A Step-by-Step Guide for How to Use and Adjust Your Ergonomic Chair

by Derek B on March 26, 2013

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How to adjust ergonomic chair

Adjust your ergonomic chair to fit your body (Steelcase Leap Chair pictured above).

A good ergonomic chair should be one of the cornerstones of your workstation. But you knew that already didn’t you? What you may not know is how to actually use and adjust your office chair to best fit your body and working style.

We have customers who come into our showroom in Austin, TX and play musical ergonomic chairs, trying out all the different floor models we have, sitting in each for only a few seconds before deciding it isn’t comfortable. That’s an ill-fated method of discovery, however. You can’t decide if a chair is or isn’t for you if you aren’t using and adjusting it properly. Here are some steps to follow when using an ergonomic chair, featuring our own Shannon using a Humanscale Freedom Chair with headrest:

Adjust the seat height

The first step to getting your chair adjusted to your body is getting the seat height correct. Stand in front of your chair and adjust the height of the seat pan to just below your knee caps. Now sit in your chair with your back firmly against the chair back and adjust the seat cylinder to the proper height. You want your feet to be flat on the ground with your knees close to a 90 degree angle and your back pressed up against the chair back.

Adjust the seat pan depth

I have found this to be one of the most important, yet overlooked, ergonomic chair adjustments. The depth of your seat can make all the difference in comfort. This adjustment slides the seat pan back towards the chair back or away from it. A shorter person will want the seat closer to the chair back and a taller person will want it a little further away. Here’s an ergo pro tip for getting your seat depth right: You should have a gap about the size of your clenched fist between the front edge of the seat cushion and the back of your knee when seated. Lock that position in place.

Adjust the lumbar support

Adjustable lumbar support is a feature most people seek out when looking for an ergonomic chair. Just as important as the inclusion of the lumbar support is its placement and proper adjustment. The lumbar support should fit right in the natural curve of your spine, typically at the small of your back directly above your belt line. This adjustment is often built into the chair so you can adjust both the height of the chair back and the lumbar support at the same time or it can be an independent adjustment as well.

Adjust the arms

You’re almost done! Your arms should rest comfortably at your side, so as to relieve strain and pressure from your upper back and shoulders. Armrests are usually height adjustable, but many chairs include armrests that are depth adjustable and have the ability to pivot both in towards your body and away as well. This allows for a more customized fit to your body since most ergonomic chairs are designed to fit a wide range of body types. Users can slide the arm rests in towards the body to accommodate a more slender frame.

Adjust the headrest

If your chair has a headrest, make sure it’s properly adjusted as well. Headrests help to provide support and comfort to the head and neck while in a reclined position, often keeping your head at a near-constant eye level with your computer monitor. There are many different types of headrests. The Humanscale Freedom Chair pictured above features a height adjustable headrest.

Adjustability is a key component in the design of an ergonomic chair. If you don’t have your chair adjusted to your body, you aren’t maximizing the effectiveness of the chair. Sitting in a chair that’s not properly adjusted is almost like renting a limousine and opting to sit in the front seat next to the driver.

If ya’ didn’t know, now ya’ know! And if you don’t have a great office chair already, check out the most popular ergonomic chairs at The Human Solution.

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Written by Derek B

Derek B

Derek has been a content writer and sales associate at THS since way back in 2012. A native Central-Texan, he is a diehard San Antonio Spurs fan. While cheering them on, yelling and jumping up and down, can be quite active, he likes to combat time spent on the couch by also playing basketball and running. A vinyl record aficionado with a love for blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll, he relishes any chance to see live music.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous June 19, 2014 at 11:31 pm

Hi Shawn,

That’s a fairly common question. The lumbar support should fit right in the natural curve of your spine, typically at the small of your back directly above your belt line. If that’s hard to picture, this video is a great demonstration of how to properly adjust a chair and what to look for (he uses an Ergohuman, but the principles apply to any chair):


Shawn June 20, 2014 at 7:14 am


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