Ergonomic chairs have a lot of controls and a huge range of settings. Ensure you get the most out of your investment by understanding what the controls do, and how to set them correctly. Not all chairs are the same, and won’t necessarily all have the features listed here.
First have a good look around and under your chair. Some controls are well hidden. Play with them all and understand what they do.
Various types of castors are available, and the wrong ones can cause problems. Soft castors are preferred for hard floors, and harder castors for soft floors. They can be ‘braked’ when loaded so the chair can not moved when sat in, but then getting it to the right position can be a problem. Other locking mechanisms are available, but are unlikely to found on a standard chair.
The base of a wheeled chair should have 5 legs, and the higher the chair is able to go, and the heavier the user, the wider the base will need to be. A good chair will be guaranteed to work for most people up to around 150kg.
The height of the chair should be adjusted so that when the seat is level, the feet are flat on the floor and the thighs are level with the ground. Ideally, the height of the desk should be altered so that the armrests (when themselves correctly adjusted – see below) meet the work top.
Shorter people may need a footrest to keep their feet planted, taller people may need to raise their equipment, ideally the entire desk.
Seat depth is crucial, and the lack of adjustment on cheaper chairs is possibly the biggest cause of back pain in ill fitting chairs.
With your backside firmly in the back of the seat, knees together and feet flat on the floor, adjust the depth of the seat so that there is a gap of between two and four fingers, between the front of the seat and the back of your knee. You may have to stand up to slide the seat.
If there is no gap, and no seat slide on the chair, it is not suitable for you. You could put a back support or cushion behind you, but you should not consider this a long term solution, any more than you would stuffing newspaper into large shoes to make them ‘fit’.
Too much gap isn’t so much of a problem, but if you can get more than a whole flat hand in the space, again, you need to look to finding a correctly fitting seat that better supports your legs.
Some chairs come with an adjustable lumbar support of some sort. Many use an air cell, pumped up with a small hand pump, some have a pad or cushion of some sort that is adjusted forward and back. Chairs with a mesh back may have a pad that slides up and down.
Everyone likes a different level of lumbar pressure, it’s a personal preference. Many people adjust the pressure through the day.
Some lumbar supports can be adjusted independently of the backrest, on others the entire backrest and lumbar will be height adjustable. Some will have height adjustment and no lumbar.
If you first pump up the lumbar so you can easily feel it’s presence, you can then adjust the height of the backrest or lumbar so that it is comfortable for you.
A neck or headrest is often an optional extra. It can enhance comfort and for some tasks improve support. It may be more useful for those with existing neck or shoulder issues.
Adjust it so that it is not intrusive. Most are designed to fit into the nape of the neck, but it should not be applying any pressure, or even touching you during normal screen work. If your relaxing back, watching video or talking on the phone for example, position the support so that it is comfortable.