Office Seating and Weight - A Heavy Topic...

Posted by Expert Gadget Reviewer on Wednesday, 22 July 2009

In the course of recommending and selecting office chairs, we often have to deal with a delicate and very personal subject, "how much does the user weigh?"... As sensitive as this question is, the answer is critical to insuring that we provide a healthy, safe, and appropriate chair.

Almost every commercial or contract grade office chair (this excludes most chairs from Ikea, Staples, etc... which are typically for home-office use) is designed for a "typically" sized office user. My experience has shown that a "standard" chair works for people between 5'2" and 6'2" and 105 lbs to 250 lbs.

Recently, we are seeing a growing group of users who fall outside the "typical" range - and it is this population that requires a more "specialized" solution. Here is why:

Below 5'2" or 105 lbs: The chair seat width is too wide, the arms (even adjustable width) don't adjust enough, the seat height doesn't go low enough to the ground (which can be solved by using a foot rest). The biggest issue with smaller users is that they physically have a difficult time adjusting the chair. This is because most current chairs are set to adjust based on weight, and smaller users don't weigh enough to actuate the chair properly.

Above 6'2" or 250 lbs: Users in this category will have almost the exact opposite problems of those listed above. The biggest risk with larger users is that the chair will mechanically wear out quicker, and in cases where a user greatly exceeds the weight level (250 lbs), the chair may catastrophically fail (breaking at the chair control mechanism or chair back) which can lead to physical injury.

What are the options: Manufacturers have been a bit slow to keep up with our evolving body types, but there are options available. For brevity sake I'm going to show one "small" option and one "large" option - in general the "smaller" model chairs will be equivalent in cost, while the "larger" model chairs will run about 10% to 15% more.

Allsteel's SUM chair (SUM-MA) is a great model for smaller users:

Global's Concorde provides a comfortable option for larger users:

Summary: If you have users in your employee population that fall outside the "typical" user range, take a minute to review this information with your furniture provider. It may not be the easiest topic of conversation, but it will ultimately mean a happier and much more comfortable employee.

For more information on this topic, please feel free to contact your Sam Clar or CSG account executive, or email me at: