Along with mattresses and the perfect house, the office chair is one of the most difficult things to buy. We want comfort, the right fit, and we want it to save us from the ill effects of sitting in them all day. Unfortunately, the perfect chair may not exist.
Slate takes a look at the long, hard quest for the perfect work chair, starting from 3000BC. Over the years, the office chair has evolved to become more supportive or ergonomic, but Heather Murphy writes:
The word ergonomic has become utterly meaningless. Though there is more-and better-research than ever, there is still no standard way to define whether a chair is ergonomic or not. And there is no widely agreed-upon way to measure how successful a chair is. Ergonomists will be the first to tell you that this is the trouble with their trade. Theirs is a field based on concrete research, on close study of the body as a form. And yet it’s a field steeped in subjectivity, plagued by onerous, impossible questions like “What is comfort?” or “What should an office chair accomplish?” (Alertness? Relaxation? Inspiration to occasionally move around? Encouragement to sit immobile for days?)
Besides the vagueness of what an ergonomic chair really is, there’s no one-size-fits-all chair for everyone. And even for each person, probably no one perfect chair for all day. The chair experts Murphy consulted said they use different chairs for different occasions — ones for perching, lounging or sitting supported.
In the end, if you feel frustrated searching for the perfect office chair, you’re not alone. Perhaps having more than one type of chair would work better for you than trying to find that ultimate seat. And maybe the best we can hope for is a chair that lets us sit for several hours without making us “feel like death” when we get up from it.
See the fascinating history of office chairs in pictures at the link below. What are you sitting (or kneeling or perching or treadputer-ing) on now?