Let's harken back to our school days. Hours and hours spent sitting on straight-backed wooden desk chairs, shifting from side to side by the end of the day. Maybe those chairs had some effect on our attention spans.
Even though we're all grown up (don't laugh), that same principle still applies. Only now it's business productivity instead of grammar grades that are on the line.
Good ergonomic seating involves more than just your tush. It should also cradle your back; encourage good posture; and allow for height, back and arm adjustments. Some of the chairs we looked at come in different sizes, like clothing, for a more individual fit--so you aren't obliged to squirm and slouch in search of the ultimate position. Selecting a particular chair depends on your body shape, size and work habits. Don't be afraid to send a chair back if it doesn't still feel comfortable after eight hours.
"Active sitting" is a term being tossed around a lot. Many companies are designing chairs that encourage and support movement so they follow along when you tilt back or turn side-to-side. The chairs on these pages are all ergonomically designed to hold the body in a natural position throughout the workday.
Prices for the following chairs vary greatly with the grade of fabric you choose. Higher-quality fabrics and especially leather can end up costing you hundreds of dollars extra. But remember, the lower-grade fabrics look (and will hold up) just fine.
Street Price: $319
Phone: (800) 864-2991
The 6003AA's under-seat levers control its many tilt options. An advanced rocker feature lets you practice "active sitting." The rocking tension and back and seat angles can be set for customized seating. The height is adjustable from 16 to 21 inches using the lifetime-guaranteed pneumatic lift. The AA stands for "adjustable arms" formed from sturdy polyurethane. The seat is roomy and constructed with a waterfall front for even leg support. Standard upholstery colors include black, blue, brown, burgundy, gray and navy.
Manufacturer: Haworth Inc.
Street Price: Starts at $365
Phone: (800) 344-2600
The TAS may sound expensive, but it's actually priced in the mid-range of truly ergonomic chairs. A traditional design disguises its modern features: It tilts side-to-side as well as forward and backward to encourage the user to move around. This follows the theory that motion creates alertness and increases worker productivity. Haworth has also attached a built-in, pullout hang tag so the operating instructions are always readily available. The TAS can be purchased with or without arms and with black, graphite or stone-colored trim.
Manufacturer: Amotek/Lusa Inc.
Street Price: $275
Phone: (800) CHAIRSS
The seat of the Flex chair incorporates two inches of high-density foam overlaid with two inches of memory foam that "learns" the user's shape to improve the fit over time. It takes just two simple under-seat paddles to control the chair's tilt, height and back angle. The polypropylene construction of the shell back lets the chair actually flex with you as you move. The arms are adjustable--in/out and up/down--and the seat can be locked or allowed to float free. The Flex features a five-year warranty with a lifetime guarantee for the pneumatic cylinder.
Manufacturer: ERA Products Inc.
Street Price: $1,495
Phone: (800) 576-7328
Web Site: N/A
Don't forget to buckle up. This ergonomic chair looks like it was pulled out of a sports car--and for good reason. From ERA's Driver's Seat line, the Galaxy was designed by automotive engineers. It offers knob-controlled lumbar support, eight-position back tilt (one-piece model), easy lift control for height, rocking tension adjustment, adjustable arms and a position lock. The head rest is also adjustable, and leather is standard. It comes with a lifetime frame warranty; mechanisms are covered for three years. Consider it the Cadillac of office chairs.
Manufacturer: Grahl Industries Inc.
Model: Premier Duo-Back
Street Price: $339 (without arms)
Phone: (888) 289-4724
This chair not only makes a great conversation piece, but it's practical as well. The split-back design follows your movements in all directions without putting pressure on your vertebrae. The Premier Duo-Back is nicknamed the "hugger," and for good reason. The key is in the design's support of both sides of the back, allowing freedom for the spine. Seat tilt, back angle and height are all adjustable. Carpet casters come standard, and adjustable arms cost an additional $64.
Manufacturer: HON Industries Inc.
Street Price: $120
Phone: (800) 435-7889
This task chair is made with computer users in mind. It's the first and most basic in HON's extensive 7700 Series. (If you want something with bells and whistles that's still economical, the 7707 and 7708 have more adjustable parts.) With its quick-adjust back height and 360-degree swivel, the 7701 is a good, basic choice for those with tight budgets or for those who want to keep up with a growing work force. It comes in three different frame colors--black, light gray and taupe--with a variety of fabric choices.