Choosing a computer chair

A comfortable, supportive chair is a good investment if you spend a long time at your computer.
 
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  • Updated:6 Apr 2005
 

01 .Buying tips

Chairs

Furnishing your study or office may seem trivial in comparison to deciding on a computer processor or RAM but a hasty decision can lead to long-term physical problems. When it comes to choosing a chair, comfort and proper support are key.

Types of chairs

There are hundreds of computer chairs on the market. They come in a wide variety of styles such as:

  • fixed height
  • adjustable height
  • low backrest
  • tall backrest
  • with arms
  • without arms

There are also non-standard designs such as:

  • kneeling chairs
  • sit-stand stools
  • 'saddle' seats

These tend to be more practical for short periods of use. We recommend trying any chair before buying.

Many chairs are labelled 'ergonomic', which should indicate that the model has been specifically designed to support correct posture. However, some manufacturers use the term too freely. Separate Australian Standards apply to ergonomic fixed height chairs (AS/NZS 4468) and height-adjustable swivel chairs (AS/NZS 4438). Ask if the chair conforms to the relevant Standard to be sure of the validity of any claim. Standards also cover strength, durability, stability and safety.

You can buy computer chairs from specialist stores, furniture shops, department stores, computer stores and office suppliers. We found products ranging in price from less than $70 to more than $500.

Tip

Learn how to adjust your chair properly:

  • Adjust the height so that your shoulders are relaxed in the working position and your feet rest flat on the floor. You may need to lower your desk, if possible, or use a footrest to support your feet and legs.
  • Adjust the backrest so that it sits in the small of your back.
  • No matter how comfortable your chair is, you should always take regular breaks and vary your activities to relieve tension in your muscles.

Please note: this information was current as of April 2005 but is still a useful guide to today's market.


 
 

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02.Features to consider

 

HeightComputer chair

Do you need a chair with adjustable height? This is important if more than one person is likely to use the chair. Choose a model that you can adjust whilst seated, preferably using a gas lift.

Backrest

This provides lumbar support. Look for a separately-adjustable backrest that moves forward and backwards, and up and down. You should be able to adjust the backrest to fit the small of your back. Again, it's best to be able to adjust the backrest whilst seated. Chairs with tall backs provide support for your upper back and are good for reclining.

Seat

You should be able to adjust the height and tilt of your seat. Your weight should be absorbed in your buttocks rather than your thighs. Seats should have a rounded front edge — sometimes described as a ‘waterfall’ — to reduce pressure on the underside of your thighs. The seat should be deep enough to be comfortable without pushing into the back of your legs when you lean on the backrest. It should also be wide enough to fit your body.

Base

A five-star leg base provides the best stability. Slides or locked castors should be fitted to chairs for hard floors; standard castors can be used on carpet.

Armrests

These depend on the user. If your main tasks include working with a keyboard and monitor, armrests probably aren’t necessary — they can get in the way and push your shoulders up. Padded armrests are good for people who perform tasks that require their arms to be held away from their body.

Strength and durability

The Australasian Furnishing Research & Development Institute (also known as Furntech and AFRDI) is an independent organisation that tests and certifies furniture. It tests products to make sure they meet the Australian and New Zealand Standards and certification requirements, including strength and durability. You can download a list of office chairs that meet the Standards from the website, www.furntech.org.au.

Padding

You shouldn’t be able to feel the seat or backrest under the padding, which should feel firm. Choose breathable cloth fabric upholstery instead of vinyl or leather.

Mobility

Swivel chairs suit people who need to move around their desk to perform other tasks.