Welcome to this comprehensive guide on how to adjust an office chair so that it fits your office set up perfectly. It and also ensures that your workstation is ergonomically aligned to ensure that you achieve optimal comfort well as positioning your body in the best posture possible to minimize injury. I share with you my quick and simple tips on how to adjust your chair in this easy to follow guide.
If you suffer from back pain or musculoskeletal disorders, you probably don’t have your office chair set up the way that it should be. For that reason, you should take a few minutes with me to adjust your chair right now because it will probably be the most valuable skill you learn today! Trust me, your body will thank you for it. Read on to learn why.
I bet you’re guilty of this…
Have you ever opened a present or a piece of equipment or an appliance in a rush of excitement? Take for instance a new TV. You rip open the packaging, start plugging it in, turning it on. You completely bypass the instructions which clearly told you to read them first before using the new item.
Then you press a few buttons in an attempt to operate it as quickly as humanely possible, as if you were in some bizarre TV set up marathon where the winner was the first person to get the TV working.
With excitement gushing through your veins, you throw the manual to the side as it’s the last thing on your mind.
“Sure, who even reads the user manual”, and, “how difficult could it be?”, you wonder.
Eventually, after a few minutes or hours (or even days) of trying to operate your new toy, you accept that something is not quite right. You finally surrender to reading the manual.
If I was to hazard a guess, I’d bet that this story rings true with your office chair as well, would I be right? (No judging from me, of course, I’m guilty too!).
Unless you have had an ergonomic assessment of your desk or you a particularly invested in the setup of your work area, it’s likely that you just plonked yourself on the chair and it’s been in the same position ever since. At a stretch, you might have adjusted the height.
Unfortunately, the consequences of not adjusting your chair could mean that you are seated in a poor posture. This could lead to not only discomfort, but because your workstation is not set up correctly, it could in fact be creating micro tears in your muscles or inflicting excess force on your joints which could lead to a musculoskeletal disorder or injury in the not too far future.
It’s a little-known fact that around 74% of workers encounter back pain at least a few times a week due to sitting at their desk.
How to adjust the height of a chair
Firstly, sit fully into the chair with your back firmly supported by the back of the chair. Find the lever which is usually located under the base of the chair. This typically take the form of a lever handle, but in some modern chairs, it may be a pump button just on the bottom of the seat pan. Lower or raise height of chair using this lever until you get into a position where your elbows are in line with the height of the desk. In this position:
- Your elbows should be in line with the height of the desk
- You should be able to type with your arms at a 90-degree angle
- Your feet should be flat on the floor*
- Thighs are approximately parallel with floor
- Hips slightly higher than your knees
- You should not feel pressure in your upper or lower thigh
- You should be able to fit approximately 3 fingers in between your knees and seat of the chair
*Don’t be too concerned about getting your feet to reach the floor fully if it means that you can’t have your arms at a 90-degree angle when in the typing position. In this scenario, a footrest is an easy solution here.
If you have a height adjustable desk, the first step is to ensure the chair is correctly positioned to accommodate your height and the above 7 criteria, and then you adjust the desk height as required. Only after completing these steps should you lower or raise the desk so that when you adjust the chair to the most comfortable and appropriate height, the below criteria are met:
- Your eyes should be at the top of the monitor
- Your chair should be able to fit under the desk
Tip: the base of the seat should generally be just below your kneecap when you are standing.
How to adjust the seat depth of a chair
Some chairs come equipped with the ability to move the seat pan forwards and backwards from the back rest. This is to accommodate various heights of people and to prevent the seat from pressing into your knees.
Once you have the height of the chair adjusted, you should be able to:
- Be able to fit three fingers in between your knees and the seat
- Feel the seat pan is not pushing into your knees
If you cannot achieve this, move the seat pan closer to the back of the chair and try again until you can fit three fingers in between your knees and the seat.
If you have adjusted the seat pan as far as it will go or the seat pan is not adjustable, and the seat is still pressing against your knees, you may need to invest in a removable lumbar support pillow which attaches to the back of the chair.
How to adjust the backrest angle of a chair
Once the height of the chair has been correctly adjusted, you can move on to adjusting the back rest. The angle or tilt of the backrest can be adjusted and locked in position in some cases depending on your preference. Remember that when choosing the angle of the chair, the priority should be to ensure that your body is in an upright, neutral position as much as possible.
Adjust the chair using the other lever. This usually has arrows on it pointing forwards and back. While looking at the monitor, apply force to tilt the backrest backwards or forwards as far as required until you find a comfortable position.
- When seated in the chair, you should not be forced forwards or back too far by the seat
- Attempt to keep your posture in an upright neutral position
Some chairs are equipped with a locking mechanism which allows you to lock the current angle of the backrest in place so that it does not move while you are seated. This can be unlocked so that it can freely move. This locking/unlocking mechanism is usually achieved by pulling the lever inwards or outwards.
Note that some chairs do not have an adjustable backrest.
Tip: Leaning backwards periodically can be more comfortable while on meetings or on calls for short periods of time. It also allows you to stretch and change your posture to give you a break from the one position.
How to adjust the backrest height of a chair
When adjusting the backrest height, the aim should be to have the curve of the chair sitting neatly into the lumbar curve in your back. This will ensure that you are supporting the natural curves in your spine and providing as much support to your lower back as possible.
While seated fully into the chair, reach backwards and grab the lower part of the backrest, lifting it upwards and adjust as necessary:
- You should feel the curve of the chair sitting into the curve of your lower back
Note again that some chairs may not have the function to adjust the height of the backrest.
Tip: It is typically easier to adjust the height of the backrest when it is at its lowest position. While standing up from the chair, lower the height of the backrest to the lowest position and then proceed to adjust the height of the backrest while seated.
How to adjust the armrests of a chair
The armrests offer a means of supporting your elbow and forearm while typing so that it reduces pressure on your shoulders. Incorrectly positioned armrests can cause you to hunch your shoulders; it can also impede on your ability to type which can encourage a poor posture.
Not only that, if the arm rests are at a height that does not allow you to position yourself closer to your desk or monitor because they bang off the desk, it can cause you to lean forward in an attempt to be better able to read the screen or perform your tasks.
While seated on the chair, sit into the desk as if you were typing. In this position, the armrests:
- Should barely touch the elbows
- Should not impede on you while you are typing or performing other activities
- Should not touch off the desk or bang into the desk when you are manoeuvring around in the chair
The adjustment levers for the armrests are usually located on the armrests. Once you have sourced these, they are usually operated by pinching them and then the armrests become unlocked so that you can lower or raise them to the necessary height.
Some chairs may require a screwdriver to adjust the armrests. Furthermore, some chairs me not have adjustable armrests. If this is the case and they are impeding on you performing your tasks, they may need to be removed altogether.
Tip: Some armrests can even be moved inwards and outwards.
How to adjust the headrest of a chair
If your chair comes equipped with a headrest, it is important that it is not impeding on your posture while you are in your normal seated position. The headrest is generally provided for offering upper body support when leaning back or if you wish to rest your head against it.
- Your head and neck should not feel as if they are being pushed forwards or backwards by the headrest
- The headrest should provide support when you lean your head back
Tip: Some headrests are removable and if you find that it is impeding on your posture or irritating you, you could consider removing it altogether.
How to adjust an office chair – your personal cheat sheet
Chair seat depth
Chair backrest angle
Chair backrest height
If after reading these office chair guidelines and tips, you’re looking at your office chair right now and thinking that it really does not meet the cut, nor does it support your body or your comfort levels. Heck, maybe you don’t even have an office chair. Maybe you have yet to invest in one and you’re currently working from your kitchen chair. Either way, now is as good a time as any to consider investing in an office ergonomic chair. Think of it as an essential, not a luxury. Think of it as an investment into your health, happiness, comfort and productivity.
Unfortunately, many chairs are branded as ergonomic when in fact they are far from it. With this guide on What to look for in an ergonomic office chair you’ll walk away with 8 essential features of an ergonomic chair along with the expertise and knowledge to sniff out those misleading chairs and be educated on what you need to look for.
Don’t fall victim to a sales pitch which glorifies a basic pretty, colorful chair that has been endorsed as the best thing since sliced bread. Remember, it’s your health that you’re putting at risk by not having an ergonomic chair or good posture.
I hope you found this article educational and interesting. As always, if you have any comments or queries, please drop them in the box below and I will respond as soon as I can.
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