Yes, today’s column is about office chairs. While the topic is mundane, it is your throne during working hours. Some people spend more time with their office chair than with their families.
If you are reading this, then you are probably considering whether you should replace your current chair. So this column will explain when you should replace your current chair, how to select your replacement, and how much you should pay for it.
This column will not discuss ergonomics, improving posture, or relieving back pain. This is because I skipped gross anatomy class in law school. If you have back pain or posture issues, you should talk to your health care professional who can help you select an office chair that meets your needs.
When Is The Best Time To Get A New Office Chair?
Don’t wait until your chair breaks or becomes unusable. You will end up having to go to the nearest office supply store for something in a hurry. You might regret the decision later.
The best time to purchase a new chair is when you simply want to upgrade your existing chair or when the old chair starts to become uncomfortable or sustains some minor damage. This way, you will have adequate time to research and test replacement chairs. Also, you can probably sell your current chair for a reasonable price or give it to someone who needs it.
When reading various reviews and rankings of best office chairs, ignore subjective opinions on things like comfort. These anecdotal, “personal lived experience” opinions have little to no value because everybody is different. Just because the reviewer thinks a chair is comfortable does not mean it will be the same for you. Also, some of these reviewers may have received press versions from the manufacturers or other incentives that could also make such reviews suspect. Instead, focus mainly on relevant, objective information such as build quality, features, warranty information, style, and price.
Have A Seat
After doing research, you will probably have narrowed down your choices. The next and most important step is to test each chair before buying. Do not order an office chair online even if they offer a full refund. Ideally, go to a store specializing in office chairs — they will have a large and diverse selection. Also, their staff is likely to be knowledgeable and can provide advice and guidance. Another benefit of a specialty store is that if you like a certain chair, you might be able to buy and take that same chair home instead of a different version that may not feel the same.
Sit on each chair for as long as you need to. You should be able to sit on it comfortably for a few hours. Your feet should not be dangling and you should be able to access your desk with ease. The chair should recline to a comfortable position.
If you must share office space, you might want to check if the chair’s upholstery can absorb silent but deadly odors if that is an issue.
How Much Should I Pay?
Office chair prices can range widely, from free to even over $2,000. (Amazon lists dozens of office chairs in the five-figure range. Good luck getting the office manager to sign off on that requisition slip.) Generally, you get what you pay for although established brand names are more expensive than unknown ones. More expensive chairs have a few advantages. They are generally made of more durable materials. They have longer warranties. Also, because the price of some brand name models increases every year, you can probably resell your chair for a decent price. Lastly, more expensive chairs come fully assembled while the cheaper ones are DIY. This could be problematic as some chair pieces are heavy and can be difficult to install. A shoddily installed chair will feel wobbly and have a shortened useful life.
In short, if you feel just as comfortable in a $200 chair as in a $2,000 chair, purchase the cheaper one, although you should expect to replace it in a few years. Alternatively, if you want to keep an office chair for life, then you are better off investing in the more expensive one.
Another option is to buy used. But this is a gamble. Individuals might be willing to haggle down their listed price, but the condition of the chair might be questionable. After all, the seller is getting rid of the chair for a reason, and chances are that the seller is not going to be completely honest. Unless the chair is being sold at a very low price, it might not be worth the time to meet the sellers, especially if they live far away or if the seller is giving a bad vibe.
The best way to purchase a used chair is probably by going to an office liquidator store. These places have a variety of gently used or refurbished furniture. However, discounts are likely to be smaller.
You could also ask your friends or colleagues if they are willing to sell or give away any unused chairs. You might be surprised — pleasantly — at the responses.
You will spend a lot of time in your office chair. So you will need to spend some time to search for the right chair that meets your personal needs and budget. The right one will make you productive and comfortable.
Steven Chung is a tax attorney in Los Angeles, California. He helps people with basic tax planning and resolve tax disputes. He is also sympathetic to people with large student loans. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. Or you can connect with him on Twitter (@stevenchung) and connect with him on LinkedIn.