On a search for the best desk chair July 20, 2011Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Tools, Work-related injuries.
The Simple Dollar featured an article entitled “How to Buy a Mattress” today and prefaces it by saying “the only two things you shouldn’t skimp on are your mattress and your shoes.” I agree, but would also expand on that to include a good desk chair. As freelancers we sit at our desks for 8-10 hours (sometimes more) a day. A good desk chair makes the difference between a sore back and feeling good at the end of the day (and the hours in between).
I have been preaching the importance of a good desk chair for years. When I lived with my parents right after moving back to the U.S. from Germany I had to sit on their wooden desk chair with a worn-out cushion. My back killed me. I hated sitting in it to work, but I had no other choice. I went out and bought a cheap desk chair from Office Max, and the arm broke off the metal arm joist within a month.
One of my students at Kent State proudly reported that she bought a desk chair with a built-in massage and was thrilled. You don’t have to go that overboard, but you should definitely put some consideration into the kind of desk chair you want.
I have been through just about every incantation of a desk chair out there. I had an exercise ball, which forces proper spine alignment and is constantly making you change positions to balance yourself. It also ensures you don’t have constant shoulder and neck pain since you aren’t hunched over a desk. My exercise ball had knobs/teats on the bottom so it wouldn’t roll away when you walked away. I loved it, but I had to leave it behind when I moved to the U.S. I also bought a kneeling desk chair, which killed my knees. I hated it. A lot of my fellow German translators in Germany swear by a desk chair called The Swopper, which (like the exercise ball) encourages “active sitting” and is “designed to help strengthen your back and abs, help relieve lower back pain, promote mental acuity and assist with good posture.” If I had the room I would get a treadmill desk like Corinne’s. Maybe once I buy a house and am not living in a rental…
Anyway, my chair of choice is the Aeron chair. I bought my Herman Miller Aeron chair (used – thanks Susanne III!) several years ago. The Aeron chair features a “sleek skeleton of metal and mesh. All interlocking parts and ergonomic contours.” (Source) It comes in 3 different sizes for various body types and allows you to adjust the height, the tilt, seat, etc. I love my Aeron chair, but it died about a year and a half ago. Well, the tilt hydraulic died, but the chair itself was still usable. I sadly relegated it to the living room computer and bought another desk chair from the used furniture store downtown (after sitting in just about every chair they had). The seat on my Aeron chair cracked last week. I bit the bullet and contacted customer service, figuring I had a pricey repair ahead of me but knowing it would be cheaper than buying another desk chair. The customer service rep took my info and called me back to report that the repair will be covered by warranty (despite the fact that I bought it used) and the tech will be coming out some time this week to my house to repair it. Woohoo!
Other freelancers prefer standing up when they work and use something like The Stand Up Desk. Standing up while working alleviates back pain. I also think it saves space since you work up and not out (meaning spreading out stuff across the desk). I’m tempted to use this concept in my living room when I redo it soon just to save floor space (since I rarely sit at the living room computer).
So what about you, gentle readers? What desk chair or method do you swear by? Is there something revolutionary out there that I may have missed?