Desk chair

Office chair

An office chair, or desk chair, is a chair that is designed for use at a desk in an office. It is generally comfortable and adjustable and can swivel 360 degrees.


With the advent of railroads in the mid-1800s, businesses began to expand beyond the traditional model of a family business with little emphasis on administration. Additional administrative staff was required to keep up with orders, bookkeeping, and correspondence as businesses expanded their service areas. While office work was expanding, an awareness of office environments, technology, and equipment became part of the cultural focus on increasing productivity. This awareness gave rise to chairs designed specifically for these new administrative employees: office chairs.

The office chair was strategically designed to increase the productivity of clerical employees by making it possible for them to remain sitting at their desks for long periods of time. A swiveling chair with caster wheels allowed employees to remain sitting and yet reach a number of locations within their work area, eliminating the time and energy expended in standing. The wooden saddle seat was designed to fit and support the body of a sitting employee, and the slatted back and armrests provided additional support to increase the employee’s comfort. Like our modern chairs, many of these models were somewhat adjustable to provide the maximum comfort and thus the maximum working time.

The culture of the office also demanded that a distinct difference exist between the chairs that the employees used and that of the chief executive. When swivel chairs were widely used, the executive sat in a straight-backed chair with no mobility to demonstrate his status. As design of the office chair eliminated the arms and added cushioned seats, the executive chair became a large, upholstered chair with closed arms and wide, luxurious seats. Even today, the size (both height of the back and width of the seat) of an office chair demonstrates the status of the user. In the 20th century, this chair is very common in offices.


In the 1970s, ergonomics became an important design consideration. Today, office chairs often have adjustable seats, armrests, backs, back supports, and heights to prevent repetitive stress injuries and back pain associated with sitting for long periods. Ergonomic chairs should fit an individual's needs and provide support where the individual needs it. For this reason, one type of ergonomic chair is not the best for every body type and chairs should be tested before purchasing.

There are also alternatives to office chairs, such as use of an exercise ball or kneeling chair, that require "active sitting", or use of one's core body muscles, to stay upright. No matter which type of chair one prefers, a static posture is hard on the body — and especially the back — and it is best to stretch and move every 20 to 30 minutes.

Popular but unconventional activities that office chairs are used for include spinning around on them, chair races, chair soccer and their use as a stepstool.


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