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How to Pick the Best Ergonomic Office Chair in 2018

As we kick off this new year with resolutions top of mind and an eye toward good health in 2018, it’s a great time to think about ergonomic office solutions. Small changes to your employees’ workstations can support big changes in health and be the difference between healthy habits that last all year and ones that die out by February. The most important piece of furniture when it comes to creating an ergonomic workstation is an office chair. Think about it: it’s your employees’ home base for at least eight hours a day, maybe even up to fourteen. The only other piece of furniture where people spend even close to that amount of time is their bed—and let’s be honest, most of us aren’t even getting our requisite eight hours of sleep a night. So the work chair takes the cake for furniture that has the biggest effect on our health.

But what does an ergonomic office chair have that another chair doesn’t? A chair becomes ergonomic only when it specifically fits each individual’s body dimensions, their particular workstation, and the tasks performed there. While it may not seem like a big deal, choosing the right ergonomic chair for your employees could make a huge difference not only in their comfort but also in their health. The wrong chair can create unnecessary stress on the back and spine, which can result in serious back problems, nagging and distracting pain, and higher healthcare costs. At the end of the day, a healthy employee is a productive employee.

How Do I Pick an Ergonomic Office Chair?

When weighing your chair options, here a few things to keep in mind:

  • An ergonomic assessment is the best way to figure out exactly what type of chair to provide for your employees. Each body is different, and an ergonomic assessment will ensure a strategic match between employee and chair.
  • Chairs aren’t one size fits all. If employees’ specific dimensions are not used to measure the chair, it could put a strain on their body. A chair that fits a 6’8’’ male is not going to be a good fit for a petite 5’1’’ female, and our ergonomic specialists know which chairs are good for what body type.
  • Employee height is a critical measurement when it comes to selecting the right chair. The rule of thumb for seat height is about one-quarter of the body height—but this can vary with leg to torso ratio.
  • Different chairs work better than others for different activities—it’s important to consider occupations and daily tasks. An executive assistant is going to need a different chair than a programmer because they look at different parts of their screen all day.

ergonomic office chair, good posture, how to improve posture

Additionally, there are some key features that are a must for any chair to be truly ergonomic:

  • Seat Height Adjustment. Knees should be a little lower than hips, with feet resting flat on the floor.
  • Seat Width and Depth Adjustment. A seat slider allows for adjustment of the width and the depth of the seat. Most people don’t know this is even an option with all the knobs on a chair. When it comes to depth, there should be 1-4 inches between the front edge of the seat and the back of the knee.
  • Lumbar Support. Proper lumbar support with adjustability is key for proper posture. The lower back has a natural curve and a good chair will help support that curve and help the back stay strong and healthy. This support gives sensory feedback to the low back so your employee knows where to hold their center of gravity all day.
  • Back Rest Height Adjustment. Chair back height should be adjusted so the chair’s contours fit the body and offer strong back support.
  • Back Angle Adjustment. This should be easily adjustable for the most comfortable positioning throughout the day. If the back angle is not locked down, then your employee will be able to rock back like they are low-riding and start to get neck pain.
  • Back Tilt Tension Adjustment. The tension knob enables pressure change and the ability to rock back. While a little bit of give is acceptable, the Cadillac low-riding problem applies here as well if the tension knob is not tightened down.
  • Arm Support Adjustment. Arms should be adjustable for width and height. Arm pads should offer proper support when typing. Most the time we see the arm supports are not used at all which is a disservice and other times they are too high and your employee is typing like they have T-rex arms.
  • Stable Wheel Base. We recommend a minimum five-spoke caster base. We want every employee to feel grounded as they are working, otherwise they may start feeling unstable and carrying anxious tension in the body.
  • Swivel Base. Being able to turn while seating is beneficial for spinal alignment.

If you’re outfitting an entire office, it’s ideal to try to find a chair that’s universally functional, comfortable, and of high quality. There are some really great ergo chairs out there, but these are three of our favorites for 2018:

  1. Herman Miller Aeron
    Coming in yet again at number one, the Aeron is an uber-popular and well-known office chair. One of the very first chairs to use mesh, its design still holds up as easily adjustable, breathable, and lightweight. It comes in three different sizes to fit every employee, with eight cones of differing tensions for optimal comfort. There simply is not a better chair on the market. Make sure you don’t get the same size for every employee and get everyone a proper fitting.
  2. Herman Miller Sayl
    An outstanding economical chair by Herman Miller. Its webbed back offers full adjustability and lumbar support. It’s fully recyclable and comes in a variety of great colors. If you want the magic of a Herman Miller chair without the steep price tag, this is the chair for you.
  3. Steelcase Leap Fabric Chair
    One of the best features of this chair is the way it conforms to the shape of your back, offering lumbar support and keeping you comfortable for longer periods of time. The seat glides as you change position or recline, which helps accommodate your posture to keep your work in focus while helping your back and neck pain-free.

The best way, though, to outfit an office with ergonomic chairs is by having an ergonomic lunch and learn, with individual one-on-one ergonomic assessments. At Urban Wellness Clinic, we’ve helped countless clients create ergonomic workstations for their employees with this exact two-part approach.

What Happens in an Ergonomic Assessment?

In our Ergonomic Lunch and Learn sessions, we come in to talk about the benefits of good posture, the physical and mental consequences of bad posture, and techniques on how to improve each employee’s ergonomic desk set up. We come to the table with fifteen years of medical and ergonomic expertise, and we encourage your employees to ask us anything that concerns them about their posture or desk-setup, as well as how to manage injuries by optimizing their workstation.

We cover all the important ergonomic guidelines to proper posture, teaching your employees to sit so that:

  • The spine is lengthened and the neck long and slightly tucked.
  • The pelvis is angled slightly forward and the knees are slightly lower than hip level.
  • Forearms, wrists, and hands are straight and almost parallel to the floor.
  • Head and torso are in line, head slightly bent forward, facing toward the front.
  • Shoulders are relaxed with upper arms hanging normally at sides of the body.
  • Elbows are close to the body and bent between 90 and 100 degrees.

We’ve got you covered for a thorough and deep-diving conversation with your staff, which will leave each employee confident and able to optimize their workstation for physical comfort and mental clarity.

ergonomic office chair, how to pick an ergonomic office chair

Our One-On-One assessments take a personalized approach by evaluating each employee’s workstation and adjusting as needed for total ergonomic health. Each personal ergonomic workstation assessment lasts about 15 to 20 minutes and provides us with the information needed to apply ergonomic best practices to reduce risk of injury. We take before and after photos since, as we’ve learned over our many years of experience, some people think they are sitting well but in fact look less than optimal. A picture never lies. We go over our in-depth workstation ergonomic assessment checklist that covers everything from chair positioning and arm placement to screen height and lighting. Once we’ve assessed each workstation, we set out to mitigate risks. What works for one person isn’t going to work for another. That’s why we hone in on the specific issues and physical ailments of each employee and work to create a space geared toward each individual situation. Someone suffering from headaches, for example, will get different recommendations than someone who has a back injury. But we also look at simple things, like their height and if they are right or left handed.

Our ergonomic assessments go hand in hand with our other corporate wellness programs such as workplace yoga and chair massage therapy. If you’re interested in getting assistance choosing the right ergonomic office chair (or a fuller wellness experience) for your employees, you can always give us a call at 212-355-0445. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have regarding your employees’ needs, your concerns, and the value of ergonomic assessment.


Best in health,


Dr. Emily Kiberd