What Makes A Chair Ergonomic? The Ultimate Guide

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“Ergonomic” has become a popular term when it comes to office environments. But do you know what it actually means? 

Ergonomics refers to how people use equipment and the act of designing equipment to fit the physical capabilities of the user for maximum comfort and efficiency [1].

A chair is ergonomic if it supports healthy posture, relieves strain, and provides comfort for long periods of time. Below, we will look at the importance of a basic ergonomic position and the features of an ergonomic chair. 

Finally, there are some important things to consider when getting an ergonomic chair that will give you the best possible experience. 

Importance Of An Ergonomic Position

It’s easy to disregard the importance of maintaining healthy posture while working, but over time, this can lead to serious health issues and chronic pain. You may experience back pain, a stiff neck, and numbness in your legs. 

When you’re in pain, it’s impossible to focus on the job at hand. People with ergonomic workspaces can be more efficient and productive while still maintaining good physical health. 

You will have better mental health and a happier outlook, which in turn makes you more effective in everything you do.

Basics Of Ergonomic Position

Even though every person is built differently, there are some basic principles for a healthy work position that are good to follow.

  • Sit an arm’s length away from the computer, and try to position the top of the screen at eye level.
  • Sit straight without slouching to keep your neck in a neutral position. It’s very easy to unconsciously tilt forward and put strain on your spine and neck muscles.
  • Your forearms should be parallel with the floor or have a slight downward slope towards your keyboard. Adjusting the seat to the proper height will make this possible. If your feet are unable to rest flat on the floor, put something underneath them to maintain the proper arm position.
  • Don’t cross your legs and let your feet rest flat on the floor to promote good circulation. This is especially important when spending long hours in your chair.

Features Of An Ergonomic Chair

The most noticeable characteristic of an ergonomic chair is the many adjustable features that allow the user to customize it to their physical needs.

A chair that is ergonomic for one person may not be for another if they are unable to adjust it. Therefore, the more adjustable options there are, the more likely the chair will be a good fit for you.

Below, we will look at the key features of an ergonomic chair and why they are important.

Seat Height

The most basic adjustment that most people use first is the seat height. Ideally, your feet should rest flat on the floor with your knees at a 90-degree angle. If the seat is too low, it will put unhealthy pressure on your sit bones. 

Most chairs range from 16-22 inches in height. Very tall people will need to look for chairs designed to accommodate the unique needs of big and tall users. 

Seat Width And Depth

Your seat should be wide enough to have a couple inches of space on either side to allow freedom of movement. 

The seat depth should be such that the edge of the seat is a couple of inches behind the back of your knees. Any farther forward, and it can put extra pressure on the back of the knees. 

If your legs are extra long and the seat is too shallow, it can cut into the backs of your thighs and affect leg circulation.

To find your ideal seat depth, measure from your tailbone to the end of your thighs and subtract 2 inches. If your chair doesn’t have a sliding seat, be sure that the standard size fits you well.

Seat Tilt

A feature on some quality ergonomic chairs, a seat that tilts promotes a healthy pelvis position. 

For people who spend many hours sitting, it’s critical that the pelvis stays in a neutral position with the hips, knees, and ankles at 80-degree angles.

Not to be confused with the reclining function, the tilt feature affects the backrest and seat simultaneously. They both change angles together. 

With synchro tilting, the backrest and seat tilt back in a 2:1 ratio. This lets your lower body stay more horizontal as you lean back and relieves pressure on your back. Many tilt mechanisms can lock in place at your ideal angle.

Lumbar Support

If you’ve ever gotten up from a long workday suffering from a stiff and painful lower back, you know the importance of good lumbar support [2].

There are three different types:

  1. Fixed Lumbar Support: Non-adjustable, fixed on the backrest
  1. Adjustable Lumbar Support: Can be adjusted for correct height, depth, and firmness
  1. Dynamic Lumbar Support: Automatically adapts to your position and weight

Although you may think that an adjustable or dynamic lumbar support would always be best, the materials and dimensions can affect the comfort level. 

Some mid-back chairs don’t have a separate lumbar support but feature a backrest that can be raised and lowered to fit your spine.

Backrest Recline

A reclining function only affects the backrest and is independent of the seat. Because of this, the backrest can go back much farther than with the tilt feature. This is handy for users who want to lay back for gaming or a nap. Most ergonomic chairs can recline back to varying degrees and also lock into position. 

Since everyone has their own preferences, it’s important to check the specifications of the chair you’re considering. Some recline up to 180 degrees, while others only go to 135 degrees. For people with back pain, a chair that reclines to 135 degrees may be helpful for stress relief [3].


You may not think that armrests are an important feature in a chair, but adjusting them to the correct height and angle allows your shoulders to relax and reduce tension in your upper body [4].

Raising them to the height of your desk encourages proper arm position. However, it’s important to avoid using the armrests while actively typing, since this can restrict your range of motion and increase strain on your wrists and forearms.

For people who have a small workspace, armrests that fold down and slide under the desk can be ideal.

Some armrests can also pivot in and out and support your arms when your hands are closer together while using a small keyboard. This is a very nice feature that is not available on all models.

For wider users, armrests that can adjust away from the body are a necessity.


Another common feature in office chairs is the ability to spin around and move efficiently around your workspace without getting up. Most chairs have a 360-degree swivel feature. 

The added maneuverability reduces muscle strain in reaching different areas of your desk.


Did you know the adult human head weighs in at a whopping 11 pounds [5]? 

As one of the heaviest parts of the body, balancing it on a few vertebrae all day can be tiring to your neck and harmful to your spine if not done correctly.

Enter the adjustable headrest—made to relieve neck tension and give you a healthy place to rest your head. Once adjusted, it can also reduce stress in the shoulders and trapezius muscles.

The best type of headrest pivots in and out as well as moving up and down. This enables it to hug the back of your neck in every position.


The materials used in an ergonomic chair go a long way towards determining how comfortable and durable it is. 

Materials such as mesh are more breathable and keep you cooler than fabric. However, many people prefer the look and feel of bonded leather or soft fabric. 

When it comes to the frame of the chair, all-metal construction is best for longevity. Most quality chairs, especially ones for big and tall users, come with a 5-point metal base that can hold hundreds of pounds.


A chair that rolls easily increases your efficiency, so sturdy wheels that won’t damage your floor or carpet is key. For hard surfaces, rubber wheels are ideal, whereas hard wheels are better for carpets. 

Many chairs now are made with rollerblade-style casters that roll smoothly on both hard and soft surfaces without damage. 

Since you and the chair depend on the wheels to support and carry you, it’s critical to make sure they are high quality.

Important Factors To Consider

Time Spent In Your Chair

When it’s time to find the right chair, consider how much time you plan to spend in it. This will determine how much you want to invest in the necessary features. A chair that is comfortable for three or four hours may not feel so plush after ten hours. 

Your Body Is Unique

What works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you. Each person has their own unique build, pains, and preferences. For a chair to be ergonomic, it must fit your body.

Physical Needs Change

Your body’s needs can change throughout the day. Adjusting your chair is not a one-and-done thing. What works in the morning will most likely need to be modified by the afternoon to accommodate how your body feels. 

It’s not healthy to stay in one position for long periods, so you will most likely need to change the tilt angle, the armrests, or the lumbar support. That’s the beauty of an ergonomic chair. You make it fit your body—not the other way around.

Your Chair Is Only Part Of The Ergonomic Equation

When it comes to designing an ergonomic workspace, a chair is a great start, but it won’t fix every issue. 

Other components—such as desk height, work surface, foot rests, and lighting—also affect your overall comfort. Customizing each element as much as possible will ensure you have the optimal working environment.


After explaining the meaning of ergonomics and why an ergonomic position is so important, we have looked at the essential features in an ergonomic chair. Adjusting each part to fit your body will determine if the chair is right for you.

Because everyone is built differently, it’s critical that you find what meets your needs, which can change from day to day. 

Finding a comfortable chair that supports healthy posture won’t fix every ergonomic issue, but it may go a long way towards preventing pain and chronic health problems. 

After customizing every part of your workstation to maximize efficiency and comfort, you will be able to fully enjoy your new chair in an ergonomic environment.


[1] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/ergonomics

[2] https://dryashar.com/blog/lumbar-support-important-back/

[3] https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/news/20061129/back-pain-eased-by-sitting-back

[4] https://www.worksiteinternational.com/blog/to-arm-rest-or-not-to-arm-rest

[5] https://www.gwosteopathy.co.uk/much-head-weigh/