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Having trouble choosing the right chair? Follow these 3 essential tips

Linda Trim

The piece of furniture that most of us tend to take for granted is ironically one that we use every day - and is crucial to our comfort and productivity. Yes, we’re talking about the chair.

The chair goes as far back as royalty. Yet what was once a grand symbol of status and power is today readily available at retail chains for under R50 - albeit made from cheap plastic.

As consumers, we’re no longer content to sit for long periods on chairs that don’t feel comfortable or allow us to adjust to what suits us. While this may seem like a given, it wasn’t all that long ago that the office chair was viewed simply as an expensive, high-backed leather perk reserved for executives. While the importance of aesthetics or prestige hasn’t faded, our definition of what an office chair ought to do has changed dramatically.

Form is no longer more important than function

There are a few explanations for this change. The broad demographics of today’s workforce means that there is also a broad set of user needs. Also, as the line between local and global resources blurs, organisations are under increasing pressure to get the most ‘bang for their buck’ from their employees and from the furniture that they purchase. It’s no longer enough for our furniture to simply look good. Now, we expect our furniture to keep up with us —working just as hard as we do.

Tip #1: How long are you going to be sitting in the chair for?

There are major differences in how people use chairs. For example:

  • Chair designed for shorter periods of work—one to two hours—aren’t the same as chairs that are designed for long-term periods of seated work; and

  • Some chairs have thicker foam that may feel softer initially, but will lead to the person sitting on the chair becoming uncomfortable after an hour or two. This is because thicker foam typically provides little ergonomic support. Very soft or low-density foam also tends to break down over time.

If you’re planning on buying a chair to use for shorter stretches of time, consider how you’re going to use the chair:

1.    For conference rooms, chairs with some level of adjustability make sense because the individuals working within that space are likely to have fairly diverse needs; and

2.    In the context of team spaces where furniture may be rearranged to deal with the task at hand, consider buying stackable chairs.

If you’re planning on buying a chair to use for longer stretches of time, remember that each part of the chair—the arms, seat, lumbar support region and upper back—all need to adapt to specific parts of the body. The contours of both the seat and back should make you feel supported while properly orienting you to the workspace around you.

Tip #2: When you test chairs, pay attention to pressure points on your body

Consider it a red flag if you happen to notice an undue amount of pressure on any one location. It’s also helpful to realise that no matter how great the product actually is, its ergonomic design can really only go so far. At the end of the day, it’s up to you, the user, to make the most of the adjustments that are available. Most manufacturers provide basic operating instructions for their ergonomic seating products. Read these instructions and spend some time getting acquainted with the features of your chair.

Tip #3: Do your homework!

While the myriad of seating choices out there may seem difficult to navigate, my advice is quite simple: Keep yourself informed! By being an educated consumer, you’ll be able to make the most of the many options and features available within any given price range.

Linda graduated with a BA Hons Psychology from Unisa in 2000. After graduating she moved to join her family in America. Upon her return to South Africa in 2001 she joined DAV as a recruitment consultant in the IT sector. In 2004 Linda joined Giant Leap as a Business Development consultant and was promoted to Business Development Manager in 2005. In 2006 Linda became a director of Giant Leap.

Linda was nominated in 2010 for the prestigious Women’s Property Network Five Star Woman Award. The WPN Five Star Woman Award recognises exceptional women within the commercial property industry of South Africa.