Why Do People Rarely Adjust Their Office Chair? How To Lever Up Your Comfort.

What do I need to bother about with adjusting my office chair? Surely once the height is set that's it I can just get on with my work. It's only an office chair and all those levers don't seem to do a fat lot anyway.

Why do people only adjust their chair height?
Many people never get any further than setting the height of their chair. This is understandable because when you think about it apart from reclining loungers most chairs are fixed. Consequently people tend to feel that the only adjustment needed is to set the height of the seat.

Not only that all those confusing levers might mess things up so lots of folk work on the principle if it ain't broke don't fix it. Pity, because you can't do much harm and are probably sacrificing a lot of comfort by avoiding adjusting them.

Why it's not always obvious what the different levers do
A lot of the blame lies fairly and squarely with the manufacturers. They make chairs with 2 or 3 levers under the seat with no indication of what they do. Some do go to the trouble of adding an instructional graphic on the paddle controls and yet these can often be confusing and misleading.

And as for an instruction booklet apart from a few of the better chair makers these are as rare as hen's teeth on most office chairs. Seems crazy when you think how easy it would be to produce an instruction sheet or booklet.

HÅG of Norway gets it. Its chairs usually come with a booklet that can be stored under the seat for reference when needed. So how do you sort out all these controls and why are they important?

Which settings are the most vital to get right?
With levers under chairs each usually controls one or more functions. The one that most people are familiar with is of course the height adjuster. It's very straightforward push it down to lower the seat height. And lifting your body off the seat and pulling the lever up raises the seat.

Sometimes this lever also acts as a seat back control locking or releasing the back. Usually it's a case of pushing it in or out or moving it back or forward.

It's quite common for the seat back lock and release to have its own lever control. This often has preset locked positions, usually upright and maybe 2 or 3 locked reclining positions. Locked positions are best avoided as it's much better to let the back move as you move.

You may find another lever which allows you to vary the angle of the seat to the back. This can be useful to experiment with to get the setting that is most comfortable for you.

One lever you rarely see is for controlling the seat depth. It lets you slide the seat depth in and out to get it set to suit your leg length. Raising the lever lets the seat slide and once you have things how you want pushing it down locks the seat depth.

Another adjuster which is usually a knob controls the amount of tension required to move the chair back as you recline. The knob is normally under the front of seat and it is simply a question of turning it to increase or decrease the amount of body weight you need to apply when reclining.

Let's take a look at which controls are most important.

Which missing settings will cause you the most discomfort?
The single most important control is seat depth adjustment.Regrettably that's very likely not going to be on the majority of office chairs. So if you don't have it you will need do without it until you come to replace your chair.

Tilt tension is pretty important too. There's nothing worse than wrestling to recline in your chair or falling rapidly backwards as you sit back. If you have this adjustment take some time to adjust it for your body weight. It's worth the effort and will significantly improve your working comfort.

As previously mentioned release the seat back if it's locked. The preset angles most chairs come with become pretty uncomfortable after a short while.

As height adjustment is on every office swivel chair we can ignore it for this exercise.

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

  • Seat height isn't the only adjustment you need to set up
  • Set your chair's back to be floating and not fixed
  • Adjust seat and back angle if your chair allows it
  • Seat depth adjustment is essential for proper leg comfort
  • Tilt tension should be set to allow you to recline comfortably

You can find a quick summary of ergonomic office chairs here which include the vital controls needed for proper working comfort.


How To Maintain Your Office Chair: Simple Checks To Extend Your Seat’s Life

Modern cars make it much easier to keep them properly maintained. There's no need to try and remember the mileage at which the next service is due because that built in computer does it for you. As soon as it’s time on comes that little memory jogger on the dashboard.

Despite all the advances in office chair design nobody has yet come with an on board computer to remind you to maintain it.

What do you mean maintain my office chair? That's ridiculous, it doesn't need engine oil you know.

Of course it doesn't. Nonetheless some simple care checks can definitely help extend your chair’s life.

Why your office chair isn't maintenance free
A swivel chair has moving parts and will definitely benefit from some occasional checks. Quite apart form which a lot of dust and dirt can accumulate on it over time and this can be more harmful than you might think.

Looking after the upholstery
You would be amazed at the amount of grime and grit that the fabric of your office chair can harbor. Don't believe me? If you haven't vacuumed your chair recently, try this test.

Slip of your shoe and give the seat of your chair a couple of sharp belts with it. Chances are clouds of dust will shoot out of it. A lot of fabrics hide the dust in them very effectively and you might think what you can’t see won't do any harm. Actually it’s the unseen part that is doing the damage. Contained within all that muck are microscopic particles of grit. As you shuffle and move around on your chair the grit acts like sandpaper shortening the life of your chair’s upholstery.

It’s a good idea to give the upholstery a thorough vacuum every week. Additionally once a year give it a clean with spray foam upholstery cleaner. Test it for color fastness on a hidden part first though.

What if you have leather upholstery?
Dirt and dust is just as harmful to leather even though it doesn't get so deeply embedded. Begin by vacuuming off surface dust and then wipe it down with clean damp cloth.

Once it’s dry feed the leather by either applying saddle soap or using a good leather cream. Again test to see it doesn't affect the finish before applying it. Vac and wipe weekly and feed the leather every 6 months or so. What else do you need to look after?

Keep those wheels rolling smoothly
Office chair casters accumulate dust and grime like magnets. Because it happens gradually you probably don't notice any change. As the muck builds up it clogs the wheel spindles and just makes the chair more difficult to move.

Begin by turning your chair upside down. Next pull out any loose clumps of fluff and dirt. Follow this by giving each wheel a clean with a powerful vacuum suction pipe.

Sometimes it’s awkward to get into the workings of the wheels, especially double wheel casters. For these a tin of compressed air may be the best way to literally blow the gunge out.

Once you have cleaned the grime out try giving the spindles a light spray with WD40 or silicone spray to help them roll more easily. Make sure to protect surrounding areas with a sheet; you don't want to stain things. Wheel maintenance should be done every 6 months. There's one other thing to check.

Loose and missing screws and fixings
The average office chair gets a lot of hammer and things can work loose. Whenever you're doing maintenance on your chair check that any exposed fixings are tight or missing. These will be mostly on the underside of your chair. Things like screws holding the arms, back and chair mechanism onto the chair’s seat pad.

Bear in mind chair bases are often plywood or injection-molded plastic. Usually they have screw threads pressed into them into which the bolts and screws locate. Constant movement can loosen the fixings. For persistent loose fixings try coating the threads in Loctite to keep them more secure.

The only other thing to do is to apply some light oil to the gas lift with a cloth every 6 months.

Carrying out these simple checks will help extend the life of your chair.

Lets quickly recap:
Office chairs do need regular maintenance
Vacuum the upholstery weekly and spray clean it annually
With leather vac and wipe weekly and feed every 6 months
Wheels gather dust like magnets clean them out every 6 months and lubricate
Check and tighten all exposed fixings regularly

Unlike a car your chair doesn't have an onboard computer to advise servicing is due. Why not set up some diary reminders on your computer when it’s time to clean and check your chair.

Here's a good foam upholstery cleaner, neutralizes odors too. For leather cleaners this specialist has a comprehensive range. And if your chair has gone beyond maintenance and needs replacing here’s a quick summary of some excellent office chairs you should have on your shortlist.

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