My Quest to Find the Perfect Office Chair
Stuck in a Chair Most of the Day
Like many office bound folks, I’m stuck behind a monitor at least 5-8 hours a day in a busy office environment. And while I’ve discovered the newest trend to work standing up behind one those new fangled rising desks, the reality is you’re going to be sitting a good portion of the day.
The average office worker, at least in larger companies where I have worked, has no choice but to sit to perform intensive tasks, and it is not unusual to find people that spend 10 solid hours sitting (except for bathroom breaks and maybe a lunch outing), as much as flying on an international flight.
What I think is funny is that when you are flying on an airplane, most people are frequently up and walking, stretching, and are conscious of the whole “blood clot thing”, yet at work, we treat sitting as if it were a totally different activity.
Back Pain - My Greatest Enemy
My greatest enemy- lower back and seat pain from poor quality chairs that have literally zero or minimal padding, horrible back or side support, and poorly designed armrests. I have about a two hour lifespan on any chair to begin with, so eventually my hamstrings and rear end go numb. Most chairs offer no lower back support (unlike my car, which has an inflatable lumbar adjustment) at all.
Most foam used in the padding of a typical office chair, I've found, pack down after only a few months, going from somewhat cushy and nest-like, to feeling like a few layers of cardboard or gravel. How is this possible?
When you buy a mattress, you have thousands of choices, from memory foam, to latex rubber, to specialized pocketed coils, to amazing layers of wool, and other filler stuff…we spend probably less time horizontal than we do sitting on our butts 8-10 hours a day, and the worst part is, that when you are sleeping, at least you are distributing the load across a wide area, a broad surface, but in an office chair, you’re concentrating your weight into an area the size of a small pizza pan, so it’s much harder to distribute the load and reduce the pressure point and laser like pain that slowly but surely shoots up from the seat of your cheap, raggedy office chair.
I also have been reading a lot about sitting being the new "heart attack", and of course, everyone is looking for an excuse to pop out of your office chair and either stand while working or walking and stretching.
Physically, the damage is done because you are often sitting so long that blood pools in your legs, and body movement or standing is the only way that blood can get pumped back to your heart and move through your body without forming clots, which can lead to stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolism, etc.
Almost as bad, is nerve compression, which can cause conditions like sciatic nerve pain, and the firmer the surface, the more mashing you are doing to both nerves and connective tissue. I have had sciatic nerve pain, and believe me, it is horrific, and it takes weeks sometimes to go away. The root cause of the problem: clearly too much sitting on extremely rigid chairs, and maybe not enough stretching and walking.
Office Chair Frustration
Frustrated by this, I started wondering if I should sit at all while at work! But, the fact is, sitting down at work, with periodic upright activity, is simply a fact of life in the workplace. But why is the typical office issue chair so terrible?
Most office chairs are really akin to a folding metal chair, with little or no thought given to how your body conforms to the chair, or where to build in proper ergonomic elements that make sitting at least tolerable.
Also, the neck area in most chairs offer no extra cushion or pushback, so your entire spine goes Frankenstein stiff as you slowly begin to seize up and your body begins to fight back, screaming at you to get up!
My Quest for the Perfect Office Chair
So, with a completely numb rear end, I began a quest, in a retail store first, but still didn’t find a chair that seemed to fit me just right after trying 30 or so chairs. I also began to get complaints from co-workers who were all secretly wrestling the same bear eight hours a day, silently suffering.
While in a big box mattress store one day, which also happened to sell office chairs, I started wondering why chairs aren't built with an innerspring kind of arrangement in the seat.
I had heard of office chairs with mattress style coils built into the seat, which sounded really nice, and I started checking things out online. Much to my surprise I stumbled on one, within a few minutes of nosing around.
It was a Serta Brand Office Chair, that I found on Amazon.Com. It had only a few reviews, but seemed to offer what I was looking for. Skeptical, I was in so much pain, that I took a chance and ordered not one, but two, because my accountant was also complaining about how awful her chair was, and if we didn't love them to death, I figured I could return them if I wanted to.
When it arrived, I noticed from the get go how neatly the chair was packaged with bubble wrap and extra plastic sheeting around the leather to prevent scuffing during shipping (nice).
It was a quick 15 minute assembly job, and I was ready to test drive the thing. Sitting on it was unlike any other office chair experience. I felt like I was floating on the seat, rather than bottoming into it like that middle seat in economy on an airplane. The chair felt better than many high end car seats I’d tried, seriously.
The chair offers two controls, a lift feature for height, which is great, and also a lock position, so that the chair will not rock back, feeling like you’re being prepped for a dental extraction, which is basically what I felt like in my old office chair. I love the chocolate leather finish ( I think it is bonded leather, which is genuine leather with a simulated leather on top, but it looks awesome).
The armrests and undercarriage of the chair are finished in a pewter color, which is cool, and looks modern but without being too futuristic and out of place with my office furnishings, very important to me. Also, the chair features a really nice stitching done in white, which looks good against the chocolate leather.
My current office chair has no aesthetic quality, is uninviting, has a separate back panel which loosens and swivels all over the place, and the wheel and carousel like assembly on the floor is not wide enough to prevent tipping.
A Personal Video of My Serta Office Chair
Both myself and my coworker LOVE this chair, and the float factor alone on your rear end, takes a huge amount of the pain out of an otherwise painful work day! Give it a shot (Serta Brand Office Chair on Amazon.Com), I was highly skeptical about buying this chair, but I now I actually look forward to getting to my office so I can sit in the thing!