Selecting the ideal work chair isn’t a one-size-fits-all task. Your choice should align with the nature of your work, whether it’s in an office, on an assembly line, at a medical facility, in a laboratory, or within a call center. Your chair can make a significant difference in your comfort and productivity. The question is how do you go about selecting the best work chair? What type of chair do you need? If your work requires that you spend a lot of time sitting, is a cheap chair worth it?

So, let’s dive into the key considerations for selecting the best work chair that suits your specific needs.

Match the Chair to Your Work Environment

This may sound obvious, but it is an often neglected first step in selecting a new chair. The type of work you do greatly influences the kind of chair you require. Here are some examples:

In essence, the nature of your work largely determines the type of chair you should consider.

Exploring Different Chair Types

Work chairs come in various types, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here’s an overview:

1. Ergonomic Work Chairs:

An ergonomic work chair is designed to alleviate discomfort associated with extended sitting, such as working on a computer.

Of critical importance is that the ergonomic or orthopedic chair is correctly adjusted for your height and your working environment. Not adjusting your chair correctly can quickly result in musculoskeletal pain in your lower back, neck, shoulders, hips and knees.

Ergonomic chairs are designed to support your body while you work and are best suited to all types of office, computer, and study work.

Vera Ergonomic Office Chair

2. Orthopedic Work Chairs:

Similar to ergonomic chairs, orthopedic chairs also aim to prevent back, neck, and shoulder pain. They feature a Free-Float Swivel Mechanism, allowing independent control of the backrest and seat angles, making them suitable for individuals with musculoskeletal spine issues.

OrthoMax Orthopedic Office Chair

Anyone with sciatica or other musculoskeletal issues of the spine should consider using an orthopedic chair. Good quality orthopedic chairs are not cheap, but offer the best support for your back and are ideal for all types of computer, office and study work.

3. Heavy-Duty Chairs:

Heavy-duty chairs are built to withstand demanding environments like 24/7 control rooms or for individuals with larger frames. They offer superior strength and durability.

OrthoGrande XXL and Heathrow Heavy-Duty Orthopedic Office Chair

In both these instances, standard chairs simply don’t measure up. Either because they are rated for a maximum of 120kg, and/or are designed for a normal 8-hour working day.

4. Laboratory and Medical Chairs:

These chairs are designed for high working surfaces, adjustable heights, and easy cleaning, making them ideal for medical practitioners and laboratory technicians. Because laboratory and medical technicians frequently move around, these chairs normally have no armrests.

Delta Polyurethane Chair

5. Industrial and Factory Work Chairs:

Factory or industrial chairs used on production lines and in workshops need to be extremely robust.

In certain industrial environments like food processing, it is important that the chairs are easy to clean. For these applications, a non-porous vinyl upholstery is better than mesh or fabric.

In many workshops, a robust chair is needed, for example, one where the seat and back are covered with self-skinning polyurethane (PU) foam.

Delta Polyurethane Chair, Round Polyurethane Stool, Bucket Operators Chair and Idonsa Operators Chair

6. Kneeling Chairs:

The underlying principle of a kneeling chair is to maintain an ‘open’ pelvis while you are sitting. This reduces the strain in your lower back that normally occurs when you sit on a conventional chair.

An ‘open’ pelvis is when the angle between your spine and thighs is at least 1100.

By opening the pelvis and lowering the knees in relation to the hips, the disc pressure in the lumbar region of the spine is reduced by up to 65% when compared to sitting in a traditional chair with a 900 back-thigh angle.

Wellback Kneeling Chair

Kneeling chairs distribute your weight between the pelvis and the knees which reduces spinal compression, and therefore the stress and tension in the lower back and leg muscles. What actually happens when you sit? Because of their geometry, they don’t require a backrest. However, in most cases, you need to sit at a table or desk that is higher than normal.

7. Saddle Chairs:

The saddle chair, shaped like a horse’s saddle, is a versatile option for various tasks like desk work, patient care, or working on a bench. It offers a balance between sitting and standing, making it popular among active professionals such as dentists and physiotherapists who frequently move around. However, if you have a sedentary job, it may strain your core and back muscles.

It’s essential to have a taller, adjustable desk or work surface for the ideal setup. Saddle chairs are often preferred to kneeling chairs because firstly there is no pressure on your knees, and secondly, their height is easily adjusted. However, they are far more expensive. A saddle chair requires a higher desk or work surface, and ideally, the desk should be height adjustable.

8. Ball Chairs:

Ball chairs enhance posture, engage core and back muscles, and promote active sitting. They achieve this by allowing your sitting bones to stabilise on the ball’s surface while its inherent instability encourages movement and muscle stimulation. This dynamic sitting reduces stress and fatigue, making them a recommended choice for addressing musculoskeletal issues due to poor posture.

While ball chairs come in various sizes, they lack height adjustment and are bulky, making storage challenging. Some models have added mobility with castors and even a backrest. Like kneeling and saddle chairs, they work best with a higher work surface.


Selecting the right work chair isn’t solely about cost; it’s about choosing one that caters to your specific work environment and ergonomic needs. Don’t compromise on your comfort and well-being—invest in a chair that suits your work style and helps you stay productive and healthy. Cheap office chairs may cost you more in the long run if they don’t provide the necessary support and comfort for your work demands.

To speak to an Office Ergonomics Risk Facilitator contact us on 011 392 6803 or email [email protected]

Article first seen on Karo’s Knowledge Centre – click here the link for the full article.