By Shenuka Dias (Lecturer – Furniture Design,

Departments of Architecture, University of Moratuwa)

The creation of the office chair links back to the advent of the railway system in the mid-1800s. As large companies began to expand with an increase in the workforce, traditional, family owned businesses became less attractive. This boom, together with the new type of occupational need, and the increase in office work created an awareness of office environments, which became part of a cultural focus on increasing productivity. It gave rise to new types of furniture specific to the administrative tasks.

The office chair was designed to increase the productivity and comfort while tasking for long hours. Office seating was first introduced with two functions that set it apart from other chairs. They allowed employees to remain seated yet reach a number of locations within their work area. The “casters” allowed for effortless rolling around a workstation. The “swivel” ability made it possible for one employee to simultaneously perform multiple tasks. The wooden saddle seat was designed to fit and support the body of a seated employee, and the slatted back and armrests provided additional support to increase comfort. Many of these models were adjustable to provide the maximum comfort, thus the maximum working time. (image 1)

The advancement in technology has created a huge demand for different office chair designs. New technology creates new occupations that require new types of furniture. Much of the technological growth has come in administrative and information based fields. They have created the demand for specialized office seating. Other factors like climate and architectural design have recently influenced the office chair industry. The increased popularity of mesh office chairs in hot and humid climates is due to the ability that mesh ventilates and keeps the user cool during the workday. Chairs like the Aeron have been developed with a strong emphasis on modern, artistic design which has drawn the attention of businesses trying to keep up with modern trends. Executives office chairs are taller and upholstered in primarily high quality material.

Operator or Task chairs are used commonly by employees in middle or lower executive levels. Also referred to as computer chairs; these were designed to be adjustable and comfortable for long periods of sitting. Computer chairs feature an adjustable seat and backrest, casters, a swivel function and a padded seat for more comfort. The adjustability is of convenience for multi-users from different shifts using the same chair.

In today’s corperate world comfort and support in an office chair is vital. A lifestyle on uncomfortably stylish office chairs is a shortcut to health hazards. Thus, it is vital to balance the elements of style and ergonomic functionality. Contemporary office chairs are created with comfort levels and convenience in mind, to create new innovative forms that combine great looks and comfort. Most chairs are amply cushioned with enough space. They have, firm contoured backrests, to provide good lumber support, an adjustable tilt angle and armrests contoured to the shape of the arm. They are adjustable in height, which eliminates inconvenient postures for inevitably prolonged periods of seated office work. Good ergonomic office chairs have a five-ended base on rollers that enable easy movement in any direction while preventing the chair from tipping over when reclining.

In response to changing office décor demands, many manufacturers accommodate their client’s specific requirements. Thus office chairs are available in different types of materials.

Mesh Office Chairs came into popularity when Herman Miller introduced the Aeron Chair. In addition to their sleek elegance, mesh chairs also score well on functionality and adjustable features. This tightly woven stretchy material ergonomically fits into the form of its user, while its semi-transparency makes it breathable.

Executive Office Chairs are usually upholstered and feature a high back or headrest. They are also used as conference chairs, feature a swivel function and a seat height adjustment with ample seating space. A wide range of adjustments is available on different models after the initial functions. They are upholstered in leather but many executives now sit in mesh upholstered executive chairs providing tremendous comfort.

Not all kinds of office chairs will be suitable for every task. A variety of factors need to be considered when choosing a suitable office chair.

Office chairs can augment decor in an office space that will build confidence in its clients and inspire its employees to work. Elegant office chairs and executive visitor chairs exude an air of professionalism and superior service. Leather chairs and mesh office chairs create an impression of a top-notch office setting. Despite continual innovations in office décor, classic leather office chairs continue to have a prized spot in most modern offices. Ever since their advent, leather chairs have symbolized the fundamental business values of strength and solidity.

Office chairs will continue to evolve. New operational functions and new material options will continue to be redeveloped and improved upon. Topics like ergonomics will continue to be at the forefront. Office chair design has gone from a simple wooden saddle swivel chair to fully adjustable ergonomic chairs fused with elegant style and functionality. Who knows what type of office chairs are still to come?