What Is An Ergonomic Chair? (Ergonomics Of A Chair Explained)

Busting myths about ergonomic chairs.


(41 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)

Last updated: September 18th, 2023

what is an ergonomic chair

Last updated: September 18th, 2023

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Working from home is the new norm. And having an ergonomic chair in your home office is essential for maximising your productivity and physical well-being.

We’ve all been told before – sitting in a cheap, poorly adjusted office chair (e.g., the Ikea Markus office chair) isn’t great for your back. You should invest in an ergonomic office chair that will keep you supported and comfortable.

But what exactly makes an office chair “ergonomic”?

what makes an office chair ergonomic

I’m about to show you which ergonomic features you need and which are gimmicks you can do without, so you can choose the best ergonomic office chair for your home office.

What Makes A Chair Ergonomic?

The exact definition of an ergonomic chair is somewhat fluid.

Worse, manufacturers are often guilty of labelling traditional office chairs as ergonomic to improve their margins.

what is an ergonomic chair

Shown above: The Ergotune Supreme is one of the most popular ergonomic chairs on the Australian market. It features 11 adjustment points and all-mesh construction.

To qualify as ergonomic, the chair must include the following features as a minimum:

  • Backrest with angle adjustment
  • Height adjustable seat
  • Height adjustable armrests
  • Correct cushioning for comfort, support and breathability
  • Adjustable lumbar support

Premium ergonomic chairs, like examples from Herman Miller, Ergotune and Steelcase, also add:

  • Seat depth adjustment
  • 3D and 4D armrests
  • Tilt tension and lock

Trouble is, ergonomic chairs only do half of the job for you. To reap the benefits of an ergonomic chair, you first need to know how to sit properly.

(Related: 7 Surprising Benefits Of A Kneeling Chair).

Why Is Good Posture Important?

Posture is how you hold your body when sitting, standing or simply being active.

Ergonomics is the science of human posture. It looks at how we sit and move, providing scientific-based evidence on optimal positions for our bodies.

Sitting and standing with the correct posture:

  • Reduces fatigue.
  • Makes you look more attractive.
  • Helps prevent long-term back issues.

(Related: Best Office Chair For Lower Back Pain).

9 Checklist Items For Improving Your Posture.

what is an ergonomic chair

Shown above: Right angles are your friend. The ergonomic seated position keeps your limbs and hips at 90 degrees.

Let’s get practical, shall we? Here are the best ways you can ensure that you’re sitting with proper posture:

  • Chin is parallel to the floor
  • Eyes looking straight ahead
  • Shoulders are even
  • Neutral spine (no flexing or arching)
  • Arms at your sides with elbows at 90 degrees
  • Abdominal muscles taught, but not clenched
  • Hips at 90 degrees
  • Knees at 90 degrees and pointing straight
  • Body weight distributed evenly on both feet

It might seem like a lot to think about, but over time and with practice, this position will become second nature.

A good ergonomic chair will ensure you’re sitting in this position without even thinking about it.

Did You Know?

Not having your feet on the floor while you’re in a seated position will cause your legs to dangle. This, in turn, can cause your pelvis to tilt backwards and make your core work extra hard to compensate.

7 Checklist Items For Choosing The Right Ergonomic Office Chair.

what is an ergonomic chair

Shown above: A high-end ergonomic chair. It features height and width adjustable armrests, lumbar support with manual height and tension adjustments, a mesh back and a fabric seat pad.

Here are seven essential items to look for in an ergonomic chair.

1. Good Lumbar Support.

Lower back support is crucial. The lumbar spine has an inward curve, and sitting without support often leads to slouching and discomfort in your lower back.

A proper ergonomic chair should have a lumbar adjustment (height, depth and preferably tension) to help you find the right fit for your lower back.

2. Adjustable Backrest.

The backrest of an ergonomic office chair should be approximately 30-50cm wide.

If the backrest is separate from the seat, it should be adjustable in height and angle.

If the chair has the seat and backrest combined, it should be adjustable in forward and back angles, with a locking mechanism to secure it from going too far backward.

(Related: Best Shops To Buy An Office Chair In Sydney and Melbourne).

3. Seat Height Adjustment.

Make sure the seat height is adjustable. You should be able to sit with your feet flat on the floor.

  • Your thighs should be horizontal to the floor, and your arms parallel to the desk’s height.

(Related: How To Sit When You Have Lower Back Pain).

4. Correct Seat Width.

The chair seat should have enough width to cradle you without squeezing or making you feel like you’re swimming.

Roughly 45-50cm wide is the standard.

5. Adjustable Seat Depth.

The depth needs to be long enough to sit with your back against the backrest while leaving roughly 5-10cm between the back of the knees and the chair seat.

6. Breathable Seat Surface.

Your office chair shouldn’t be an actual pain in your butt, so choosing the seat material of your ergonomic office chair matters.

Seat materials typically range from mesh, fabric-infused mesh, to pure fabric.

While fabric tends to be more universally popular, it doesn’t allow for as much airflow as mesh fabric, which is a consideration if you’re prone to getting sweaty – err, down there.

(Related: 30+ Best Office Chairs In Australia [Ultimate Guide]).

7. Adjustable Armrests.

Ergonomic chairs should offer adjustable arms, allowing your arms to rest comfortably and shoulders to be relaxed.

2D, 3D and 4D armrests are the most common. The higher the number the more dimensions the armrest can be adjusted in.

  • A 3D armrest offers more than enough support and adjustability.

If you’re feeling fancy, 4D armrests will add another layer of movement that will allow you to pivot them inwards or outwards.

(Related: 7 Best Dual Monitor Arms in Australia).

How Necessary Is Lumbar Support?

Proper lumbar support encourages you to sit in a way that preserves the natural curvature of your spine.

  • The best office chairs offer fully adjustable or semi-automated lumbar support.
  • Meanwhile, the cheapest office chairs tend to offer no lumbar support or a fixed one.

Expert Tip.

While lumbar support is not a magic bullet and won’t alleviate your back problems (or prevent you from developing them), its presence in an ergonomic chair does indicate that the chair has been designed with posture and ergonomics in mind.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ergonomic Chairs.

Know the facts before you buy.

Are high-end ergonomic chairs worth it?

Overall, ergonomic chairs are more expensive than basic office chairs due to their added benefits and features.

High-end or premium ergonomic chairs like the Herman Miller Cosm go one step further by offering even more adjustability, premium materials and a vastly improved aesthetic.

What else do I need, apart from an ergonomic chair?

You need to move. As I pointed out earlier, make an effort to shift your posture every 30 minutes.

This means changing from a standing to a sitting position or, at the very least, changing the angle of your upper body while you sit.

Are gaming chairs and ergonomic chairs the same thing?

Gaming chairs and ergonomic chairs may look similar, but they are built with different needs in mind.

While most quality gaming chairs are ergonomic, they often have added features (like a neck pillow, lumbar pillow and a deeper recline) for improved comfort during long gaming sessions.

These added features aren’t necessary for, and are often detrimental to, an office chair.

However, if you’re a gamer who works from home, a gaming chair is an acceptable compromise.

Final Words About Ergonomic Office Chairs.

An ergonomic chair is an important building block of your WFH setup.

While it can be tempting to continue working from your kitchen table or your couch, this is a short-sighted strategy that leads to poor productivity and increased fatigue.

Invest in a good ergonomic chair (and a sturdy standing desk set up with workplace ergonomics in mind, while you’re there), and you’ll wonder how you lived without them.


How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>