Why Buying An Office Chair Online Makes Sense: The Hidden Costs Of Buying Offline

Many people fret about buying an office chair online. Quite naturally they feel that not being able to physically try out a chair before buying is a big problem. In an ideal world it would be nice to be able to test loads of things we happily buy on the net. Nonetheless we commit to buying all sorts of things from online stores without giving a second thought to trying them out first.

So why should it be any different for office chairs?

Why try before you buy isn't as simple as it seems
Lots of people will happily sit in an desk chair at an office equipment retailer for less than a minute and make a snap decision to buy.

It's likely they're looking for a new chair because their old one is worn out and uncomfortable. So it's only natural that whatever you sit in will feel great by comparison.

There is no way such an arbitrary test can possibly indicate whether a chair is right for you or not. Even if you sat in it for half an hour you still wouldn't know if it was suitable.

In reality you need to sit in an office chair for several days before you know whether it's right for you or not. The reason it takes this length of time to be completely sure is because your body needs to be comfortable with the way the chair feels. And the only way to be certain is to use it for many hours at a time.

It's unlikely you will get the chance to test a chair thoroughly without first buying it. So buying online makes as much sense as buying offline and it's a lot simpler too.

Why buying offline is a lot of hassle
At first it seems that buying offline makes sense. However as we've already seen a few quick minutes sitting in the display chair is meaningless in terms of knowing whether it's suitable for you. So you won't know if it's right until you tested it properly at work over several days.

Also you have to drive to go and buy the chair. Then you have the hassle of loading it into your vehicle and handling the delivery yourself.

And if the chair has to be returned then you have to box it back up, load it back in your car and use more gas to return it for a refund.

Buying online avoids a lot of these hassles

Why buying online makes sense
When you buy online it's far more convenient. For a start you don't need to be the delivery driver. Instead your chair gets delivered to your door by a service like FedEx or UPS. The only lifting you need to do is taking it out of the box and into your office.

Provided you approach your chair purchase online thoroughly it makes a great deal of sense to buy this way.

You will also have a far greater choice of chairs online than you will find at the typical office furniture store.

To begin with do some online research for suitable chairs to shortlist. Read reviews of chairs on sites such as this. Read customer feedback to see if there are any comments pointing out potential problems.

Once you've narrowed down to the chair you want the only other thing to check before ordering is what the return policy is.

Why a 30 day return period is vital
A good online store will allow you 30 days in which to return a chair if you find it's not suitable.

It's essential to have this sort of time to be really sure the chair is right for you. Depending on the type of chair you will likely want to fine tune the adjustments over the first few days. Then when you feel you have everything set properly it will give you the chance to try it under all sorts of conditions.

Does it still feel as comfortable when you've been sitting in it for 6 hours or more? Does it support you properly when carrying out different tasks such as typing, surfing the net, reading etc?

Also, think about the color of the fabric. Black or grey make a good choice as they will go with most color schemes. If you are looking to match the seat covering with your interior contact the supplier and ask them to send you samples of fabric. You don't want to find the color clashes with your surroundings.

If you do decide to return a chair bought via the web you’ll probably have to pay the return carriage, typically about $75. Although this seems to make online purchase more costly should you need to return you chair.

Compare the situation with an offline return. You have the cost and hassle of driving to the store again and lugging the chair in and out of your car twice.

Overall there isn’t a lot of difference between the two when you weigh it all up.

Some stores also charge a re-stocking fee so make sure you check thoroughly to avoid any nasty surprises.

Let's quickly summarize the key points we've covered here:

  • Sitting in a sample chair for 5 minutes is no way to know if it's suitable
  • Buying offline has hidden costs that aren't immediately apparent
  • The choice of chairs online is far more comprehensive
  • Insist on a 30 day return period so you can test the chair properly

Here's where you can find a quick summary of some of the best office chairs to place on your shortlist of potential chairs.


Is Your Office Chair Stopping You Getting Your Work Done? Eliminating The Distractor Factor

On your marks
Get set

When you have the wrong office chair it's like getting off to a false start in a race. You're ready to get on with things and yet something is holding you back.
And the problem is your chair, but it's not that obvious.

How can your office chair distract you?
With the wrong chair you can often find you are distracted from your work. When you start an important task everything seems to be flowing along nicely. After a while though your attention starts to wander and maybe you feel the need to check your email or Facebook account. Something just seems to distract you and yet there doesn't appear to be a reason for it.

How lack of comfort stops your workflow
One of the biggest causes of distraction when working in the office is an uncomfortable office chair. The problem is as soon as you start fidgeting and shifting to try and get comfortable it breaks your concentration. You find your mind starts to wander and this is when you begin to slip into bad habits like checking email, looking out the window etc. So, why are some desk chairs uncomfortable?

Poor adjustability results in inflexible working
The primary reason office chairs cause discomfort is a limited range of adjustability. If you only had to work for 30 minutes in the office you could get away with pretty much any sort of chair. However when you have to put in 7 to 9 hours or more a day at your computer, it’s essential to have a seat that is fit for purpose.

After all you wouldn’t run a marathon in flip-flops and jeans. No you’d make sure you had proper running shoes and clothing. And it really is no different with a heavy workload in the office. You need a seat designed for working long hours in comfort.

Consequently, a chair that only has seat height adjustment, fixed arms and back just isn’t going to hack it. It simply isn't man enough for the task and will soon let you know as it inflicts pain on your body. And even when you can adjust the arms and back there can still be problems. How can this be?

Chair deterioration creeps up on you over time
When you first get your chair it feels great and certainly a whole lot better than the old one. And yet now you’ve had it a while those annoying traits your previous chair had seem to be returning. This doesn't happen all at once, but gradually over time as your chair seems to age prematurely.

This is really a quality issue. One of the biggest culprits in this untimely deterioration is the foam used in the seat and back. For the first few months it’s springy and supportive then as time goes on it stops springing back and instead goes flat and hard.

This is because cheap foam has been used and its low quality just isn't designed to last more than a few months before giving up the ghost. Suddenly you find you are sitting on a hard lumpy surface and the lack of comfort becomes distracting and you find it difficult to concentrate.

Low cost components begin to wear with continual use and what was initially a good firm support instead feels like a teaspoon in a tin of treacle.

Is there really that much difference between office chairs?
It’s easy to think all office seats are the same and something you replace every couple of years. And when you buy the wrong one that's exactly what happens and you get into an endless cycle of buying another new cheap chair.

A couple of years back I enrolled on a part time course at the local college and when the students met up for the first class everyone was excited to see the classroom was kitted out with new chairs.

The euphoria lasted for less than a month and it became necessary to get to class ten minutes early. Why? Because in that short period the backs had broken off at least 4 chairs, so unless you fancied sitting at a backless chair you needed to be early to grab one that still worked properly. Even when you found one that was intact they were awful to sit in for a two hour class as they were so uncomfortable.

The apparent bargain price paid by the college turned out to be anything but. And because of the price there was no guarantee. A bit like buying a dodgy auto – sold as seen. There really is a world of difference between good and poor office chairs.

So, there are good reasons why some chairs stop you getting your work done
Let’s quickly recap:

  • Uncomfortable chairs cause you to lose concentration allowing your mind to wander
  • Lack of adjustability makes it impossible to remain comfortable for long
  • Recognize cheap chairs deteriorate rapidly over time
  • All chairs aren't the same, be careful of falling continually into the same trap

Avoid hearing the double shot of that starter’s pistol signaling another office chair false start. Take care and eliminate the distractor factor when you need to replace you chair.

Here's where you can find information on picking the right ergonomic office chair that will support you in comfort, no matter how long you work.


Why Office Chairs Can Cause Problems For Short People: And How To Deal With It.

Short people tend to get a rough deal on office chairs and are frequently overlooked entirely by many manufacturers. Chair producers tend to cater mostly for average to larger framed users simply because it is the easiest route for them to move the most products.

Most short people face two challenges either their leg length or torso, and sometimes both, don't work at all well with many desk chairs.

Leg length tends to be the biggest problem. The reason for this is that the vast majority of office chairs simply don't adjust low enough to let users place their feet firmly on the floor.

Consequently this puts the lower body in an awkward and uncomfortable posture. Thankfully there are a couple of solutions to this issue.

Begin by checking whether your chair supplier offers an alternative pneumatic gas lift. Many of the better companies have special low gas lifts allowing the chair to adjust an inch or two lower. It may not sound a lot however it can often make all the difference.

The other alternative to the problem is to buy a footrest, adjustable footrests are best as they allow you to fine tune support for your feet.

Depending on your chair's features, reclining can often be a problem if it has fixed tilt tension. This is mostly a problem for lighter framed users who find themselves fighting their chair when trying to recline. Once again fixed tilt tension is designed to suit the weight of an average built person and is much too stiff for lighter people.

Make sure any chair you consider has either adjustable tilt tension or adjusts automatically to individual user weight. Typical weight ranges start at 100lbs and go up to around 250lbs or more, double check if you fall outside this range.

Seat depth is also another key adjustment missing from far too many chairs. Without it it’s often difficult to gain good leg comfort. Unfortunately there is no simple workaround for fixing this.

Low cost budget office chairs are highly unlikely to be suitable for petite users as they lack the adjustments and flexibility needed to achieve good working task chair comfort.

Fortunately a number of manufacturers do cater well for smaller built individuals by providing ergonomic chairs which will work well for you, including seat depth adjustment. It’s worth taking a look at HÅG's H04 and Neutral Posture’s 5000 series too.

Two cost effective solutions deserving investigation are Izzy’s Bailey chair and Via's Riva range.

Here's a quick summary of the key points:

  • Check if you can get a lower gas lift
  • Consider an adjustable footrest
  • Tilt tension or automatic weight adjustment is key when reclining
  • Seat depth lets you set up good upper leg comfort

Office Chairs Having Memory Foam Pads Are Best Avoided

Most people are aware of memory foam, and have probably read about it or may even use it in a bed mattress. Over the past few years, some seating manufacturers have begun using it in office chair foams and I don't think this is a good idea.

Why? Well, the basic principle of memory foam is your weight compresses the foam and allows it to mold to the shape of your body so you are cushioned where you need it – nothing wrong with that.

However, it's different with office chairs because we weren't designed to sit for hours on end, so we move around in the chair because our body maybe sends a signal highlighting our back is uncomfortable and needs to change position.

In the meantime, the memory foam has molded to your initial position and then you move, as a result your body weight distribution changes so the foam needs to decompress and recompress to a new position, and that takes time because memory foam has a real slow reaction time as it slowly readjusts to your new posture.

With modern high-quality polyurethane foams not only is the response time far quicker, it also gives excellent, comfortable support as well meaning as you change so does it by reacting rapidly without loss of support. What's more it won't flatten with repeated use always maintaining its original shape.

It’s for this reason I suggest you avoid memory foam in office chairs and stick with high quality polyurethane filled seat pads and backs which are the standard with most quality manufacturers.


Is Your Office Chair Like Sitting In A Boat?

A lot of office chairs are just plain big and petite and slim built people find them almost impossible to get comfortable in, for some it's like having to wear size 10 shoes when you real size is a 6, not very practical.

So why does this happen? Well there are 2 reasons, first people frequently buy chairs on looks and more often than not big looks good, it carries a sense of importance.

Second manufacturers try and produce seats fitting the widest spectrum of users and consequently usually make things bigger rather than smaller. I suppose it makes some sense, a small framed user can always fit into a big chair, whereas a large framed person may not be able to sit in a small chair.

You should never buy a chair which looks big and imposing unless you are the right build for such a seat. As a rule of thumb a suitable office chair should leave around an inch at each side of the seat. So, simply measure the distance across the top of your thighs when sitting and then check it against the seat width and make sure it is a good fit for you.

Some of the better quality seating manufacturers recognize the need for producing chairs specifically designed for a petite office chair user and lighter framed people.

So, if you need a more compact sized seat take a look at HÅG H04, HÅG Futu, Aeron or a Neutral Posture 5000 series as these should work well for you.

In the next post I will take a look at seating problems big and tall users face and how to resolve them.


Are Office Chairs And Loan Cars Like 2 Peas In A Pod?

Recently my car had to go in to the local auto repair shop for a few days and so they arranged a loan car for me while the work was done.

I arranged to swap cars over Sunday evening to save time and I get to the repair shop early evening in the dark and it's raining when I pick up the keys and get in the loaner.

Turn the ignition key zip, nada, nothing not a spark of life, so I double check it's not in gear and all the usual things, still not a thing. In the end I go and knock up the owner, turns out you have to put your foot on the brake to get it to work – doh!

Next, where are the widow wipers, found them pretty quick and then there's the back screen wiper this takes a bit longer. Not surprisingly there is no gas in the tank so I head off to fill up, cue drama number two how to unlock the filler cap cover, sorted it eventually turns out you need to press the key fob twice to release it. It was only after a day or so and reading the handbook I got everything figured out.

And it strikes me how similar it is with office chairs whether inherited or new.

Here's a recent tweet from Twitter I saw:

“Guy just delivered my new office chair and had to train me on how to use it. I wish I was kidding.”

It's like the car isn't it? We think we know how to drive them, there all the same aren't they?

I've lost count of the times I've seen comments like – “only had the chair 3 years and I finally found out how to make it recline.” Or “help, how do I adjust the height on my office chair” etc.

When you think about how long you spend every day in your office seat it's surely pretty important to have it set up properly for your personal use.

It's not surprising people suffer so much back pain and discomfort from their chairs, going back to the car scenario you know what it is like when you get in your car after it's been in for repair and the guy road testing is a lot bigger or smaller than you, chances are you won't drive it a yard until you get the driving position readjusted back to your settings.

So, it's worth taking a little time to check your chair is set up properly for you, do you know what all the adjustments control? If you are unsure and know the make and model visit their website and download details on how adjust it properly.

You might just find you will be a whole lot more comfortable afterwards.


Replace The Office Chair Turkey – Day 2 Steelcase

Today in the second of my replace the office chair turkey posts it's the turn of Michigan giant Steelcase who has been making quality office chairs for decades.

It has literally hundreds of different model variants to choose from and so let's get a bit selective and look at a few of the most popular ones.

As the world's largest office furniture manufacturer Steelcase does a lot of research when developing new products. Typical of this is the Leap® chair which was 4 years in development and the subject of a study over an extended time period resulting in an increase in productivity of 17.80% in one organization. So you can be sure of getting you work done more efficiently and with greater comfort.

Here are links to check out reviews of some of its most popular models.

On Monday I'll have the other US giant Herman Miller in the frame, so be sure to check back then.


New Office Seating Report from Knoll

Knoll has recently released an excellent new workplace research report – “The Future of Ergonomic Office Seating” by Dr Tim Springer of Hero Inc (Human Environmental Research Organization, Inc).

In the report the author makes some key points about office seating pointing out some office chairs are quite complex and users need to be trained in how to use them correctly. He also shows that research into sitting tends to focus on a limited field of activities and often relies on old or limited data.

The report goes on to look into what an office chair should be capable of, covering things like:

  • Supporting the body and its activity
  • Promoting movement
  • Enabling improved performance
  • Ease of use
  • Not be harmful


Next it looks at the future of ergonomic office seating, how the work environment has changed and how designers and seating manufacturers need to always be looking for new materials and ideas as well as using eco friendly materials if at all possible.

Here's where The Future of Ergonomic Office Seating Report can be downloaded. It raises many interesting points about what really matters in office seat design.


Is This The Most Expensive Office Chair In The World?

most expensive office chair


I think I can safely re-state this question by saying this is the most expensive office chair in the world.

The aptly named Emporer weighs in at a cool $39,950 for the Windows version and another $2,000 for the Mac version.

The Emperor was featured at CES 2009 this past week by Canadian company NovelQuest Enterprises Inc.

When you take a look at what you're getting, just about the cheapest part is the office chair as it has:


  • 3 Synchronised 19 inch LCD Monitors
  • A 7 inch LCD Touch Screen
  • Motion controls for movement
  • Webcam and headset
  • Lighting System
  • Top of the range Recaro seat
  • Air purification system
  • Battery backup
  • Built in PC or Mac computer system


It would be great to try one out I expect it would be brilliant to work in, for anyone who has just got to have one you'll find further details and flash video at Novelquest Emperor

Back in the real world here's where you can find a quick summary of some quality ergonomic office chairs,  I'm afraid they don't come with all those extra gizmos though.


Can Junking Your Office Chair Help You Lose Weight?

We weren't really designed to sit for long periods, which probably explains why so many people find sitting all day in an office chair so uncomfortable.

Although the vast improvement in office chair design over recent years has made it possible to achieve good working comfort when you invest in a good chair, weight gain is still a problem for some.

This is due to the problem of sitting all day and the lack of exercise can tend to pile on the pounds and after a long day's work we don't always feel particularly inclined to go to the gym and workout.

Dr James Levine of the Mayo Clinic was well aware of this problem and how the simple action of walking can help to keep weight down by burning off unwanted calories – the problem remained how could this be incorporated into the office workers' daily routine?

Well the answer was a tread mill designed to run in slow motion, and following a meeting with leading furniture manufacturer Steelcase they agreed to design one and the Walkstation came into being.

Users literally walk their way through their work at a fairly leisurely 1 – 2 miles per hour and this activity uses enough energy to burn of excess calories and keep weight in check.

There are inevitably some serious drawbacks with the Walkstation the main one being the cost, which at a typical price of $5000 per station is likely to challenge all but the wealthiest of businesses in these recessionary times.

The other potential constraint is how the Walkstation would fit into existing office layouts, I can't quite imagine rows and rows of them, or 4 person workstation clusters somehow. And even though they only run at low speed some hapless employee would likely injure themselves.

So what do you think, would you use one if you had the chance, please comment below?

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