What is a Desk Chair?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Today, people may view the desk chair as an essential element in any office or room that possesses a desk. It’s interesting to find out that early designs for these chairs were actually meant to increase productivity. Most desk chairs today feature rolling wheels or casters and a swivel mechanism which allows people to turn the chair fully around. When this design was first created, it was hoped that additional movement offered by the chair would keep employees seated, and in the minds of the designers, a seated employee was by nature more productive.

Some desk chairs are traditional wood style chairs.
Some desk chairs are traditional wood style chairs.

The average desk chair may possess the following elements. It usually is seated on casters or wheels, has a backrest and may have armrests. Most chairs are adjustable for different heights, and some are able to recline slightly too, which allows people to shift position or stretch. Different materials may cover the chair, and they may have wood seats, padded seats and backrests, and may be covered with fabric, vinyl or leather. The various materials used to make the chair can include heavy duty plastic, wood and metal, sometimes in combination.

While shoppers can find many average desk chairs at Big Box stores, home office stores and furniture stores, they may be surprised by the numerous permutations of the desk chair that are now available. Many of these new designs still allow people to roll and turn, but they may look very different than a standard chair, and may be specifically designed to promote ergonomic seating.

A few unusual desk chairs of this type include the ball chair, where people balance on a round or oval shaped ball that helps to keep the spine straight. Another option is the kneeling chair. More weight is shifted to the shins and knees and people rest their shins and knees on a special pad in front of the chair. This is designed to create more of a standing posture. However, kneeling chairs may not have wheels for movement or rotation, and some people find it difficult to get out of the chair without some practice.

A few people have completely foregone the desk chair in favor of using large inflatable exercise balls. Staying balanced on these balls can take some training but they are thought to be excellent for those who routinely suffer from lower back pain. Others prefer the ball chair for this reason, since it does have wheels and can keep people from getting clothes dirty while they work.

Price of offices chairs will vary significantly, with those not particularly designed for ergonomic seating support at lowest prices, except for the exercise ball. Balls may also be purchased for less than $50 US Dollars (USD) quite easily. Higher priced chairs may not provide ergonomic seating either. Some are made of more luxurious materials, like high quality leather upholstery, and will simply cost extra.

While price is a consideration, those shopping for a desk chair should think of two key things: comfort and seating needs. For the occasional seat at a desk, any inexpensive chair may do. Yet for extended sitting needs, investing in a good chair that provides comfort and some back support or a system that helps to strengthen the back is a good idea. With the variety of chairs available, finding one that meets budget and use requirements is not hard to do, and many can find bargains by shopping for chairs on sale or that are gently used.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


We all got new desk chairs a while back -- except for me. I didn't like the ones they ordered. It really made my boss mad, but I didn't care. I'm the one who has to sit at that desk all day.

I have one of the oldest chairs in the office, but it's still a great chair. It's been going strong for over 10 years. Those other chairs all broke in about six years. No kidding. They just started falling apart.

One of these days, the higher ups will realize that spending more money on things that get a lot of use will pay off in the end, when they don't have to buy one for everyone in the office but once every 15 years or so.


My home office desk chair has arms, but my office chair at work doesn't. The desks are made differently, which explains it. However, finding a comfortable desk chair is a process for me. I have a short back, so I need the lumbar support to be in the right place. I also need my feet to sit flat on the floor, so my keyboard is about the level of my navel. That's my comfortable typing zone. I don't do well with the recommended keyboard height. Makes my wrists ache.

I also want a chair that rolls easily and rocks backward a little so I can change my position once in a while.

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