Here at R&A Office Environments, we have over 30 years’ experience supplying office chairs in all shapes and sizes, so we’ve put our heads together and come up with the definitive answer to this question, which is “It Depends”!
Now, we’re sure that’s not the answer you were looking for, but what we can do is give you some very good advice to help you decide whether it’s time to make a change.
The first thing to consider is how long you have had your existing chairs and whether or not they are still under warranty. Although this in itself does not determine whether or not a chair has come to the end of its useful life, it’s a very good indicator as to how long you can expect it to last. Generally, chairs with a longer warranty have proportionately greater life-span. This is because they are generally of a much higher quality in the first instance and thus will stand the test of time much better. Chairs with a 5 year warranty could be expected to last around eight years. In short, quality chairs are built to last.
A quality chair will probably be covered in a more resilient fabric, more suitable for heavy use, which will retain its good looks for a considerably longer time than a budget item, where you may find the fabric looks shabby long before the chair is no longer useful. Of course, this won’t affect the comfort factor, but it’s not a good look to present to clients. Take it from us; shabby chairs do not a good impression make, so if yours are looking less than presentable, perhaps it’s time to upgrade them.
You also need to consider how the chair is used. For example, chairs in offices that have a “hot desk” environment are likely to be subject to considerably more wear and tear than those which are used by one dedicated member of staff every day. Clearly, all chairs should outlive their warranty, but any additional months/years could be curtailed if the chairs are heavily used.
It’s important to look closely at the ergonomic credentials of any chair you buy. The more comfortable it is to sit on, the more the user will like it and, as a direct result, will take better care of it. It’s also a fair assumption that an ergonomically designed chair will have an excellent built-quality and be less susceptible to breakage. Don’t underestimate the value of training your staff to use their chairs correctly, either. Making sure they know how, and why, they should adjust their chairs properly will not only improve their productivity, but will also ensure that any problems with the chair will be quickly identified, allowing you to carry out any necessary maintenance in a timely manner. Much better to keep an existing chair in great working order than to neglect repairs and watch the chair slowly fall apart.
The most common complaint we come across form clients is the comfort of their chairs and this is often dependent on the foam padding. As a general rule, you should be able to sit in your chair for between 1-2 hours in absolute comfort. If your find this isn’t the case, it could be that the foam seat pad has either worn thin or become too compressed to provide the correct level of support. In which case, it’s time to look for a new chair. If you’re sitting on a relatively new chair and it’s uncomfortable, then chances are you bought the wrong chair. Sorry.
Take a look at the base of your chair. Does it have a five-point base? Are all the castors still working? As chairs are designed to be moved smoothly across the floor, a five-point base is important for stability and what’s more, to comply with current health and safety legislation. Some chairs still come with a four-point base, but we don’t recommend these as they are considerably less stable; if you are still using such chairs, they should be replaced straight away. Without all castors moving freely, even moving your chair backwards and forwards at your desk becomes a difficult task and can cause muscular strain. If your chair is not as mobile as it should be, it’s time to say goodbye and invest is something that does the job properly.
If your chairs have armrests, are they all working correctly and are they fully adjustable? Does the chair creak when you sit down? Do all the available adjusters (seat tile, backrest height/angle adjustment) still work for that matter? Chair are made to be adjustable for very good reasons; to ensure the user can sit in an optimal position to reduce stress on their joints and minimise the risk of MSK (Musculoskeletal) pain. So if you’ve got a fully-adjustable chair, it makes no sense to carry on using it if you can no longer make all the necessary adjustments to make sitting at your desk a comfortable experience.
Our final piece of advice would be, if you need a new chair, don’t be fooled into thinking a cheap alternative is the answer. The truth is that a chair in this price bracket is always going to be made to meet the price at the expense of quality, using a lower standard of components and this means it’s less likely to be fit for purpose, will, in most cases, be extremely uncomfortable and, well, it won’t last.
Look at it a different way. So you have to spend more on your chair? Well, if you consider how much more productive you’ll be sitting comfortably at your desk, focussed on what you’re doing and not experiencing any sort of back or neck pain, it seems like a more worthwhile investment.
As in all things, quality costs, but when it comes to office chairs, we think it’s a price worth paying.