5 Types Of Office Chair Tilt Mechanisms


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Last updated: August 20th, 2023

office chair tilting mechanism

Last updated: August 20th, 2023

Reading Time: 4 minutes

As soon as you start searching online for good ergonomic office chairs, you’ll come across terms like “centre-tilt” and “knee-tilt”. These refer to office chair tilt mechanisms that enable their movement.

The mechanism is the “heart” of your office chair.

Choosing the right one is important because it determines the chair’s comfort levels for your particular use case, as well as the chair’s price.

(Related: 7 Best Office Chairs For WFH).

How Do You Use Your Office Chair?

Before deciding on a tilt mechanism, pay attention to your sitting habits throughout your workday. They’ll fall into one of the following three categories:

  • Primarily Tasking. You sit upright, almost forward, while you type (e.g., writer, executive assistant).
  • Primarily Reclining. You rock back, either a little or a lot, while conducting interviews, having phone conversations or thinking through ideas (e.g., manager, executive).
  • Combination Of Both. You alternate between tasking and reclining (e.g., software developer, doctor).

Now that you understand your use case, let’s take a closer look at each office chair tilt mechanism in detail and see which one is best for you.

Related: How To Choose An Office Chair For Maximum Productivity).

1. Centre Tilt Mechanism.

centre tilt office chair tilt mechanism

Also known as the swivel-tilt or single-point tilt mechanism, this design locates the pivot point of your chair directly underneath the centre of the chair.

The backrest tilt (angle between the seat pan and the backrest) remains constant as you recline.

Centre-tilt mechanisms are usually found on cheap office chairs.

  • The key drawback of this tilting mechanism is the rapid rise of the seat pan’s front lip, which causes your feet to come up off the ground.

Apart from making you feel like a kid on a swing, this can create pressure on the underside of your legs and restrict circulation.

You will likely get pins and needles in your toes.

Reclining in a centre-tilt chair tends to create a sense of toppling over, rather than sinking down and back.

✔ Excellent choice for tasking.
✘ Poor choice for reclining.
✘ Poor choice for combination use.

(Related: Complete Guide To Office Chair Prices).

2. Knee Tilt Mechanism.

knee tilt office chair mechanism

Knee tilt mechanisms represent a huge improvement on the centre tilt mechanisms.

The main difference is that the pivot point of the chair is moved from the centre of the centreline to just behind your knees.

This has two benefits.

  • First, your feet do not raise off the ground as you recline, creating a much more natural sitting experience.
  • Second, because the bulk of your weight stays behind the pivot point, your experience of initiating the recline will feel smoother and more natural.

An office chair with a knee-tilt mechanism is a great all-rounder. Incidentally, it’s also the most common design you’ll find on gaming chairs (differences between gaming and ergonomic chairs).

✔ Good choice for tasking.
✔ Good choice for reclining.
✔ Good choice for combination use.

3. Multifunction Mechanism.

asynchronous chair mechanism

My least favourite of all, the multifunction mechanism, is the ultimate rubbish compromise.

Also known as an asynchronous mechanism, it functions in a way that’s very similar to centre-tilt, except it gives you the option to lock the tilt in any position using a seat angle lock mechanism.

(Related: Where Should The Lumbar Support Be Placed?)

Additionally, it allows you to tilt back the backrest, which means you can theoretically find the optimal backrest angle.

  • The drawback is fiddliness. A huge amount of it.

Reclining is at least a two-step process with a multifunction mechanism – possibly even three if you need to fine-tune.

✔ Excellent choice for tasking.
✘ Poor choice for reclining.
✘ Poor choice for combination use.

4. Synchro-Tilt Mechanism.

synchro tilt office mechanism

The synchro-tilt mechanism is a popular choice for many mid to high-end ergonomic office chairs.

When you lean back in your synchro-tilt office chair, the seat pan will tilt one degree for every two degrees that you recline the backrest.

  • This minimisation of seat pan rise allows your feet to stay on the floor while you recline.

Gears that enable this fixed ratio synchronous tilt movement are expensive and complex.

Previously, the synchro-tilt mechanism was found only on ultra-expensive chairs, but over the years has trickled down into mid-range models.

✔ Good choice for tasking.
✔ Excellent choice for reclining.
✔ Excellent choice for combination use.

(Related: 7 Benefits Of Ergonomic Chairs).

5. Weight-Sensitive Mechanism.

weight sensitive office chair mechanism

Weight-sensitive mechanisms emerged in response to complaints from people who work in open-plan offices without designated seating.

If you’ve ever worked in one of those environments, you’re familiar with a problem where you plonk yourself into a new chair, and then proceed to fiddle with controls for the next five minutes.

With the near-absence of levers and knobs, a weight-sensitive mechanism takes this problem off your hands.

It senses your weight and direction of lean, then translates them into a correct angle of tilt, tension and seat pan depth.

Sceptical? I was, too.

Alas, I discovered that these systems work remarkably well – especially in high-end chairs like Humanscale Freedom and Herman Miller Cosm.

✔ Good choice for tasking.
✔ Excellent choice for reclining.
✔ Excellent choice for combination use.

Which Office Chair Tilt Mechanism Is Best?

Choosing the right office chair mechanism for your needs is critical for your long-term comfort and productivity. The punchline to this story is – somewhat predictably – you get what you pay for.

Weight-sensitive and synchro-tilt mechanisms are the best all-rounders, but they are also the most complicated. As a result, they’re also the most expensive.

If you do more research, you may also find a few mechanisms I didn’t include in this guide – the forward tilt and forward glide tilt mechanisms.

You’ll find that many chairs with weight-sensitive and synchronous tilt mechanisms incorporate those design features, so you’re best off choosing one.


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