The first few points should apply to just about any office chair even the one you found in the skip! First of all look underneath the chair so that you can see the buttons or levers. You may even be lucky & find a user instruction leaflet. You might also find a manufacturer’s or supplier’s label which has the make and model of chair on it. If so, try searching the internet for instructions. If you not so lucky…
Be prepared to play around with your chair. If you need help, ask somebody else in the office.
Next, move your chair away from your desk. Maybe this sounds silly, but you are setting the chair up for yourself, not your desk at the moment. If the chair rocks, try to find the lever or button that will lock it in position as it will be far easier to make the other adjustments with the chair in a static position. Try to lock the seat in a horizontal position. We can unlock it later on.
- Chair height – Nearly all chairs will have a lever which alters the height. Lift the lever. If you are sitting on the chair with the lever lifted, it will drop. Stand up whilst lifting the lever & it will rise. Adjust the height so that with the seat horizontal, your feet are (just) flat on the floor. Your feet are very important when sitting as you will use them to move in all directions. Try doing anything without using your feet.
- Most chairs will also have a lever, button or knob that allows you to alter the height of the backrest. Some backrests will use a ratchet system so that you would just lift the backrest & click it to the required height. If so take it right to the top, drop it down & then lift it up click by click. One way or another raise or lower the backrest so that it feels at a comfortable height for you. Forget the thought that a chair with a higher backrest is a better chair. Different heights of backrests suit different individuals in different situations. If the backrest is shaped, or has an adjustable lumbar support then try to make sure that this is located correctly for you. The curve in the backrest should match up with your lumbar curve. A good way to check this is to put your hand into the small of your back with the palm facing outwards, then lean back against the chair back. If the chair’s lumbar curve is above your palm, you need to lower the backrest. If it’s below it, then try to raise the chair back.
- Some of the better chairs will have the option of altering the seat length to suit your leg length – sounds obvious doesn’t it? This could be done by repositioning screws underneath the seat, by moving the backrest backwards or forwards or ideally by lifting a lever if you are lucky enough to have a sliding seat. Ideally the seat length should be adjusted so that when you sit with your back against the backrest you will have a gap of around 2-3 fingers width between the front edge of the seat & the back of your knee. This is so that you have sufficient of your upper leg supported without the front of the seat creating pressure on the back of your calf.
- You may have the option of altering the angle of the backrest. If so then usually an angle of slightly more than 90 degrees is beneficial so that there is a slight open-ness between your upper body & thighs. Much better for the digestion and other bodily functions. You may decide to alter this angle for different tasks. If you can’t adjust the backrest angle independently of the seat, can you tilt the seat so that the backrest is at a comfortable angle? If not, your chair doesn’t comply with the Health and Safety regulations for people using computer equipment at work, and you may have grounds to have a quick whinge to your Health and Safety rep about it.
- Armrests? – Hmm a tricky one here. If the armrests are of the fixed ring variety and are level with the front of the seat then seriously think about putting it back in the skip it came out of, or think about removing the armrests altogether. Fixed armrests can be very restrictive & can prevent you from getting close enough to your work particularly in a corner desk situation .If you have to sit on the front edge of the seat and can’t touch the backrest because the arms hit the front of the desk, then that’s not ideal. Hopefully your armrests will be certainly height adjustable & possibly also width & depth adjustable. Remember that they are called arm Rests as they are designed to rest your arm. They can be helpful to allow you to get in & out of your seated position, but generally that is not what they are designed for. If you have adjustment, then raise or lower them so that your arm rests comfortably without raising or dropping your shoulders. Make sure that they are the correct distance apart so that you don’t have your arms squashed against your body & neither do you have to pretend you have wings to reach them. If they move backwards & forwards slide them back for the moment so that you will be able to get in to your desk. You may find that if you are more heavily built that you want to have them set a little further forward.
- How does that feel? If it’s no better so far, then I’m sorry to have wasted your time. However, if it feels ok, then let’s carry on. We are now going to give you back the movement if you want it. After all your body is designed to move, not to be static & theoretically, by moving, you should feel less tired at the end of the day as movement will push the blood through your system & feed your muscles. If you had to lock your chair at the beginning, then be careful as we will now unlock it, but because adjustments have been made the chair may rock forwards or backwards with you, so unlock it gently & be prepared to move. Ask somebody to help if you are unsure at this point. If the chair rocks right back or throws you forward then hopefully there is a wheel underneath the seat somewhere which adjusts the tension for different body weights, so tighten or loosen this wheel. Depending on the chair, this could be anywhere from 3 to 40 complete revolutions of the wheel. We are trying to achieve a balanced position so that the chair moves with you as you move rather than the chair forcing you in to a position. If you can adjust the tension wheel so that with your feet raised slightly off the floor, the chair will stay in a central position & then by moving your arm forwards the chair will easily move forward & by moving your arm backwards the chair rocks easily backwards then we are nearly there. Think of it in a desk position that by reaching forward for your phone the chair rocks forwards with you & then when you lean back to speak on the phone the chair rocks back with you without any great effort. That’s what we are aiming for. If you then decide that you don’t like the rock then that’s fair enough, but at least you know it’s there if you want to alter it.
If at the end of all this when you pull your chair up to your desk & you find that you want to raise or lower your chair to suit your desk height, have a think to see if you can adjust your desk height to suit you & the chair that you have just set up for yourself. In an ideal world, you would start with yourself & adjust the equipment around you to suit you not adjust yourself to suit the equipment?? If you need to raise the chair to suit your desk, then you’ll probably need a footrest, so your feet are not dangling in space. If you need to lower the chair, ask if you can be provided with some inexpensive desk raisers. And yes, we do supply these if you need them.
If you find all this too complicated, remember that we may be able to come & set your chair up for you & also if at the fixed ring armrest stage you did actually put it back in the skip, we would be more than happy to sell you a chair that has all these adjustments.