Office furniture for people who sit all day and work too long.
December 13, 2010 7:49 PM   Subscribe

High ergonomics to cost ratio office furniture for people who sit at their desks 12 hours a day?

Posting on behalf of my husband, who searched the archives and couldn't find anything exactly on point. His law firm is meeting with architects this week to discuss new furniture for the office. In particular, he'd like suggestions for comfortable desks (traditionally L-shaped) and office chairs for attorneys who work about 12 hours a day. Are there any particular brands/designs out there that you'd recommend for quality (not luxury) with high ergonomics to cost ratio?
posted by snafu to Shopping (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
They're not cheap, but Aeron chairs are as good as they're hyped up to be.
posted by schmod at 8:01 PM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: Steelcase desks are nice, especially the Airtouch. The key to ergonomics is having the ability to adjust everything, including the height of the desk, keyboard, monitor, and chair.

At home, I just have an IKEA table... with an LCD arm (Innovative), keyboard and mouse tray (Humanscale), Embody chair, and footrest. The result is the ability to move around and stay comfortable, even when I'm at my computer all day.
posted by jrockway at 8:03 PM on December 13, 2010

I sit at my desk quite a bit cranking out copy, and I have to say that an exercise ball does the trick. It's supremely comfortable, and I never suffer from back pain. It's also cheap.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:13 PM on December 13, 2010

I can't recommend specific brands, but its really important that your desk height can be adjusted. Not many cheap desks offer that, but its really key. My office has desks that are not height adjustable, and we have had no end of trouble with ergonomics. Particularly short or tall people cannot get an ergonomically appropriate position just by adjusting the chair around a fixed desk.
posted by Joh at 9:30 PM on December 13, 2010

I didn't think Aerons were anything special, but I seem to be in the minority by and large. I've been using an Eckadams 3-way adjustable high-back management chair (this, with arms) for over 10 years with extended periods of heavy use (e.g. ~16hrs/day for the past 2 years) and is only now needing replacement parts (arm foam, butt pan). It's like the "real" version of the standard cordura office chairs you see in OfficeMax. Probably ~$400 apiece.
posted by rhizome at 9:33 PM on December 13, 2010

For desk chair, I have the IKEA Joakim ($169). It's been very comfortable sitting on it for hours.
posted by mnemonic at 9:45 PM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: One of the things I really, really appreciate about my current employer are the Aerons. That's all they buy; every desk/meeting room chair is an Aeron. I love mine. I would never have believed the hype, but damn... they really are that good. I never thought it was possible for me to sit and work for 12 hours straight and not be in pain afterwards, but I was very much mistaken. Obviously, this is a benefit to the company as well here.

At home, I have the Liberty Chair that I snagged for a ridiculous price when an office furniture supply store went out of business in my building (I bought it because I liked the looks, and the price was right. I didn't even realize what I was buying at the time.) According to google, this thing retails for even more than the Aeron, and I would swap for it in a heartbeat - the two chairs don't even compare. Why anyone would pay full price for this chair when a fully loaded aeron is cheaper I have no idea.
posted by cgg at 10:46 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just got a brand-new Steelcase 'Yoyo' desk, for the motorized lift. I could have got Ikea for a fraction of the price, but didn't want to risk its being unstable. So the Yoyo has a back (like a piece of cubical partition) that holds my monitor. It's very wobbly. YMMV
posted by Goofyy at 10:51 PM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: Think about getting desks that can raise and lower enough to allow standing at the desk.

Sitting for twelve hours a day is incredibly unhealthy (though I do it too, with frequent breaks)

The nytimes reviewed some sit-stand desks, which can be quickly changed between standing and sitting over the course of the day. I was filled with envy, and plan on building one, as I am poor and cannot afford to buy one. Something to at least think about, especially since your husband is at the ideal time to look at such options (meeting with architects). There are links in the article I linked to that cover some of the health risks of extended sitting, even among those who regularly exercise.

A nice thing about the sit-stand desks is that they can lower automatically when you need your desk to look normal (e.g. meeting with a client).
posted by rockindata at 12:34 AM on December 14, 2010

Following up on rockindatas post how about trying to find an old drafting/drawing table. I used to have one and it was great as a large adjustable height surface. Solid as a rock . Mine was too large and i had a foot sawn off of both sides it was a beast.
posted by stuartmm at 3:35 AM on December 14, 2010

Nthing the Aeron. I've had one for 10 years and it has ended my back pain. They are not cheap, but they are worth every penny.

While you are at it, look at keyboards (I have an IBM Model M replica, which I love), a Logitech trackball (ditto) and a 3M keyboard shelf (ditto). And don't forget lighting.
posted by quidividi at 6:04 AM on December 14, 2010

I agree with the suggestion for sit-stand desks. When I was at a law firm, with attorneys working 12 hour days, at some point in the day, everyone ended up standing hunched over the keyboards on our desks because we were so goddamned tired of sitting. If you want more traditional-looking desks, you can get keyboard trays that easily raise to a standing height, although then your monitor is not in a good position.

If you are equipping everyone with laptops, instead of desktops and the offices are sufficiently-sized, everyone can have a desk with a chair and a laptop podium. Or you can have a desk with a riser for the laptop when you want to stand.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:38 AM on December 14, 2010

for smaller people liek me I find the most important thing to consider is the chair. Most chairs have too long a butt portion for me even when they are adjusted down to the smallest size, meaning that the edge of the chair sticks into the back of my leg and does not allow the knees to rest at a 90 degree bend. Also the chair should be adjustable down enough that the feet can rest flat on the floor or a footrest can be used. Do not rest your feet on the feet of the chair. I personally hate the Aeron chairs, and prefer simple chairs built for all day high intensity use. They tend to be plainer in fabric and have no arms, but they are more comfortable to me than most other chairs (if youhave an office fuirniture catalog, look in the section that has chairs that look like they would be used in a warehouse - they take a beating and hold up).
posted by WeekendJen at 9:38 AM on December 14, 2010

Steelcase chairs are in the same league, ergonomically, as Herman Miller ones (e.g. the Aeron.)
posted by callmejay at 11:14 AM on December 14, 2010

I worked for Herman miller, Steelcase and Haworth whilst consulting in Grand rapids, so I got to see and experience all the cool desks, chairs and environs at one point. Believe the hype. The Aeron is the best chair you will ever sit in. Go find a used one and be ergonomically happy for the rest of your life.
posted by jasondigitized at 4:59 PM on December 14, 2010

I utterly despise the Aeron chairs. They're all-around uncomfortable.

Find a nearby office furniture showroom (not a Stapes or Office Depot) and try a number of different chairs. I've had good luck with some chairs made by Global Total Office. Do not go by looks alone, you have to get a chair that's appropriately sized and suited to the work required.

A good chair is not cheap. But neither is a lifetime of back pain caused by a crappy chair.
posted by wkearney99 at 9:51 PM on December 14, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the recommendations, everyone! My husband was able to go into the meeting fully informed, though unfortunately, adjustable height desks are not an option.
posted by snafu at 7:34 PM on December 17, 2010

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