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Selecting and purchasing office chairs

When it comes to chairs, no one size fits all. The best chair addresses suitability, support and comfort for the individual.

The standard chair will only suit the average person's height and stature. Having a range of seating to cater for all of your workers' sizes and statures and the types of work they do is very important.

Whether setting up a new office space or as an ongoing/ad hoc purchase, identify a variety of chairs from your suppliers that meet a range of individual needs.

The right chair and the right set up at the outset has the potential to save your organisation significant time and money in the long run by preventing injuries and improving productivity.

Considerations when selecting and purchasing chairs

  • The more adjustable the chair is, the more it can suit more individuals.
  • Have a range of different chairs to accommodate small statured workers, average or tall workers (check chair specifications for seat pan dimensions and back rest height and design).
  • An adjustable back rest and built in lumbar support give more comfort when sitting. Chairs with fixed backrests cannot be adjusted and those with no or little built in lumbar support are only for short periods of sitting.
  • A seat slide adjustment can be an extra cost initially but will accommodate more workers. This can be particularly helpful when the chair is being used by multiple workers.
  • The chair’s load capacity needs to be greater than an individual’s weight. Standard adjustable chairs are rated up to 120kg capacity.
  • Consider the chair upholstery and whether it is suitable for the environment and easy to clean.

Who will be using the chair and how it will be used?

  • Will multiple workers use the chair, for example hot desk arrangements or workplaces with a high staff turnover?
  • Does the individual have a disability, medical or health requirement? If so, we recommend that a health provider, experienced in specialised ergonomic chair assessments reviews the case and recommends what chair design will best suit the worker to trial.
  • What type of work is performed? For example, a task chair for computer-based work, 24 hour seating design for control room monitoring, or a chair for meetings.

Trial, warranty and service

  • Check what components of the chair the warranty will cover. Find out what level of service is available with the chair warranty and whether the service provider is local to your business or whether there will be extra transport costs to have chairs maintained and repaired.
  • Consider how retired chairs can be disposed of and recycled in an efficient and responsible manner.

Tips for adjusting office chairs are on the Creating healthy and safe computer work page.


Armrests are optional purchases and can provide forearm support if the worker is unable to get adequate support from their desktop. Armrests can also assist workers who need support when lowering into and rising from the chair. Importantly, they should not prevent you from sitting close into your desk. When purchasing new chairs, think about the design and the need for armrests.

Generally, armrests should be:

  • height adjustable and an offset design to allow user to get as close as possible to the desk
  • padded and comfortable so that there is no contact stress around the elbow
  • easily removed if they prevent the user from getting close to the desk.

Specific chair features and when they may be required

Chair feature

When required

Seat pan depth – too long

A short statured worker will not be able to sit back into the chair and use the back rest if the seat pan is too deep.
Clue: worker may be seen ‘perching’ on the front of their chair.
Tip: look for petite or small chair / seat designs.

Seat pan depth – too short

A tall worker will not have adequate thigh support if the seat pan is not deep enough.
Clue: there may be more than four fingers of gap between the chair and back of knee; worker may be sliding out of their chair or complaining of back pain.
Tip: look for seat dimensions with a depth of more than 500mm or add a seat slide to increase the depth more subtly.

Seat pan with a greater width than average

Workers with wider hips than average.
Clue: worker may be sitting on the edges of the seat pan.
Tip: look for large seat specifications. May also need to consider customised seat pan design that can accommodate shorter workers with wide hips so that the chair fits the worker generally.

Extra seat height adjustment in the gas lift and extra high back rest

Very tall workers that need to sit at a higher than average desk height to accommodate their height. Tall workers need to have backrests that support the length of their spines to at least the top of their shoulder blades.
Clue: workers sitting too low at their desks or complaining of spinal pain in the middle of their back.
Tip: look for extra high back chairs with extended gas lift features.

Heavy duty chairs designed to tolerate above 120kg body weight i.e. 140kg to 200kgs+

Workers over 120kgs.
Clue: worker reporting that the gas lift is not working efficiently, or chair stem support and wheelbase breakages are occurring.
Tip: let workers know what the load capacity is on the chairs available at your workplace. Ask them to nominate what weight range they may require (e.g. load capacity up to 140kgs or 160kgs).

Chairs designed for greater than an 8-hour shift use

Monitoring room workers and security officers
Clue: these chairs may require specific requirements like arm rests and head rests depending on the tasks performed while sitting in the chair.
Tip: maintenance and replacement may be required more frequently given the amount of use.

Chairs designed to work at desks above standard office desk height

Work performed at high benches such as laboratories or at a front counter
Clue: how much getting on and off the chair the worker does during the shift.
Tip: look for draft chairs with foot rings that are wide enough to safely assist the worker and have the gas lift excursion to raise the chair adequately to the working surface.

Seat coverings options to suit the work environment needs

‘Clean’ sterile work rooms or ‘Dirty’ environments such as workshops and some industrial setting.
Clue: need to clean and remove surface contaminants easily including castor wheels.
Tip: look for vinyl or leather if chairs need to be wiped down regularly.