How Do Ergonomic Desk Chairs Work?

How Do Ergonomic Desk Chairs Work?

You know what one is, but how do ergonomic desk chairs work to aid your comfort and productivity, as well as reduce physical fatigue and repetitive stress injuries? Read on to see how.

Not Every Ergonomic Desk Chair Is Actually Ergonomic… And Even Ones That Are, Aren’t Always Ergonomic All Of The Time

Quite a paradox.

Firstly, it may be no surprise to learn that not all chairs which are sold as ergonomic are actually ergonomic at all. Just as they always have done and no doubt always will, some manufacturers play fast and loose with the rules of what actually constitutes an ergonomic chair.

The basic principle of what makes a chair ergonomic is that it is designed to support the user’s back and offer resistance in the correct places, promoting healthy posture via enhanced lumbar support and therefore reducing back muscle aches and strains (which can lead to other problems elsewhere in the body). They also need to be adjustable in terms of seat height and depth, arm rest position and backward lean.

That latter collection of features are sometimes enough for a manufacturer to claim their model of office desk chair is “ergonomic”, but there is more science to it than just having adjustable features.

Secondly, even when you select a truly ergonomic chair, it might not remain ergonomic if it isn’t set up correctly for the person using it or for the task being completed. People sit differently depending on their body shape and size, obviously, and this needs to be fully accounted for when arranging an ergonomic chair.

Less commonly realised is the fact that how a chair has been arranged can become incorrect when a person begins working on a different task – making notes or hand writing as opposed to typing a document on a computer, or even using a laptop as opposed to a mouse and monitor screen.

It’s for this reason that you should be aware to be sure that you alter the arrangement of your chair as and when anything changes in order for it to remain always ergonomic.


How Do They Work?

As said, ergonomic chairs work by supporting the body in the right way and promoting correct posture. As the fatigue of supporting itself quickly takes hold, even the strongest of human cores will begin to slouch when the mind is concentrating on working instead. An ergonomic chair looks to arrest this, in order to prevent strains and injuries, by helping in the following areas:

  • Seat Height
  • Seat Width and Depth
  • Lumbar Support
  • Backrest
  • Seat Material and Cushioning
  • Armrests
  • Swivel


Seat Height

It’s important to choose the right seat height for you. For the anywhere-near-average person, a good quality ergonomic office chair will be adjustable enough to do the job, but best advice here is to always go for the best that your budget will allow. And if you are slightly short, you should consider increasing your budget to purchase a more specialist chair.

The right seat height is found by altering the pneumatic setting until feet are horizontal on the floor and thighs are horizontal under the desk. Forearms should be able to be placed on the desk neutrally and comfortably (if all of this cannot be achieved, a footrest or adjustable height desk may be needed).


Seat Width and Depth

There isn’t really such thing as a seat that is too wide, but they can certainly be too small. The user should fit comfortably within the width of the chair’s seat without any need to squeeze in or adjust armrests around them.

In terms of seat depth, the user’s lower back should be in contact with the backrest and lumbar support and the back of the knees should be a couple of inches away from the front of the seat.


Lumbar Support

This is probably the most important aspect of a good ergonomic chair. It’s also the feature that most users tend to neglect adhering to.

The lumbar spine has an inward curve and needs extra support when under fatigue, otherwise it will naturally slouch curve outward to seek comfort. But this is terrible when done in the long term and can result in serious problems.

An ergonomic chair works by supporting the lower back and encouraging it to rest in its natural position of a slight inward curve. The user should notice the benefit in the centre and upper back too as it will make them sit more upright. Without the lumbar support this position would become tiresome – but a good ergonomic chair will make it comfortable to sit this way at length.



The backrest, not just the lumbar support, should be adjustable too. It works by being adjustable, the backward angle and overall height.  In order for the backrest to work properly, adjustments should be made around the lumbar support, as this will help you get the right angle of lean on the backrest.

Also, just like the seat, make sure there is enough height and width on the backrest for your body shape.


Seat Material and Cushioning

As a tip, be sure to choose a material which will remain comfortable during those long warmer days in the office, as some cheap fabrics or imitation leather seats can become clammy and itchy during intense heatwaves.

Ergonomically speaking, the material and cushion should be comfortable and supportive. It may be tempting to choose the softest seat cushioning you can find; but this is counter productive. A good ergonomic desk chair works by also offering support in the seat and cushioning, otherwise the body will compensate by supporting itself and cause strain.



On a proper ergonomic chair, the armrests work by being an additional means of support for the shoulders and upper back, as much as they act being a place to rest your arms when sat down.

The height should be adjustable and set at a height which leaves the shoulders relaxed when elbows are placed on the armrests. They should not be used by the lower arm or wrists when a keyboard or mouse is being used on the desk.



Finally, a good ergonomic office chair works by being able to swivel in position too. This is to avoid over stretching and twisting when reaching for or reading something on the other side of a desk.

This works by allowing the hips and torso to move as one unit, rather than fighting against each other when turning and stretching to one side to reach for something.


Workout What Your Office Needs

If you are thinking of changing or upgrading your office furniture, it’s important to choose the right ergonomic chair for your staff. Keep a comfortable control over what you need to order by checking out this free guide to buying furniture.

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