I’ve been refreshing and reorganizing my work space this summer – clearing out accumulated old software, magazines, retired equipment, and taking a serious look at what irritating deficiencies need to be addressed. I tend to use things until they break or become obsolete, only to realize that they should have been replaced years ago. My twin 10 year old monitors will be replaced by the time you read this column, and I have belatedly replaced my task chair – again.
My standard shopping scheme has been to visit the closest big box office store and pick out the most comfortable “executive” chair offered at discount. These seem to last two to 5 years, with visible aging in less than half of that time – just after the warranty expires.
Since I spend a good deal of time with my computers, I decided to carefully seek out the best chair for me rather than the best bargain. I started with an internet search, which found 5.3 million websites proffering helpful advice. Ergonomic experts suggest a suitable chair offers seat adjustments for swivel, height, tilt and depth, backrest adjustments for lumbar support, mid and upper back support and tilt independent of seat position, and arm rests adjustable for height, width and angle. The ideal “neutral posture” for keyboarding positions your feet flat on the floor, knees bent slightly less than 90 degrees, hips and thighs supported by the seat, backrest slightly inclined, arms supported when flexed 90 degrees and hands positioned at keyboard height. For safety sake, the chair base should have a minimum of five spokes and quality casters appropriate for the existing floor surface.
Over 75 million websites wanted to advise me about the best office chairs currently available – or, better yet, to sell me one. There are several chairs that are high on everyone’s best list – Steelcase Leap and Gesture models and Herman Miller Aeron and Embody models. Starting prices range from $940 to $1250; there are literally hundreds of alternative choices priced from $50 to $2500. Good ergonomics are not inherently expensive, and expensive does not necessarily guarantee good ergonomics. A $900 ergonomic chair from a respected manufacturer is a carefully engineered product made from high quality materials; a 12 year comprehensive warranty is typical.
Experts recommend testing out a new chair for at least 30 minutes. When you’re talking about a product that could be around longer than your current pet or significant other, an afternoon of posterior testing seems prudent. Professor Alan Hedge, director of the Ergonomics Laboratory at Cornell University, stated “Finding the right chair is like finding a good pair of shoes: You’ll want yours to follow certain design principles, and you have matters of materials, quality, and aesthetics to consider, but ultimately you’ll want something you feel comfortable in.”
I‘m quite content with the reconditioned Steelcase Leap chair I purchased locally. The cost was about 55% off online pricing, the fit is comfortable and my back has stopped bothering me. It’s not too big, it’s not too small … it’s just right for me!