Hideaway Computer Desk

Computer desk chairs

It's tempting - some would say a necessity - to keep costs down when setting up a home office. However, one area where it is unwise to cut corners is with your choice of computer desk chairs. Realise that you're likely to spend a great deal of time sitting in front of your desk, and you certainly don't want a chair that breaks your concentration because it's uncomfortable, or even worse, causes you pain or injury.

Computer chair ergonomics

Wikipedia defines ergonomics as:
...the science of designing the job, equipment, and workplace to fit the worker. Proper ergonomic design is necessary to prevent repetitive strain injuries, which can develop over time and can lead to long-term disability.
Here are some ergonomic principles which you should strive to achieve with regard to your seating position:
  • Aim to sit fairly upright, not slouched, with the small of your back pressed firmly against the backrest and with your spine erect. Use your chair's tilt adjustment to find the optimal angle for you.
  • Ensure your feet rest flat on the floor, with your thighs more or less parallel to the ground.
  • Keep your head balanced over your shoulders, with your eyes more or less level with the top of your monitor, and half a metre to a metre away. If you find yourself looking down at papers on your desktop a lot, consider getting one of those plastic trays that attaches alongside your monitor, which you can clip papers to that you're working with - your neck and shoulders will thank you at the end of the day.
  • When typing or using the mouse, try to keep your elbows close to your sides with your forearms parallel to the ground and your wrists in a relaxed neutral position. And don't hunch your shoulders while you work.

Desirable office chair features

Choosing a good chair is probably the most critical part of setting up your home office; as such here are some suggestions for features to look out for when shopping around, which will help you to achieve the ergonomic principles I've just outlined:
  • Padding - there should be adequate padding on the chair's seat and back, particularly the lower back area.
  • Height adjustment - usually accomplished via a pressurised cylinder, you pull a lever to open a valve which adjusts the seat of the chair up or down. Sometimes this is operated via a screw mechanism instead.
  • Angle of backrest - this is one of the most critical features to have. You should be able to tilt the backrest forwards or backwards to find your most comfortable position. Some chairs also have an "easy flow" feature which allows the backrest to move forwards and backwards as you shift your position, providing back support all the while.
  • Armrest adjustment - some chairs come with armrests, some without. If yours has them, make sure you can adjust their height up and down so you're able to lightly rest your forearms without too much pressure on your elbows and without hunching your shoulders.
  • Wheels and swivel - it's rare to come across a computer chair that doesn't swivel and have wheels. Suffice to say that these make it much easier to retrieve stuff from nearby cupboards or bookcases without having to stretch or get up out of your seat.