March 16, 2005
As software developers, we worry a lot about improving and protecting our most important asset-- our brains. But what about our second most important asset-- our rear ends? As much time as we spend seated in front of a computer, it pays to think about investing in quality seating.
I've run the gamut from $99 OfficeMax specials all the way up to the exotics, and there's no question that a quality chair is a significant factor in productivity over an 8 hour day.
Of course, you can't talk about IT professionals and seating without invoking the ghost of Herman Miller's Aeron chair, which has an unfortunate association with the era of dot-com excess:
Unlike Miele vacuums or Niman Ranch steaks, however, Aeron chairs enjoyed a special relationship with the Internet boom, riding the dot-com wave to near ubiquity. Aerons were the new economy and success rolled into a single object; they gave start-ups a tangible way to flaunt their investors' high hopes and reporters a shorthand to describe success.
"To get an indication of how well Salesforce.com is doing these days," wrote a Business Week reporter in a recent article, "stroll through its newly renovated offices -- [where] a young staff sits in ergonomic Aeron chairs and takes breaks at the circular coffee bar in the corner of the main floor."
As the dot-coms got richer, so did Herman Miller, the maker of Aeron chairs and inventor of that mainstay of the new-economy workplace: modular panels with integrated work systems, aka the cubicle. As the dot-com boom hit its peak in the last quarter of 2000, Herman Miller's net sales increased 27.7 percent. Among its bestselling products: the Aeron chair.
But just as the dot-coms had collected Aerons when they grew, so they shed them as they died, unleashing legions of briefly occupied luxury chairs into the world. When sports company Quokka shut its doors, it left behind hundreds of hastily abandoned Aeron chairs, clustered in the corners of the lifeless offices like refugees.
Way back in 1998, one of my first published reviews was of the Aeron chair I had just purchased. And it's the top result for the Google search term "aeron review"-- go figure. I still have that Aeron, and I'm still happy with it. My enthusiasm is somewhat diminished by the way the Aeron has become a symbol of dot-com excess, and the dot-com implosion. I had to disassemble the chair to replace the tilt locking pin, which broke in 2001; I've been a lot more careful about aggressive reclining since then.
I am fortunate enough to have a fairly nice chair at work-- the Steelcase Leap. I can also recommend this chair; it's in the same ballpark price-wise as the Aeron. In fact, after browsing chairs for the last few years of my career, I've come to one conclusion: you can't expect to get a decent chair for less than $500. If you are spending less than that on seating-- unless you are getting the deal of the century on dot-bomb bankruptcy auctions-- you're probably making a mistake. I'm not saying that to be an elitist I-have-a-better-chair-and-more-money-than-you kind of guy; it's just a market reality. And besides, a good chair is absolutely one of the best investments you can make as a professional software developer. No doubt about it.
Of course, the Leap and Aeron are a few good choices among many:
What do you sit in all day? As a developer, demand good seating, because it's necessary for productive work. Hopefully it won't come to this, but if you have to, buy it yourself as an career investment. If you're not careful, you could end up writing code in chairry.
Update: I have a newer post on this topic which covers all the great suggestions people left in the comments. Please visit the newer post for the latest info or to leave a comment!
Posted by Jeff Atwood
I scored an Aeron at a dot com auction a few years back - I sit in that at home. At work I sit in a crappy-ish standard office chair. I always consider bringing the Aeron to the office but don't want to seem like some kind of yuppie chair snob. Thoughts?
I guess I would ask my manager first to make sure he's cool with it, then do it.
Of course you're talking to the guy who secretly upgraded the motherboard, powersupply, CPU, memory, video card, and hard drive of his work computer-- it has essentially been rebuilt six million dollar man style, but looks identical from the outside-- so I'm probably not the best person to ask on this particular topic..
I love my Aeron. I took it to work, but missed it when I was at home. Now I work from home and don't have to be parted from it. ever.
We exclusivly use the Leap chairs here and they are hands down the best chairs I've ever sat it. IMHO, they blow away Aeron chairs.
I got my Aeron 3-4 years ago off eBay pretty cheap (around $400 shipped I think). I weight 250+ and after 10 hour days for a couple years it's starting to wobble on me and I've been looking for something new but the used ones aren't available as cheap as they were back then. There'a a Steelcase dealer locally I may check those out before I buy another Aeron.
My ass knows nothing but Aeron both at work and at home. The one at home was an anniversary present from my wife. The one at work was a condition of me returning to work for my family after a 3 year leave of absence. Oh, and the one at work has red fabric. :)
How about this?
Slate just published a review of some high-end office chairs:
I've been rocking a Herman Miller Mirra at work for a while now. It's a great chair for much less.
HOWEVER, I recently needed a chair for home. After weeks of research and debate on going with an Aeron, I decided on something else. This chair is THE BOMB and it's about $500 less than an Aeron and $300 less than the Mirra. It's called the Eurotech ErgoHuman. http://www.keystoneoffice.com/chairs/images/chairs/ME7ERG-large.jpg
There wasn't shit on the web as far as reviews on this thing so I rolled the dice. Very happy.
I second the Eurotech Ergohuman chair, i've been searching and searching for a decent chair, and I was almost getting ready to drop the money on a leap chair or aeron, then I found the ergohuman chair. I haven't purchased it because i'm reasearching prices right now. A local retailer had it for $585 but it's looking like the going rate is $500ish. I was able to sit in the leather and mesh chair and i think i'm going to go with the leather version.
The Ergohuman chair is an awesome buy! Both Jeff and James are right on the money with everything they said. I bought the ME8ERGLO, which is the mesh chair without the headrest. I liked all of them, but prefer to not have a headrest. I found mine at http://www.beyondtheofficedoor.com/ergonomic-office-chair.php for $517.00.
I just ordered the Eurotech chair but I'll be damned it's heavy. Anybody compared it to the more visually appealing Steelcase Think chair? Apparently they have a good selection at Macy's and I wasn't able to check those out before ordering the Eurotech online.
Glad to see you guys are positive about the erghohuman chairs. Though it kinda looks like a Gilliam'esqe torture device, sitting in the me7erg was the most amazing experience I had. I'm leaning towards getting one too.
Even living in Los Angeles, I wish it were easier to find places that had a wider variety of chairs to try out than the local office depot or Staples. Well, if nothing else, it's made for interesting blog writing.
If you are sitting in your chair more then 12 hours a day I would recommend having a backup "Kneeling chair" from Hag.
They rock, by looking at it you would not expect it to help your back so much.
They also make some really nice traditional chairs.
If you are in a chair more then 12 hours a day you need to mix it up with a Kneeling chair from Hag. They rock and you would never think it helps relax your back so much.
well, as a quick follow up - I bought the eurotech me7erg and I'm loving life. Sitting in it as I write this.
Even a friend of mine with an Aeron was envious.
I highly recommend them.
The best advice I can give is to sit in the chair before you buy it, or make sure the retailer has a good return policy.
I was hell bent on getting an Aeron, and I'll admit it was mostly because of the "techy must have" stigma. So, I found a local dealer where I could try it out. There are a couple of issues with the Aeron w.r.t. Big Tall. They're only warranted for use up to 300 lbs. Strike 1. What's the point of spending that much if the kick ass 12 year warranty doesn't apply? They're really not built for people with wider hips. This may go to the 300 lb limit, but I found the hard curved sides of the seat uncomfortable because they dug into my hips. Strike 2. I can't think of strike 3 right now, but 2 strikes is enough. I told myself, if you don't fall in love with it immediately, don't buy it. So, I came home without the Aeron. I was bummed, but felt I'd made the right choice.
However, the place also had a Neutral Posture Big Tall. Let me tell you, for comfort, it blows the Aeron away. It's rated for 24/7 use and it's designed for cops, 911 operators, etc. for long term use. And, it's built for users up to 750 lbs! I have the "ultraleather" pillow-top version. I'm still playing with the adjustments to get it "just right" but I love it so far.
The Neutral Posture website is http://www.igoergo.com
I'm in the process of shopping for a chair. Yesterday, I tried out both the ergohuman and the aeron. Not really sure how they compare since they were in different stores and running back and forth seemed a bit embarrassing. The Aeron comes across as a much simpler device....the ergohuman has all kinds of things sliding this way and that. They both seemed pretty comfortable. I did like the fact that the Aeron can be adjusted to tilt forward.
Regarding the Hag balans....I've got one of the kneeling chairs and for me it was a waste...I'm selling it to a friend for less than half of what I payed (about 350) since I'm just not using it.
It's well made but the distance between the seat and the kneeling pad don't adjust and are the wrong distance for me. It seems like this kind of adjustment would be a basic feature since we all have different body types...this chair just doesn't fit me properly. I'm just under 6'....maybe my legs are too long....
Haven't seen it mentionned here, maybe because it is quite a pricey chair, but Humanscale's Freedom chair rocks pretty much all the other chairs.
The website's store lists it as 1200$ or something but you can usually get it under 800$ from retailers (especially on ebay).
The ergohuman is the bomb. OfficeDespots had it for $499 high back recently.
I just got the "Eurotech Ergohuman Leather High Back EUR-LE9ERG" for $599 online, thanks to this page. It is awesome, highly recommended. Better than the "ergo" chair I have at work. Feels very solid.
I also recommend the leather over the icky stretchy mesh.
The Aeron chair is not a bad chair, we found that it makes you sit in one position which they consider ergonomic. The problem is, most people that sit all day tend to move around in their chair and the aeron is not easily adjusted. Sure there are lots of knobs and adjustments, it just takes a degree in chair design to be able to operate them! There are many newer designed chairs that focus on natural movement and auto adjusting to the user. I recommend checking out the Liberty or Freedom chairs. The Ergohuman is really nice and costs half the price of the Aeron.
Whatever you do, find a place to try out the chairs first! We bought a pair of Aerons from Home Office Solutions and they surreptitiously charged us $150 to return them. I disagreed with this charge but their supposedly "satisfaction guaranteed" service manager argued with me and said he will go out of business, that 'intelligent' people will check their returns page (nicely hidden) ect... However, I phoned in my orders and this was never disclosed to me, wasn't in any of my email communication or on my receipts. Only when I called to return the Aerons did they casually mention this fee. Their website touts the 100% free shipping, 100% refundable if not satisfied but watch out for those shady junk fees! They were also verrrry slow to issue the refund. 2 weeks went by after the chairs were returned and I had to call the service department who said they were "backlogged". Avoid doing business with HomeOfficeSolutions.com or any of their 3 online businesses (yep they are all one company): OfficeDesigns.com or UltimateBackstore.com
Some great tips here. I currently have a Herman Miller Mirra chair, and I would say it's just "OK", but not great. And, after a year, the fabric on the seat part is starting to tear.
I think this is because I tend to sit all the way up on the front edge of the chair, never leaning into the back at all.
I also dont use the arm rests, in fact they kinda get in the way.
So, in researching a replacement the last few days, I'm starting to feel like I should go with one of these:
(sorry for a link to a store, the manufacturers site is kinda lame)
Anyone used or know someone who has used one of these?
They seem similar to the exercise ball seating method that a lot of people seem to be adopting lately, but with a better surface, adjustability, and less likelihood of explosion. :)
Otherwise, I'm looking at a Steelcase "Think", without armrests.
I'm sitting in a HumanScale Liberty chair right now... a store called "Design Within Reach" let me borrow it for a day. Last week I borrowed the Herman Miller Cella, and good thing, because that one was painful.
The Liberty is really cool. I mostly agree with the reviewer above, but it's not the chair for me. I'm a "lean back" kind of guy, and the Liberty isn't so good for prolonged leaning back. The natural stance of the chair is "lean forward and get your work done", and when I lean back I tend to go back to far in this chair. There is no spring tension adjustment for the back, and there is no backstop adjustment either. If either (or both!) of these were present I would buy the chair. The gel seat is great, and the mesh back is one of a kind.
My problem isn't my back, it's my legs... after sitting too long, it feels like either the nerves or the circulation get disrupted. So none of the mesh bottom chairs are good for me, since the front edge of the mesh seats tends to push up into the back of my leg.
At The Healthy Back Store I sat in Aeron, CXO, Leap, and Zody chairs. At another local store I sat in the ErgoHuman chairs. Right now it's a three-way-tie between the Zody, the Leap (leather) and ErgoHuman (leather). If you haven't tried the Zody, you should. It's way cool. The only reason it's not first on my list is that I can find the other two for much less.
There are lots of used Leaps on the market but beware... the v2 is nicer than the v1, but very few used v2's are available yet. (Leap v2 came out 1Q06).
Hope this data dump is of value to someone...
Any recommendations for a person 6'4" and 200lbs?
What is the difference between the Steelcase Leap V1 and V2?
The main differences between Leap v1 and v2 is that the v1 came with a choice of back heights "full" and "low". In order to simplify v2, they only offer a single height - around in the middle of the previous choices. I have a tall torso so the full or higher back was for me. The v1 also had an extra front lip seat adjustment. So, I looked all over for a v1 and bought that recently. I think the Leaps blow away the Aeron, Humanscale, and all the rest - Iv'e tried many.
A few other differences between the v1 and v2 Leap. i) The armrests on the v2 are *much* improved. The rubber is softer, and they slide forward/backward, in addition to the other directions. ii) The frame for the back is made of softer, more flexible plastic. I find it more comfortable than the v1, since it has a little more 'give.' iii) The control for the hardness of the front tip of the seat cushion is removed. No great loss. iv) It's restyled overall: looks a bit smaller and thinner, even though the seated dimensions remain the same.
I looked at a used v1 vs. a new v2, and decided the v2 was going to be more comfortable for me...
I just bought the Ergohuman after owning a Herman Miller Aeron, which I never liked. The Ergohuman cradles me, the lumbar support is better, the ability to slide the bottom seat a bit is nice, and so is the headrest. It's also only $500 online. I wish I had purchased it sooner because now sitting at my desk no longer is painful.
I realize this is probably out of place, but what about a chair mat? I love my chair, but I need a chair mat that works on carpet. Cracking = bad. Also, if would be nice if it wasn't slick as ice. I don't want to fly across the room when my foot twitches.
When we were looking for chairs for our startup, we went to Dept of Labor in DC, which has an ergonomics expert on-site, so we could sit in lots of chairs and figure out which ones were best.
Pretty much hands-down the HumanScale Liberty crushed for us. We got a good deal by buying in bulk, including HumanScale's very sexy and green Task Lamps, which are super cool.
I'm a big fan of HumanScale.
Those look like great chairs. I'm a programmer and my home chair just broke after about 5 years, and it was never perfect, but I got a great deal on it for $120. It's disheartening to think that to get comfort, I need to spend $500-$1000! That's quite a bit of cash. You'd think you could get a really good chair for $200 or $250.
Not all developers work from the confines of an office. As a freelancer and contractor, I've developed over a myriad of ass-locating devices - from sofas, beds, chairs, bar-stools, hammocks, beach recliners and so forth.
I actually found that being too comfortable is detrimental to productive work, as it makes me sleepy and too relaxed. A good seating arrangement should be good for the back yet not too comfortable as to forget you are working.
My personal issue with office chairs is stability. I'm a relatively heavy guy, with 220ish pounds at 6'2 or so, but by no means do I feel like a morbidly obese monster that can't expect a chair to hold his weight. Yet, I have destroyed not one, buy three different office chairs in the last five or so years. One broke right through the middle of the seating area. I kept that broken off half to remind me not to buy cheap chairs anymore.
I think a point somewhat missed here is that different bodies are going to fit a chair differently. A lot of people don't realize that most chairs are rated to only 250lbs (Aeron is rated to 270) but that doesn't mean someone that size will fit in an average sized seat comfortably. Also a heavier person needs a heavier construction and things like better casters and better mountings for the arms and back post or the chair is going to break down.
The Ergohuman is hard to beat for the price, but there are some amazing contenders out there for good chairs. Frankly if you sit in almost anything in the same price as a loaded Aeron (the basic model doesn't have enough adjustments for a daily user because you can't adjust it to fit - you need more than a height adjustment), you'll find a more comfortable chair. I don't think I've seen a single comparison that Aeron has won.
Other great chairs - The Humanscale chairs - Freedom and Liberty, Neutral Posture, Steelcase's Leap, The Zody, the Nightengale (Canadian). The most comfortable chairs on the planet (yeah..my opinion but shared by anyone who has sat in one for any length of time) are made by BodyBilt. You get to mix and match the back and seat and options to get a chair that fits YOUR body with the features you want. They make chairs for the very petite, average people, and people up to 700lbs!
Anyway, I work for an ergonomist so I've tried pretty much them all. I have a Freedom in the office and a BodyBilt at home (that's where I put my cash).
Anyhow...just my opinion. I bought my Freedom chair at www.thehumansolution.com. I got a good deal and they were very helpful.
I love my Aeron...wouldn't trade it for the world. Thankfully I didn't have to pay for mine though...a startup I worked for many moons ago went bust, and allowed what employees were left to sift through the wreckage and take one item each.
Big Tall? Check out Bodybilt at http://www.ergo4me.com/
After struggling with Office Depot cheapos for years, I finally broke down and bought one. I'm 6'5", work at home and it's good enough to sit in all day of coding following by an evening of World of Warcraft. Very adjustable as well and I'm quite pleased.
The Ergohuman is a great option. Enter "ergohuman" in the coupon code box of most sites and you'll get some sort of discount. Very Nice!
I used a chair similar to the Aeron chair, but I was not getting the lower back support I needed. I found that using a lumbar support pillow helped me improve my bad sitting posture and avoid some of the back problems I was having. Check out my site http://lumbarsupportpillowreview.org for info on other lumbar support options.
Hey Ergohuman fans, the new Ergohuman V2 is now available and it has many upgrades over the original and is actually a bit more comfortable as well. A review and comparison of the two is here Ergohuman VS Ergohuman V2. Happy sitting!
For anyone else who may be interested in the Steelcase Think Chair, click on the preceding link for a thorough review. With the tough economic times (especially our immature and irresponsible government trying to deal with the debt crisis) it was a tough decision, but I went with it and I haven't regretted it one bit since.