Office workers everywhere suffer from similar back problems, often due to long periods of sitting in poorly-designed chairs. If we consider that many of us will spend approximately as much time per day seated at work as we will lie in bed, it stands to reason that we should give buying an office chair at least as much attention and diligence as we would to buying a mattress.
While office chairs are available in a near limitless variety, the question remains: “What’s best for me?” Below are some things to consider in your quest to find the perfect office chair.
Leather, vinyl, mesh, and fabric are generally the most popular office chair materials. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
Leather says prestige and comfort and is available in a standard array of colors. But there are some caveats with leather. Because leather doesn’t breathe well, it’s poorly suited to non-air-conditioned offices. Quality leather chairs will use a thicker, more supple leather, preventing it from becoming brittle, ripping, or wearing as quickly as cheaper leather chairs may.
Vinyl gives a convincing, if less soft and supple, facsimile of leather and can be had for a fraction of the price. As with leather chairs, it is important to be sure you get a high quality vinyl for durability.
Mesh-backed chairs are becoming increasingly popular in today’s offices. It is a very light, breathable material, typically made of plastic or stiff cloth, and helps eliminate heat. They are also more rigid than standard leather and vinyl chairs, many of them ergonomically designed to mitigate against lower back pain.
Fabric chairs are usually inexpensive and available in a wide range of colors, but suffer from the disadvantages of staining easily and deteriorating more quickly. Stain-repelling sprays can help protect fabric, but relatively fast wear over time is unavoidable.
The design and quality of the frame should also be considered, as it is a primary indicator of its longevity and ergonomic orientation. Some chairs require full assembly, while others are partially assembled, making for ease of immediate use.
The highest-quality chairs will be constructed using metal, but there are plenty of high-quality plastic frame chairs available as well. Reputable dealers can provide valuable information about a chair’s durability and quality, but product reviews are often the best gauge of how well a chair is constructed.
Design details, such as chairs with and without arms, will depend on your specific desk needs. Modern office chairs are taking more interest in design features that are ergonomically designed for the human body. If you have back issues, lumbar support (or a lack thereof) should be a major deal breaker.
If at all possible, testing the chair out prior to purchase is ideal. Should you order your chair online, make sure you can return it if the chair doesn’t offer the comfort you need.
There are a growing number of fitness-friendly chairs and accessories available. Office chairs may now include an exercise ball seat, or may be designed in such a way that they force the user to constantly balance their weight, thereby working the core and leg muscles.
The athletically ambitious can also take their chair from a simple parking seat at the desk to a seated stationary bike with the addition of a specialized freestanding pedal arrangement placed in front of the chair.
But if comfort is more your concern, you might consider a massage chair or a removable massage attachment. Options typically include shiatsu massage, heat, vibration, or a combination of two or more of those options. Be prepared to shell out the bucks for this type of thing.
Before purchasing, test it out and make sure that the installation of a specialty chair is in compliance with company policy.
Without having a clear idea in mind of what your needs are, the multiplicity of office chair choices can be overwhelming. The good news is that there is a diversity of chairs that fit into a variety of budgets. Different brands may lay claim to designing the best office chairs, but ultimately, the perfect office chair will be determined by your needs and preferences.
This article originally appeared on Quill.com.