to do with its products.

It isn’t general appreciated what actually goes into bringing a totally new office chair to market. Not surprisingly people look at the price tag and are shocked at the cost. In this article we’re going to look at the 3 phases to the launch of a new chair and how this contributes to the final price tag.

These are the 3 stages:
1 – Design and initial research
2 – Testing and building prototypes
3 – Outlay for tooling and stock

Lets begin with the design and initial research needed for a new office chair
These days when a major chair manufacturer decides to bring a new ergonomic chair to market it will often start with a blank piece of paper. It will want to come up with something original, something that is different and better than just another ‘me too’ product.

The first move will likely be to appoint a designer or liaise with one they’ve used before. Designers aren't normally employed full time by the manufacturer. Nonetheless whether employed or not designers still have to be paid. It’s not unusual for it to take 3 or 4 years to get an initial idea translated into bums on seats and sales for the product.

Sayl chair

Herman Miller SAYL Chair

Using independent designers is in many respects a good thing because it encourages fresh ideas. An in house designer might feel constrained by internal company procedures and tempted to copy old ideas.

When Herman Miller worked with designer Yves Béhar on its new SAYL chair the plastic polymer used in the chair back didn’t even exist. Béhar was inspired by the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and felt the principles employed in its support system would translate well into chair back design.

And yet there was no way of knowing if it would be successful without experimentation.


Which brings us to the next stage, testing and building prototypes
From initial ideas and sketches the design then has to progress to the next phase. This involves taking a material like the SAYL's polymer back and getting samples made up. These then need to be tested to see if they are durable enough.

There can’t be any second guessing or assumptions here, because in the case of Miller it guarantees its seating products for 12 years. Imagine the cost of returns if it just deemed that something new should last and yet subsequently found it started breaking down after 3 years. And this doesn't even take any account of the damage to the company’s reputation.

It’s not unusual for a manufacturer to build as many as 70 prototypes of a new chair before it’s confident enough to believe it has got it right.

Prototypes are often fairly crude things initially made from wood and metal fabrications, however they enable the supplier to see how components react under different conditions. Sometimes these just can’t be predicted and so the only way is a physical test. Once all the gremlins have been ironed out of the system it time to go to the last stage and gear up for manufacture.

Laying down tooling and building stocks
When the team are happy that testing shows the product is viable, it’s time to go to the final stage and start ordering the tooling needed to make the new seat. Some tooling will be for in-house use, whereas other parts like, injection-molded plastics will probably be made by a specialist sub-contractor.

However, the molding tools will still need to be purchased by the chair manufacturer and such tooling isn’t cheap. Ownership of the tooling has to remain with the chair’s maker because if the sub-contractor starts letting it down it will need the ability to cancel the contract and transfer tooling and manufacture to a new supplier.

Once the tooling is all in place, comes the final stage of making components and building up stocks to handle what hopefully will be good demand for the new chair. Again this involves a significant cash outlay, as the stock will have to be paid for before any income comes in from sales.

And although new chair designs tend to have less components, when you take account of the different color combinations it all adds up to an expensive commitment. Only when the product hits the market and people start buying the new seat can the company start recouping its initial outlay.

Even then it’s possible that a component may develop an unforeseen problem and need to be re-designed. Thankfully though this is rare because usually the manufacturer’s investment, patience and diligence has paid off.

If a new office chair seems expensive remember what goes into creating it:
1 – Design and initial research
2 – Testing and building prototypes
3 – Outlay for tooling and stock

You won’t find a trustworthy chair manufacturer trying any baby milk corner cutting tricks to enhance its products. The damage to its reputation would be far too great, consequently things have to be done properly and this costs money.


The Perfect Office Chair: Why Is It So Difficult To Find One?

Imagine you’ve just left your tailor’s shop wearing a $3000 suit he just made to measure for you. As you walk down street you feel like a million dollars, everything fits perfectly. The fabric feels great and you sense people’s admiring glances as you stroll on in your new suit. Perfection doesn't get much closer than this. Back at work you’ve been sitting for a while and start thinking about finding the perfect office chair.

Everyone wants the perfect office chair
Most office workers would love to own the perfect office chair, and many strive to find it. Some even achieve it. Unfortunately any office chair will by its very nature always be a compromise, a one size fits all solution.

And therein lies the problem because humans come in all manner of sizes but the majority of office seats only come in one size. Of course they all adjust so it is possible to get much closer to that perfect seat.

How close can you get to the perfect office chair?
When you buy the right office chair you can actually get pretty close to the ideal chair. It’s always going to be easier for people of average build to find a good chair, because most manufacturers cater to the average. So for them the choice will be wider and the opportunity of acquiring a great chair will be that much easier.

For those not falling within the typical parameters of the average chair size adjustment range things will be more difficult.

Who will find it more of a struggle?
Both short and tall people will find many office chairs just don’t cater for their body size and so that perfect office chair is a lot more difficult to track down. Nonetheless, some manufacturers recognize that this group of users risks getting shortchanged and so have taken steps to accommodate short and tall users by producing models specifically made to suit their frame size.

One of the best specialists in this corner of the chair market is Neutral Posture, which makes some excellent seats to serve not only short and tall people, but also light and heavy framed users too. Its seats provide a huge range of adjustments.

BodyBilt another specialist, as well as having an excellent range of ergonomic chairs, will even tailor make a chair to suit your body’s dimensions. Thus making it possible to find the perfect office chair provided cost isn't a problem. Whatever size you are, you must insist on certain features to ensure you can tailor your chair for your body.

What key features must the perfect office chair have?
Any good office chair must have 5 key features to give the user the ability to set up their chair to fit them properly. Here's what your chair needs:

  • Adjustable seat depth for optimal leg comfort
  • Adjustable back height to allow the lower back to be correctly supported
  • Adjustable Arm Height for ease of movement and minimize the risk of RSI
  • Pneumatic height adjustment to suit your body height and weight
  • Adjustable tilt tension allowing each individual user to set the correct pressure

Some top end chairs actually automate some of these features or provide fixed full height backs with lumbar adjustments to achieve the necessary user comfort. Here's where you can find a quick summary of quality office chairs, which have the essential functions needed.

Let’s end by reviewing the key points in our quest for the perfect office chair.

  • Average built people will always find it easier to find the right seat, due to greater choice
  • Short and tall users will need to look to a specialist to get the ideal chair for them
  • Make sure any chair you consider has the 5 key features listed above

Although you may not find the seating equivalent of a custom tailored suit, follow these simple guidelines and you will come pretty close and may even end up with a chair that is perfect in all respects.


Why HÅG’s Award Winning Futu Chair Is Now Even Better: Five Great Modifications

Futu Chair

HÅG Futu Chair

The Futu chair from HÅG won a coveted red dot design award in March 2010 and has recently been further improved, these modifications make it an even better chair.

The seat foam is now a little softer than before giving better user comfort, however it is still a high quality foam which won’t flatten with use and is guaranteed for 10 years.

Additionally the foam’s contour has been redesigned and is now a little less convex in shape making it more comfortable in use.

Another great addition is the option to include soft padding to the tops of the armpads. This small improvement will be a welcome option if you find normal armrests cause pain to the underside of your arms.

The self adjusting inBalance mechanism which automatically controls the chair’s action in harmony with the user’s body movement has been tweaked too.

It’s noticeably smoother in use and those who like to lock their seat in a preset position will find the lock function is much easier to control now.

Finally, the available upholstery fabrics have been increased to give considerably more choice of finishes.

HÅG also takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously, the chair is made from 50% recycled materials and some 97% of the chair is recyclable.

There’s an interesting article in this month’s issue of Interiors Monthly about HÅG’s Futu chair, you can find the article in the September issue of Interiors Monthly.

Here's where you can read a review of the Futu chair.


Buying A New Office Chair? Beware Of The Lure Of Decimal Point Syndrome

If you're thinking of buying a new office chair then you need to apply some thought to the process rather than just rushing out and buying some close out offer.

When you spend long hours sitting at a computer all day you absolutely have to make sure what you are sitting in is fit for purpose.

So the first thing you have to realize is that $50 won't hack it, I call this approach Decimal Point Syndrome because in truth you need to move the decimal point one place to the right and be thinking about investing more like $500.

Sorry if that's a bit of a shock, nonetheless it's reality. After all, when you consider you will probably be spending as much if not more time in a desk chair than you do in your bed it starts to make sense.

Seriously, I'm sure you wouldn't think about only spending $50 on a bed, unless you relish the thought of lying on a bag of springs stuffed with packing foam.

It's no different with an office chair, it simply isn't possible to get any level of quality for even a $100, at this price point every component in the chair will be cut back in quality to meet the price.

Why is it people keep buying these sub-standard products? I believe there are a number of reasons.

First, big name office product retailers are constantly promoting these types of chairs competing with each other to be the cheapest. And so without realizing it you become conditioned into thinking this is what you should be spending on a computer chair.

Second, these products often look good, frequently upholstered in leather which somehow seems to convince people it's a quality product, when in fact it's anything but.

Lastly, people don't very often get the chance to see and try a quality office chair in the flesh unless you go to a specialist supplier and they aren't exactly on every street corner. Consequently, you rarely get the chance to compare the good with the bad.

This is unfortunate as the difference in quality and comfort would soon become apparent.

A good quality chair needs to have certain critical features, I've distilled these down to 5 key essentials you must insist on when buying a new office chair. Here's a quick summary of ergonomic chairs worth checking out.

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