How to select the best work chair

The selection of your chair depend on the type of work you do. What is the difference between the chair types?

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If you work on a computer at home or in an office, assembly line, medical facility, laboratory, or call centre, how do you go about selecting the best work chair? What type of chair do you need? If your work requires that you spend a lot of time sitting, is a cheap chair worth it? Cheap office chairs – what do they REALLY cost me?

The work you do determines the type of chair you need

This may sound obvious, but it is an often neglected first step in selecting a new chair. Chairs differ for different working environments. For example:

The bottom line….The selection of your chair is heavily influenced by the type of work you do.

Different types of work chairs

There are a few different types of work chairs that range from cheap to expensive, each of which has it’s own pros and cons. Let’s have a look at a few of the options.

1. Ergonomic work chairs for home and office

An ergonomic work chair is one that aims to alleviate pains and strains caused by sitting for prolonged periods, for example working on a computer. Best chair for computer use – 8 must have features.

features of a good ergonomic chair can reduce the health risks of sitting too much

Of critical importance is that the ergonomic or orthopedic chair is correctly adjusted for your height and your working environment. Not adjusting your chair correctly can quickly result in musculoskeletal pain in your lower back, neck, shoulders, hips and kneesHow to protect your health in the age of the office chair. As many companies trial a 4-day work week, employees are often spending longer periods sitting. An ergonomic chair becomes even more important to protect the health and wellbeing of the employee.

Good ergonomic work chairs have the following adjustments:

seat height adjustment
Seat height
seat depth adjustment is not common on cheap work chairs
Seat depth
lumbar support adjustment
Lumbar support
adjustable armrest on ergonomic work chair
backrest & seat adjustment on ergonomic chair
Back & seat angle

Ergonomic chairs are designed to support your body while you work, and are best suited to all types of office, computer, and study work.

How do I choose the right ergonomic desk chair for me?

2. Orthopedic work chair

Orthopedic chairs include all the common design features of ergonomic office chairs, but there are crucial differences between the two chair types. Just like an ergonomic chair, they will also prevent back, neck and shoulder pain caused by incorrect sitting. However, because orthopedic chairs are fitted with a Free-Float Swivel Mechanism, you are able to independently control the angles between the backrest and the seat. This functionality ensures that orthopedic chairs may alleviate, and even rehabilitate, certain medical preconditions, specifically musculoskeletal issues of the spine. 

Anyone with sciatica or other musculoskeletal issues of the spine, should consider using an orthopedic chair. Good quality orthopedic chairs are not cheap, but offer the best support for your back and are ideal for all types of computer, office and study work.

3. Heavy-Duty chairs

If the work environment is more demanding, you need a heavy-duty chair with superior strength and durability. For example, in a 24/7 control room or call centre, multiple shifts require chairs that are used around-the-clock. Alternatively, a person weighing 160kg will need a work chair that is both larger and stronger to accommodate their frame.

In both these instances, standard chairs simply don’t measure up. Either because they are rated for a maximum of 120kg, and/or are designed for a normal 8-hour working day. Because of their added strength, heavy-duty work chairs are usually not that cheap.

Heavy-Duty chairs are designed for extreme use, either by Big & Tall people, or in call-centres and control rooms that operate 24/7.

4. Laboratory and medical chairs

Laboratories and medical facilities need a different type of work chair. The high working surface requires an adjustable chair with a footring and no armrests. Forensic laboratories, teaching environments, physiotherapists and other medical practitioners frequently use these seats. Because they are often used in a sterile environment, lab stools are usually made from easily cleaned materials like vinyl and polyurethane.

Laboratory and medical chairs are designed for a higher work surface and sterile work area. Because laboratory and medical technicians frequently move around, these chairs normally have no armrests.

5. Industrial and factory work chairs

Factory or industrial chairs used on production lines and in workshops need to be extremely robust.

In certain industrial environments like food processing, it is important that the chairs are easy to clean. For these applications, a non-porous vinyl upholstery is better than mesh or fabric. In many workshops, a robust chair is needed, for example one where the seat and back are covered with self-skinning polyurethane (PU) foam.

Factory chairs are designed for harsh work areas. Because of the nature of the work that is performed, these chairs often have no castors or armrests.

6. Kneeling chairs

kneeling chair
Conventional sitting with a 90 degree spine-thigh angle (left), and sitting on a kneeling chair with an ‘open’ pelvis and 110 degree spine-thigh angle (right).

The underlying principle of a kneeling chair is to maintain an ‘open’ pelvis while you are sitting. This reduces the strain in your lower back that normally occurs when you sit on a conventional chair. 

An ‘open’ pelvis is when the angle between your spine and thighs is at least 1100.

By opening the pelvis and lowering the knees in relation to the hips, the disc pressure in the lumbar region of the spine is reduced by up to 65% when compared to sitting in a traditional chair with a 900 back-thigh angle.

Kneeling chairs distribute your weight between the pelvis and the knees which reduces spinal compression, and therefore the stress and tension in the lower back and leg muscles. What actually happens when you sit? Because of their geometry, they don’t require a backrest. However, in most cases you need to sit at a table or desk that is higher than normal.

Kneeling chairs are designed to improve your posture by sliding the hips forward and aligning the back, shoulders, and neck. Anyone with knee problems will have difficulty sitting on a kneeling chair.

7. Saddle chairs

The saddle chair can be used while you work at a desk, computer, with a patient, or at a workbench. This chair is in the shape of a horse’s saddle and you sit in a position somewhere between sitting and standing.

Saddle chairs are a good option if you move around the room a lot during the day. For this reason, they have become the “seat of choice” for dentists, physiotherapists and other medical practitioners that spend large parts of their day moving around and bending over patients. However, if you sit in a stationary position for most of the day, they can be quite tiring on the core and back muscles. As a work chair, a saddle seat is not a cheap option.

saddle work office chair

Like a kneeling chair, a saddle chair opens the pelvis while you sit. However, the angle between your spine and thighs is usually greater than on a kneeling chair, and typically about 1300.

Saddle chairs are often preferred to kneeling chairs because firstly there is no pressure on your knees, and secondly, their height is easily adjusted. However, they are far more expensive.

A saddle chair requires a higher desk or work surface, and ideally the desk should height adjustable. Benefits of using a sit-stand desk.

Saddle chairs are designed to improve your posture and reduce lower back pain. The design tries to eliminate some of the typical problems experienced with a traditional office chair such as lower back pain and slouching.

8. Ball chairs

Ball chairs may improve posture and increase the use of your core and back muscles while you sit. The idea behind the Ball Chair is twofold. Firstly, the ischial tubersities or sitting bones, sink into the ball and so are easily stabilised. Secondly, the inherent instability of the ball encourages movement and active sitting. Because there is a slight bouncing movement as you sit, your muscles are continuously stimulated which encourages good blood flow through your back, core and leg muscles. This reduces stress and fatigue. Ball chairs are often recommended by physiotherapists to address musculoskeletal issues resulting from poor posture. Choosing the Right Exercise Ball

ball chair for office and study work

Although ball chairs are available in different sizes, they are not height adjustable. Because they are quite large and cumbersome, they are difficult to store.

Some ball chairs are modified with a base frame with castors for improved mobility, and they may even have a backrest.

As is the case with kneeling and saddle chairs, a ball chair usually requires a higher work surface.

Ball chairs are designed to encourage active sitting, improve your posture, and reduce lower back pain. Sitting on a ball makes slouching difficult, and the constant re-positioning needed to stay on the ball automatically improves posture.


If you work in an environment that requires you to sit down, make sure you get the RIGHT chair. Don’t buy only on price as this just one aspect. What influences the price of an office chair? If you work in an office on a computer, you will typically spend a lot of time sitting, and in order to protect your health, a cheap chair may not be a good investment. Cheap office chairs – what do they REALLY cost me?

Contact us for more information.

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