July 4, 2008
In A Developer's Second Most Important Asset, I described how buying a quality chair may be one of the smartest investments you can make as a software developer.
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 still believe this to be true, and I urge any programmers reading this to seriously consider the value of what you're sitting in while you're on the job. In our profession, seating matters:
- Chairs are a primary part of the programming experience. Eight hours a day, every day, for the rest of your working life – you're sitting in one. Like it or not, whatever you're sitting in has a measurable impact on your work experience.
- Cheap chairs suck. Maybe I've become spoiled, but I have yet to sit in a single good, cheap chair. In my experience, the difference between the really great chairs and the cheap stuff is enormous. A quality chair is so comfortable and accommodating it effortlessly melts into the background, so you can focus on your work. A cheesy, cheap chair constantly reminds you how many hours of work you have left.
- Chairs last. As I write this, I'm still sitting my original Aeron chair, which I purchased in 1998. I can't think of any other piece of equipment I use in my job that has lasted me ten full years and beyond. While the initial sticker shock of a quality chair may turn you off, try to mentally amortize that cost across the next ten years or more.
Choice of seating is as fundamental and constant as it gets in a programming career otherwise marked by relentless change. They are long term investments. Why not take the same care and consideration in selecting a chair as you would with the other strategic directions that you'll carry with you for the rest of your career? Skimping yourself on a chair just doesn't make sense.
Although I've been quite happy with my Herman Miller Aeron chair over the last 10 years, I've always been a little disenchanted with the way it became associated with dot-com excess:
In the '90s, the Aeron became an emblem of the dot-com boom; it symbolized mobility, speed, efficiency, and 24/seven work weeks. The Aeron was a must-have for hot startups precisely because it looked the least like office furniture: It was more like a piece of machinery or unadorned engineering. The black Pellide webbing was durable, and hid whatever Jolt or Red Bull stains you might get on it. Held taut by an aluminum frame, the mesh allowed air to circulate and kept your body cool. What's more, the chair came in three sizes, like a personalized tool. Assorted knobs and levers allowed you to adjust the seat height, tilt tension, tilt range, forward tilt, arm height, arm width, arm angle, lumbar depth, and lumbar height. The Aeron was high-tech but sexy – which was how the dot-commers saw themselves.
But baby-faced CEOs weren't drawn to the Aeron only for the way it looked. The Aeron was a visual expression of the anti-corporate zeitgeist, a non-hierarchical philosophy about the workplace. An office full of Aerons implicitly rejected the Fortune 500, coat-and-tie, brick-and-mortar model in which the boss sinks back in an overpriced, oversized, leather dinosaur while his secretary perches on an Office Max toadstool taking notes.
I recently had the opportunity to sit in a newer Herman Miller Mirra chair on a trip, and I was surprised how much more comfortable it felt than my classic Aeron.
The Mirra chair was an excellent recliner, too. I've been disappointed by how poorly the Aeron reclines. I actually broke my Aeron's recline pin once and had to replace it myself. So I've retrained myself not to recline, which is awkward, as I'm a natural recliner.
All this made me wonder if I should retire my Aeron and upgrade to something better. I liked the Mirra, but the comments to my original chair post have a lot of other good seating suggestions, too. Here are pictures and links to the chairs that were most frequently mentioned as contenders, in addition to the Mirra and Aeron pictured above:
Steelcase Think Chair
Steelcase Leap Chair
Ergohuman Mesh Chair
HumanScale Freedom Chair
HumanScale Liberty Chair
There were also some lesser known recommendations, such as the Haworth Zody chair, Nightingale CXO chair, BodyBilt ergo chairs, Hag kneeling chair, NeutralPosture ergo, the Chadwick Chair from the original designer of the Aeron, and something called the swopper.
Chair fit is, of course, a subjective thing. If you're investing $500+ in a chair, you'd understandably want to be sure it's "the one". The thing to do is find a local store that sells all these chairs and try them all out. Well, good luck with that. Don't even bother with your local big-box office supply chain. Your best bet seems to be back stores, as they tend to stock many of the more exotic chairs. Apparently they have a clientele of people who are willing to spend for comfort.
Reviews of individual chairs are relatively easy to find, but aren't particularly helpful in isolation. What we need is a multi-chair review roundup. The only notable roundup I know of is Slate's late 2005 Sit Happens: The Search for the Best Desk Chair. It's not as comprehensive as I would like, but it does have most of the main contenders. Notably, Slate's winner was the HumanScale Liberty.
Some other helpful resources I've found, both in the comments to this post, and elsewhere:
If this is all a bit too much furniture porn for your tastes, I understand. As for me, I'm headed off to my local friendly neighborhood back store to figure out which of these chairs will best replace my aging Aeron. By my calculations, the Aeron cost me about $7 per month over its ten year lifetime; I figure my continued health and comfort while programming are worth at least that much.
Update: Since people have been asking, I ultimately decided the best fit and feel for me, personally, was the Herman Miller Mirra chair. It's a huge upgrade from my ten year old Aeron. It feels like three or four revisions better. For example, the front lip of the seat is adjustable, which addresses one of the major concerns I had with my Aeron – as well as the vastly improved reclining I mentioned above. The only unexpected downside is that the plastic back is a little rough on the skin if you sit, er... shirtless. Although I am very pleased with my new shadow Mirra with citron back (pic), I urge you to do the research and try the chairs yourself before deciding.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
Spending $500+ on a chair seems pretty ridiculous to me. I
understand you're sitting in it for a prolonged period of time, but
I would much rather spend the money on a monitor, or desk, or
keyboard, etc. Items that I feel are much more important to a
When you're under 20, you feel like that. When you grow a bit older and actually start experiencing even minor health problems apparently related to your work, you'll reconsider.
I should have bought good chair five years ago instead of that expensive quality 19 LCD that is not out of warranty yet, but already cannot be sold for more than 20% of its purchase price. I'm replacing the LCD with 24 Dell one (that costs half the old one's price and is better in every aspect) this month. The chair will last 10+ years.
I am one for the simple chairs. Simple armless steno chair I use at home (for space reasons) and one with arms is what I have at work, both I like. Then again working at a non-profit I don't ever think I'll ever see a $500 chair.
One thing I've come to like is having leather instead of fabric, as with many of us long time in front of the keyboard people we sweat at times and the fabric can take in some of that garlic you had for lunch, etc. Also in an AC office it is nice and cool when you first sit down.
Agree, chairs are realy underestimated.
Had a cheap office-chair before but upgraded to a 300€ chair a year ago and was at first not sure if it was worth it or not but now after a year i don't regret it for one second, even though i only use it at home for 2-3hours a day.
Now i'm even considering buying an adjustable table, being able to choose the exact position is a real relief.
Got any tips? :)
My fiancee is an Interior Designer and she swears by these chairs. She uses the Aeron chair at her work (like a $1200 model), and they hooked her up with a chair at 1/5th of the cost to bring home.
She tried to get me to get one, but I guess I'm just not that concerned. I don't mind my simple chair. All I want is another Soda.
I'm always reluctant to find an overly optimal seating configuration, as it feels like the best thing for ergonomics is to move around and not stay in any one position too long. My intuition is that comfortable and ergonomic can often be at odds. Or at least any one comfortable position isn't good.
Anyone else hate chair arms? Maybe convenient if I'm leaning back and watching something (which is uncommon), but for any kind of work the arm is at best superfluous, and at worst can be damaging.
I'm 17. Been sitting on this chair since... I started using computers?
I soooooo need to replace this piece of junk. Maybe I will soon, now that I have work-earned money of my own. No more need to bug parents about it.
(Last post, I promise)
I figured it may be interesting to know what other equipment people use... Me, I accumulated couple of useful non-computer stuff I couldn't work without:
* Humanscale 5G keyboard tray. Cheap trays suck, but this one is fully configurable and, most importantly, allows for negative tilt. That is, you set the tray to tilt *away* from you, by 3-4 degrees. This allows you to keep your hands in natural position and hold the mouse without bending your hand slightly upwards. Works wonders for mousing hand wrist pain.
* Imak SmartGlove is a life-saver. All but eliminates wrist pain (RSI or otherwise) in mousing hand.
* I'm toying with Details adjusTables Series 7 table for switching between working while sitting and standing. I couldn't get a quote on this one yet, but I suspect it's quite costy :-(
I've got one of those Aeron chairs at work and loathe the things. Best thing about it is the $20 cushion I bought at Target. It probably doesn't help that I have gone through the entire process of getting anf recovering from a herniated disc while in it. I like the idea of trying out each chair for the dealer for a while although in a work environment that is rarely an option.
I haven't found a single chair that suits me better than a laptop, a pillow and something to lean against. Interesting how biomechanics vary so much.
I completely agree, and have found myself thinking about this alot lately. I 25, and already have alot of constant back pain. Of course I can probably attribute this to 15 years of hockey, but I'm sure a good chair could really help my problems. Nice post, very timely, and who cares if its a rehash. Thanks.
I vouch for the mirra chair as well. It's the standard at my office and very comfortable.
I've got nothing like that kind of money to spend at home, but my IKEA Joakim chair really isa very good for 90.
Yeah, indeed, for home use it is a little bit overkill of course. Although I am sitting longer at my desk then the average office employee. Lately I was looking for a new chair and I saw one costing around 240€. I was shocked because I never thought that a chair could cost that much! And here, you guys are even talking about chairs of 1200 dollars! 1200 dollars, un-believ-able, i can buy me a secondhand car with that kind of money :|
But now i think its worth the investment of at least 240€ as I am getting more and more symptoms of RSI/CTD
When you're under 20, you feel like that. When you grow a bit
older and actually start experiencing even minor health problems
apparently related to your work, you'll reconsider.
The Swopper is the best chair I've ever used. It was very, very much worth the investment.
The Swopper's similar to sitting on a medicine ball but it's adjustable in height and firmness and it's stationary and it allows you to swop (it's actually fun to sit on).
Not only has it helped my low back (and all but completely eliminated my low/mid back pain), but it keeps me more *awake* and *alert* when I use it.
SERIOUSLY, the Swopper is amazing.
IMO, the Mirra chair is horrible. I've had the pleasure of having that chair as my work char on two different jobs, and both exhibited the same problem: the plastic back hurts after a while. I can't stand it. Also, I like to sit on one of my legs sometimes, and not a single one of the chairs shown permits that (without breaking your leg, that is). My $350 Staples executive high-back (p)leather chair is the best chair I've ever used, and, oddly enough, it too has lasted over ten years. I've played games while sitting in it for 12 or more hours straight with nary a pain, and I'm no spring chicken ('course, I'm not that old, either).
The only thing worse than a chair that doesn't work for your body or sitting style, is a desk that is too high or too low. I sat at a desk that was too high on a job (being a contractor, you get what you get) and it caused a great deal of back pain for weeks until my back gave up and went with the flow. Getting used to a regular-height desk induced the pain again, but, again, my back went with the flow eventually.
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.
I can't see how you came to that conclusion. I got my chair for $300 and it's just perfect. I can sit 24 to 30 hours in it easily while hacking on interesting stuff.
Does the mesh on those chairs sag over time? Also, I read a review or two on those types of chairs that mentioned the bar under your legs can be uncomfortable since there's only mesh covering it and not padding. Any experience there?
I bought an Aeron chair years ago because my company doesn't supply anything as nice. I'll never again spend the day in a chair without a mesh seat, if I can help it. This chair has been with me at the office and to a couple of long-term consulting gigs.
I'm interested to know which chair wins out for you - give us a short post when you've picked one. Maybe I'll even think about upgrading...
What about those chairs from Giroflex? They are quite common in Europe - and I'm having one at home and I'm quite happy with it.
My dad doesn't like the Aeron - same complaint about the front bar. There is a strip of padding there, but it might be a bit of a pressure point depending on how you sit and the height/tilt of the chair. Jeff's suggestion to go sit in a few chairs is a good one. I haven't seen one with a stretched or saggy mesh, or ever heard of that being a problem.
I read a review or two on those types of chairs that mentioned the bar under your legs can be uncomfortable since there's only mesh covering it and not padding. Any experience there?
I do have a bit of a complaint about that on my 10 year old Aeron. Newer models have a bit of additional padding under the front bar, from what I understand. It is definitely not a chair you want to use if you're a sit on the front of the edge of the seat kind of person.
I just got back from a brief run to Design Within Reach (Mirra, Aeron) and the back store Relax the Back (Liberty, Freedom).
1) I do not care for the Liberty or Freedom at all. This surprised me based on the effusively positive Salon review..
2) I wasn't fooling myself when I first sat in that Mirra on the trip. When compared side by side at DWR, the Mirra really *does* feel like a different chair than the Aeron. The mesh base is much firmer and less prone to the sort of pressure point problems the Aeron has.
I need to try the Leap and Think; there's a local store, Rucker Fuller that has both according to Yelp. Going to make a run there on Monday..
I bought a Mirra chair a couple of years ago, and I have been very happy with it. It is absolutely worth the investment.
Been using a steelcase leap for the last 7 years and it's been fantastic. Made it through 5 years of a cube job and a year and a half of 16 hour days for a startup.
I have to second the Swopper. Ever since I used one we had lying around at work, out of curiosity, I never want to go back to a normal chair. (I first tried all the other types of regular chairs they had, none to my satisfaction). I bought a second hand one at home (they're expensive, but durable). My new employer gave me one at the office (yay!).
Initially it took 2 weeks for me to get used to, since it actually trains your back and torso muscles to keep your body upright (like when you are standing), something which a chair, how comfortable, can never achieve, since it invites you to relax those muscles. Once I was beyond the initial muscle adjustment, I found that at the end of the day I was energized instead of tired.
And it's fun, as the earlier poster mentioned. My colleague sitting opposite of me goes crazy with me bobbing up and down... (which is part of the fun)
The HumanScale Freedom chair looks just like the chair the CTU guys sit on in the TV show 24. I want one. In CTU blue.
I bought an ergohuman mesh chair about a year ago, after my neck started bothering me and the ergo kneeling chair I'd seen my architect neighbor using in the 80's did nothing for me. I like it quite a bit; the only probable drawback I see is that the neck attachment just barely goes down far enough for me, and I'm 6'2.
I bought a Steelcase Leap about a year ago after an extensive search. I have to say I'm very happy with it. Let's face it, it doesn't look as cool as the Aeron models but it is extremely comfortable and has a suprising number of adjustments. Solid lumbar support. I feel like it has helped my posture significantly. I'm 6'2'' and a lot of Office Depot level chairs got uncomfortable after sitting in them for just a few hours. Ever get the numb butt after programming for 8 hours straight? Not anymore with this chair.
In my opinion the chair is one of the most important programmer tools, right up there with your monitor and speedy PC. A good chair can improve your productivity and health. A bad chair can cause you to break out of the programming zone and it can ruin your health over time. Consider the Steelcase Leap and whatever you do don't skimp on a chair!
Hmm. My chair doesn't say it's a Programming Chair, maybe that's my problem. Of course, I forgot to switch out of my Surfing stupid blogs chair to my Commenting on stupid blogs chair to write this..
I've owned a Liberty for over a year now, but have only started using it as an all day chair for the past three months. In a word: terrible! The immobile arms and low back simply don't support a 6'4, 180lb person properly. While the travel up and down is excellent, it doesn't support the lower back at all when using a keyboard in normal posture.
Highly adjustable arms is the biggest feature overlooked by the Aeron and other high end chairs. I really appreciate arms that can pivot in close to my body, supporting my arms while I type. For this reason, I really like the BodyBilt chairs. The SteelCase Leap comes in a close second. I also think a headrest (which the BodyBilt offers) is important for times that you want to lean back either to think or talk on the phone. The big downside of the BodyBilt is that I find it confusing to sort through all of its options.
The Chadwick Chair is simpler and a little less embarrassing than some of the options you listed above.
Don Chadwick knows how to make a good chair. He designed the Aeron and Equa chairs for Herman Miller. All the chairs listed above are influenced by Chadwick's design.
I found the Aeron great for sitting at a desk for 8 or even 10 hours... *with good posture*. Slouch, and the Aeron will punish you for it.
The Humanscale Freedom was the first chair that I found was good for sitting in with my feet on the desk, keyboard in my lap. (The headrest support didn't last, though, it keeps sliding down...)
However, both of these are have been retired to home desk-work chairs. My professional seating is a low, poofy, leather armchair - large (not merely wide) screen thinkpad, no desk at all, just a nearby filing cabinet. Wonderful setup, the matching sofa works well for drop-in collaboration, and it's lasted several years.
(As for RSI: stop using the mouse :-)
I'd prefer a more expensive desk that can raise and lower. That way I can spend some time working while standing.
I had the pleasure of test driving a Steelcase Leap Worklounge Ottoman earlier this year. I am the type who spends all day reclined in his chair with his feet up on his desk. This chair is designed for people like me. It is ridiculously expensive, though I believe there is plenty of wiggle room with the price. I understand my company gets 40% off MSRP. Employees here get 20% off. This chair is something like $2k, which is out of my range right now, but I hope to purchase it in the next couple of years.
I bought the Swopper a few months ago. I'm pretty happy with it. I started with a fit ball but the swopper lets you move around more freely.
The only downside for me is the padding is a little slim and my skinny butt gets a little sore at the end of the day. (6' 4, 190lbs.)
I've owned the Ergohuman Mesh Chair for about 2 years now. Sit on the thing between 4 and 10 hours a day depending on projects I have going on and so far very little complaints. It has adjustments for every major part and I really like the multiple height/angle adjustments on the arms . Picked it up online for about $500 and don't regret it. It's definitely a major improvement over basic office chairs.
I too have a chair that is about 20+ years of age, at least. It might even be 25 years... it was handed down to me as I just simply love it and couldn't imagine throwing it away... however, last week it finally broke, and it's to the point that it's not worth fixing. Heck, it's been reupholstered twice in it's lifetime. Thanks for pointing these chairs out... however, $1k for a chair is insane... but I could see $500 or maybe *a little* over. But now I know what to look out for in the next few weeks as it's time to finally upgrade.
Steelcase Leap Chair here. I bought used one's from the Dayton's furniture store, years ago, as I was entering my computer science program in college. It was a good instinct.
Joe: it sucks being non-standard. I'm 5'0, which my chair handles O.K., but I ended up spending $2K on a desk with an adjustable height working area. Although on the plus side for you, eventually 6'5 will be in the range we build things for. Things are trending badly for us shorties!
The worst is that I have a horrible hand-me-down desk at work, which they screwed a keyboard tray on, and a cheap warehouse office supply store chair. They're going to cripple me.
boost your worksurface height, make your display eye-height, and sit in a humanscale freedom...lean it way back (distribute your weight along the length of your back). it's the best, from my perspective - as an aeron-, think-, mirra-, and freedom-sitter.
Alright. I appreciate the comfort of a good chair. I really really do. Don't get me wrong here. I even have a nice chair myself, but something about this article just sets the wtf thing off in my brain. Seriously, go work in a hot factory on your feet doing 50 to 60 hour weeks in the summer for two months and then come back and tell me about your chair. Now don't get me wrong. I have a really nice chair. I'm not saying you don’t deserve a nice chair if you want one. But this is written like you're just too good for that $100 chair. It all came off a little elitist to me I suppose. It's probably this line. You can't expect to get a decent chair for less than $500. Seriously? Last time my chair broke at home, out to the deck I went to get the closest hardest plastic deck chair you ever seen and didn’t complain. It didn't occur to me for a second that it may not be good enough for me. I had a project to finish and would have sat on a bed of hot coals if I had to. Sorry, my family members were mostly factory workers until they did permanent damage to their bodies, and the only thing that happened then was they got a nice letter from the insurance companies saying they're not covered for that. Then they went to work the next day anyway, everyday until their seventies. I also worked in these God forsaken places while I was in high school, where if you even picture a chair in your mind you'll be fired unless you're actually assembling chairs. So, you may see it as a $400 chair isn't good enough for you, but I guess I simply appreciate the fact that I have a job where I actually can sit down instead of worrying about getting my fingers cut off in a machine that some idiot forgot to replace the guard on that day. Nothing against anyone though. I understand what you're really saying, but that thing just click in my head. Which means it's probably a good post. At least it provoked thought. I'll give it that.
That mesh looks really uncomfortable for programming in the nude.
Someone had to say it. Best benefit of working from home.
I had and Aeron for a bit. Didn't like it that much except for one benefit:
when I would pass gas, the odor would pass thru the seat and not linger. this is not true of a standard chair where the offensive smell would soak in and offend those who stopped by for a chat sometime later.
Programming chair? What egotistical nonsense. Anyone who works in an office would want a good chair.
Programmers != special.
I prefer the wood one! by the way I always put my head in the desk, I mean on my hand !:
I don't know how to explain it, may i need a photo ?
I recently bought one of those 'ergonomic' sitting balls, and honestly, they are one of the best things, for me, to sit on.
You know Jeff, I really don't like the way you're taking this blog. You're starting to recycle topics every couple of days, and it's starting to get rather boring. Why can't you come up with a new topic each time?
Bill, if you were reading my blog *OVER THREE YEARS AGO* when I wrote that original chair article, my hat is off to you.
I suspect that many people are new to this blog since then -- and I had some significant updates to make to the topic.
I looked through most of the chairs online. I went to a store in San Diego called Healthy Back. I tried many of the so-called more mainstream chairs. For the price, and for the quality of product, i think the Ergohuman Mesh Chair in leather is the best choice to make.
My father was having lower back, and sciatica problems with his cheapo $200 chair he bought at costco. We paid roughly $515 or so for it from the manufacturer. According to him, it's the best chair he's ever owned, or had the pleasure to sit on considering he used to work for Diamler Benz with a 6+ figure salary.
You should try any chair you're considering out for a week or so. Any good retailer will give you a loaner.
I went through this whole exercise about 3 months ago. I ended up only getting to try the Mirra and the Freedom for extended periods. The Mirra won out for me, particularly because of the locking forward tilt..
I also bought a newish one on eBay, rather than going through a retailer. The chair manufacturers' price fixing and policies on resale left me with a bitter taste, so I bought one from an unauthorized dealer and went without the long term warranty. It saved me about $300.
I'm sitting on a 30+ year old chair (older than me) that my parents bought... I've sat on it practically ever since I've used a computer, so I know...
I agree - choice of furniture is something so subjective that one can't really be defined by a science as mundane as ergonomics. But there are some things that are not so mundane, and have to do with the basic human physiology. As long as these are satisfied, I don't think ergonomics is really much of a problem.
Speaking of which, when did we get to think of 30 year old objects as old? I mean, in relative terms, they're practically new born. Our computers last a _maximum_ of 5 years and the rest of our stuff, as Jeff so wonderfully demonstrates, 10 years is considered old. Now, I'm in no way aged or decrepit, but 5 years is ridiculously young, and 10 years is barely into early middle age, even considering turn-of-the-last-century times. I mean, it's just strange.
Hey Jeff, I wish the big corporates would see sense. We're stuck in the typical office chairs and to be honest they're nothing short of useless. How come I can provide one of these for at home, but the co i work for can't? Perhaps i'm just not that good an investment ;)
also, @Bill no need to whine if you don't like it, just don't read it.
I bought a higher-end chair a couple years back and made several trips across Seattle to try them out. I tried the Herman Miller and HumanScale chairs. I couldn't find a place to try the Steelcase chair, unfortunately. But the one I really liked and ended up getting was the Knoll Life chair, which wasn't mentioned in your article.
Great post, Jeff. I think I'll reconsider where I sit on for almost 9 hours a day from now on. Being a grad student with an on-campus job does not help though (from a financial standpoint). But I'll definitely make a good chair my first to-buy item as soon as a decent paycheck arrives.
Whenever I see one of those kneeling chairs it is off in some corner gathering dust. A lot of people try them but nobody seems to use them for long.
At the office we have two kinds of chairs: $5 stackable plastic lawn chairs and Aerons. The Aerons are definitely the nicer of the two, and yes, I'm glad the company makes sure that the chairs we spend most of the day in are Good Chairs. I've used them for years now and the mesh is nice on hot days. But I'm not entirely convinced that they're worth ten times as much as $80 chairs. I guess the fact that they hold up well over time (did you say 12 year warranty?) is worth something.
(There are also some futons.)
I'm a little concerned, though, about the folks reading this and making comments about their back pain and if-only-they-had-the-expensive-chair. The chair and gravity influence your back, but your musculature and the way you use your body plays at least as large a role.
So I suggest that for every dollar you put in to the chair, put at least one in to taking care of your body. Go spend $800 on yoga classes or gyrotonics or feldenkrais or Alexander Technique lessons. Or even massage. No, that sort of money isn't enough to buy you twelve years of massage, but I'm pretty sure that you'll be at least as satisfied with your purchase as Jeff is with his chair.
... well put, not to mention how all other aspects of ergonomica become double important for programmers, i think out of all my office place, the tech team is the one that spends the most sitting behind computer screens anyway.
I personally expect a good couple of decades of this behaviour so I caught on to ergonomics early and it's been quite a refresher.
My biggest fear however isn't my back or bum (for that there's quite a bit of technology, ergo this article), rather my hands, more specifically my mouse finger. I have a padded wrist mousepad, and every now and then rest specific left-hand fingers as I type naturally, but always am forced to use ONE finger on my right hand for clicking, i hope i don't develop anything in future off of 20 years worth of heavy programmer-job clicking, there's been enough talk about tunnel syndrome out there anyways.
That furniture porn was one of the most amusing websites I have been to in a long time. How did you find it? And who the hell imade/i it?
I don't know about the rest of the chairs above, but the Aeron failed me and I spent the last 8 years sitting on a much more traditional chair instead. The problem is that the absolute top end of the Aeron's adjustment range is about an inch too short for me. The only thing I've found that fits right is a drafting chair (without the footrest) at the BOTTOM of its range. Being 6'5 is frequent a pain.
Hear, hear! Very interesting post --- really like the broad range of programming-related topics on Coding Horror, btw. As for myself, I have the pleasure of sitting on a Hg chair (http://www.hag.no). Sublime chairs, though indeed rather expensive. Worth every cent, though :)
Best regards, Onno
Bill is right, I don't think that this topic is interesting you can talk about technology secrets or easter eggs, that will be magnificent :)
I have had Aerons in the past, but now have TWO Miras - one in the office-office and one in the home-office, as bringing it home on the train every day was annoying the other commuters ;)
I agree that the Mira is better for reclining, which I reckon programmers SHOULD be doing quite a bit of, as we should be thinking a lot, rather than just typing-typing-typing!!
Love this topic. Find it very hard to pick a perfect chair. One thing I do wish to add is how the mesh type is so much more forgiving on your clothes than the solid ones. Before I had mesh chairs my shirts really didn't last long because of the tear on the lower back. That's why I'd never go back to non-mesh.
I feel Bill has a point in what he’s writing, you seem to have entered a reminiscence mode/zone and you have been posting topics in a re-visiting kind of way.
but its true too that I am kind of new to this blog (maybe a year or so), still I’m taking my time to read all of your old posts which I find are pretty good, insightful and interesting, I have seen how your way of conveying your thoughts have been evolving, how they are becoming more polished and more refined over time, and that is precisely the reason I feel bill has a point.
BUT as you point out, every revisited topic has enough new info as to make it worthwhile write about them again, and as you have said in the past this blog is about making us think more on what would make all of us better programmers.
anyways, this post actually made me think on my current chair, is so cheap and old it doesnt even have wheels or where to put my arms -__-
i will have to go and see where i can buy the Herman Miller Mirra chair that can deliver to where i live (see, it really was worth to write about this topic again it made me think again how bad my chair is!)
I've never spent $500 on a chair and I'm not sure I would. I love my $88 computer chair from Sams. And at that price, I can actually replace it every 2 years and still come out cheaper than your 10-year chair.
And yeah, I'm thrifty, what's it to you? =D
The chair I have now is nice, but the arms are a little torn because sometimes they get caught under the keyboard tray when I slide the chair too close to the desk.
How tear/scratch resistant are some of these chairs? At $700+, I'd like it if the chair didn't look like a war zone after a year or two.
Spending $500+ on a chair seems pretty ridiculous to me. I understand you're sitting in it for a prolonged period of time, but I would much rather spend the money on a monitor, or desk, or keyboard, etc. Items that I feel are much more important to a programmer.
I think if you look around hard enough you can find a pretty decent chair for around $150. I got mine for $140 about five or six years ago and it's still going strong. I don't see any reason to drop another couple hundred dollars to get something that's pretty much the same.
I am currently sitting on a 40$ (in fact €) chair, and it is killing me. I am 19 years old. But my back, my lower back that is, is feeling like I am 80 or something, my arms and hands are tingling and my upper legs doesn't feel good either.
But my problem is that i really cannot afford a seat that costs over 500$. So I think i will sit on this damned chair for the next year, and then I have to buy another cheap chair, cause this one is braking down.
By the way, I am not working as a programmer, but I am sitting here, working at my PC for almost 10 to sometimes 12 hours a day at home, and at school, its the same thing, sitting on a chair which i wouldn't even let my dog pee at. But their is not much i can do about it..
I've got the Ergohuman Mesh at work, and it's really nice. Not sure if it's as nice as the Mirra or Leap, but it does a great job for me. Even better since I got my company to buy it for me.
Since I'm going to start working from home due to gas prices, I wonder if I can convince them to buy me a new chair for my home office, as well.
We don't need multi-chair review -- reviews of chairs are useless for anything but picking initial batch of candidates. Trying the chairs at retailer's place is not very useful either, except for discarding bad ones. You really do have to loan the chair and try it for at least 3-4 days, as another person here said.
I did that a year ago, trying 3 chairs: Aeron (none of the other H-M chairs, Mira included, suited me), Freedom and Leap. Herman-Miller and Humanscale offered me to try the chairs with no problems. Steelcase dealer here was a pain in the ass (apparently, they couldn't care less about people buying only 1-2 chairs), I had to pull the call-the-headquarters trick on them, but man, did they try to please me after somebody from Steelcase US gave them a call...
In the end, I picked Leap with the mesh back (it doesn't cool as well as Aeron's mesh, but it's better than solid back of other Leap variants or Freedom). I didn't like doing it, the dealer was really bad, while both H-M and Humanscale were simply *great*. But they're the only Steelcase dealer here and the other two chairs didn't work for me:
* Aeron doesn't have enough lower back support, even with the lumbar support add-on and wasn't very comfortable in reclined position and the front edge is *hard*.
* Freedom is a cool mechanism. It moves with you and stabilizes itself in the position you pick, staying rigid enough to support you, but it's still easy to push against it and recline further. But the material the seat is made from is a little bit slippery (and they don't offer alternatives). I found myself sliding towards front edge of the seat over time. That simply won't do if you're prone to tail bone pain. Arm rests are not very configurable (IIRC they don't adjust in all three directions, but I may remember this one incorrectly).
Leap, on the other hand, has great, rigid lumbar support (in its fully equipped version). It's wonderful, really: no matter how I sit in the chair, I can feel solid support of the back. I rarely have tail bone or lower back pain anymore -- when I do, it's because I sat on something else somewhere, in which case Leap's lubar support is great for relieving any leftover pain that would otherwise reinforce itself by sitting again. Arm rests have by far widest range of positions of the three chairs. It lacks headrest, which is pity (the one version that has it is made from leather -- can you imagine sitting in _that_ for 8+ hours?). On the other hand, I use headrest only briefly, when fully reclined and thinking about something -- putting hands behind my neck works just as well for that.
I'm in the market for a new chair for my house, since my $200 special from OfficeMax hurts after a year of use.
I have a Leap at work and love it (we also have a few Think chairs, but having worked in one all day, I prefer the Leap).
I'm based in SF, so we bought our work chairs from Rucker Fuller a couple of months ago, and we are very happy with the them. Unfortunately when I called last week to buy a chair for home, I was told it would be several weeks at least for a Leap... :(
it's one third of your life. Spend the money.
When I worked for the corporate HQ of Whole Foods Market, all of us got one of the Herman Miller Mirra chairs when we moved to the new (2004) building. They definitely are nice, and I had few complaints (the only real one being the armrests popped from one position to another too easily).
Conversely, they stuck us all in these low-walled cubicles which totally sucked. To add insult to injury, they sought to mask all the noise from people on phones, miscellaneous talking, etc. with these really annoying white noise generators. So, for Whole Foods - big kudos for spending good money on good chairs; boo, hiss for putting employees in day-care style cubicles and pummeling them with white noise.
Interesting post. I hadn't realized till now that I'm sort of somehow proud of my Staples Special.
in my humble opinion, the best office chair if you also care about relaxing your head from time to time is Vitra's Headline chair. Best recliner I ever tried. Even when reclining, your head always stays looking forward instead of upward. Lots of clever engineering went into it, like designing a new kind of cusion fabric (3d mesh).
Have you heard the story that Steve Jobs went looking for the right washing machine for 3 weeks with his familiy? Well if he ever would have searched for the best office chair that intensively, this would have been the chair that he ended up with :-)
Here's a few pics:
And yes, I've got one, and I'm super-happy :-)
Paul Souders: it’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools.
Yes, but it is also a poor craftsman who never thinks about upgrading his tools.
I'm not sure if this topic actually has anything to do with productivity, but anyone who has even worked with anyone who has back problems knows it's a worthwhile discussion. I just wish there was a more comprehensive survey of chairs.
Anyone know any benefits of arm rests? I think they're bad for you.
Anyone know any benefits of arm rests? I think they're bad for you.
All I know is that you definitely want padded ones rather than cast plastic ones. In my experiences, the latter will give you symptoms which resembles a tennis elbow:
Paying $500-2500 for a chair is ludicrous. As of right now, I'm starting a company that makes quality, ergonomic chairs for an affordable price. I'm OK with $250-300, but anything above that is poppycock. Balderdash. Criminal.
It's another Atwood Ooooohhh, look at me and all my disposable income!! post.
Ah, chairs programmers ... I thought I was alone.
I could not agree more with what Bernhard has to say. It is not really the quality of chair [ well, I guess it matter to some extent ] but the fact that the sitter must consider the fact that the body must move. Blood circulation, position/shape of the spinal chord, etc matters far more than the quality of the chair. I personally like to change chairs every so often. I never sit for longer than an hour. Stretching, or simply standing up after every 45 minutes to an hour is crucial for me.
I have been told that quality of attention may drop because of movement, but I really don't think that there are many people who can keep high quality focused attention for more 30 minutes to an hour any ways.
Arm rests do suck unless they are adjustable to a high degree, then they can build a nice support for hanging elbows [ that is if you are not using a keyboard tray ].
I wonder about keyboard trays. Are they really helpful or just another work furniture fashion? I was never able to learn how to get along with them.
After injuring a disc in my lower back, I found that an exercise ball ($15) works best for extended sitting. It allows me to keep my pelvic floor muscles engaged (think Pilates), which is important for supporting the back.
Just wondering, Jeff, do you know what caused you to drop nearly 5,000 RSS subscribers? The other day you passed 103K, now you're at 98140 (at the time of this writing).
I think you're wrong about the price - I went out to Office Depot to buy an Ergohuman mesh for $500+, and they had another Ergohuman there for under $200 - not a mesh, with a few less features, but it felt just about as good. I forget the exact model but that's what I recommend unless you are a rich bastard.
All of that is good for the US, anyone knows where to find some good chairs in China (Shanghai) ? I mean not buy online, i would like to try first, and i have yet to find any good place.
You can develop bad posture habits in any chair, regardless of price. That's the point a lot of people tend to miss.
Don't slouch, divide your working hours into 55 minute work / 5 minute callisthenics segments, adjust your keyboard and screen so as to avoid unnatural angles for neck and wrists.
Since about a year I have X11 set so that the screen-saver kicks in after 55 minutes. My lower back pain was gone after a month of that routine.
I just want to say I _really_ did enjoy your post. It is an very important topic. In much the same way one should upgrade his/her monitor from CRT to an LCD to relieve the eyes from stress and strain. I for one has much less problems with my eyes since I switched (thankfully a long time ago now.) To the people not liking the post: Don't you comprehend how utterly broken your bodies will be if you keep sitting in non-ergonomic chairs for the rest of your programming life? There ARE other things important to developers than code.
I agree with Bill - this blog is deteriorating. All the recent posts are either all pictures and quotes, revisits, or badly concealed ads for Herman Miller office chairs.
yeah try not to laugh but my current chair is from walmart for about $30, seemed nice but I've been sitting here for about 9 minutes and my ass is already numb ..... and just to note, 8 hours a day? I think most programmers spend a good 12+ in their chairs .... at least I do, maybe I'm lazy :)
I am never going back to a chair. A good gym ball is the thing for me.
Took me a week to get used to it, but then it's the best thing ever.
Ever had back problems? Well moving to a gym ball no more back pain.
Am I the only person who has always hated the Aeron chair? It's not comfortable at all, and yes, I sat on one every day. Give me lots of foam...
At Novo Nordisk (the largest insulin provider in the U.S.) in Princeton, NJ every employee from the person who answers the phone to the big wig on the top floor has an Aeron. It's such a great company to work for.
I was wondering if anyone knew where I could take a look at some of the higher end chairs in Paris. Amazon.fr is giving me no joy.
Steve, I don't know about hating the Aeron, but I know you're not alone in not preferring it. We had at least 6 or 7 people with the option to switch their relatively cheap foam chair for an Aeron, and the Aeron sat in the corner... it was just not as comfortable.
As a computer programmer (err, I mean software architect) I spend most of my day sitting at a desk working on a computer. I am a little larger than the average person, and I tend to be like the “princess and the pea” when it comes to being comfortable. When I was younger I could sit on about anything and still get my work done. However, that attitude can slowly take its toll on your body over time. Several years ago I started working at an office with all new office chairs which seemed to fit well and were pretty comfortable. These chairs seemed to have good padding and were moderately adjustable and so I thought they fit me okay. However, after a couple of years I started having a lot of problems with my shoulder blades aching, especially the left one. I couldn’t figure it out for a long time but as I last ditch effort I switched to an older chair that was a different design. It only seemed a little better at first but after several weeks I noticed a significant improvement in my shoulder pain and then after a couple of months it was gone. As an experiment I sat in the original chair that was causing me problems and after a few hours I noticed my shoulder problem started to act up again. The moral of the story is that even though a chair might seem comfortable even the smallest problem can turn into a major one over time.
I will save all of you the details but after a lot of research I end up settling on one of the 6000 series of chairs from Neutral Posture (see http://www.neutralposture.com/_site/products.php?cat=02 for details on Neutral Posture’s chairs). Along with being one of the most adjustable chairs on the market they also come in a variety of sizes and offer a wide range of materials and custom configuration options. You should easily be able to configure one of these chairs to match your every desire in an office chair. The only thing these chairs don’t have going for them is the cool look factor. Some of the chairs that Jeff showed are truly beautiful to look at. However, try sitting in one and you might (sooner or later) see why form should follow function and not vice versa.
There are several places on the Internet that sell Neutral Posture chairs but I ended up getting mine at Blue Hen Office Furniture (http://www.bluehen.com/neutral-posture-m-25.html?osCsid=8n0lejji4ad9btsivvkd75cri0 ) because of their great prices, wide selection of options, free shipping, and helpful sales people. Yes, these chairs can get expensive but in the long run a good chair will probably be one of the wisest investments you ever make.
Anyone know any benefits of arm rests? I think they're bad for you.
No absolutely none, personally I feel they just get in the way. Whilst the reason for the topic of a comfortable chair is quite correct let us also not forget that you should invest in ergonomic keyboards and input devices.