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.
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.