In today’s article we will show you how to adjust your office chair. The chair should be adjusted to everybody individually because the mechanics of the office chair does only perform properly if it´s perfectly adjusted to its user.

If your office chair is individually adjusted to you, it will be more effective for the back health if you consider the correct adjustment of body proportions and your body height.

Adjusting the office chair – step by step

When adjusting the office chair, you start at the bottom and go up gradually, so the office chair’s mechanics comes at the end.

Adjusting the seat height

Calculating the seat and office desk height:


The office chair’s seating height is the height reaching from the floor to the seat surface. Many office employees often make the mistake that the seat height of the chair is set too low. Frequently, this leads to unnecessary stress and tensions in the lower back. Everybody has a different sitting posture as well as a different sense of seating comfort.

Darstellung einer korrekten Beinhaltung

Illustration of a correct leg posture

  • When adjusting the seat height of the chair, your knees and pelvis should form a 90-100 ° angle.
  • By doing so, both feet should completely touch the floor when trying.
  • If the arms are laying on the desk, they should form a right angle when sitting comfortably and in a healthy way.
  • If it´s not the case, many office desks got the option to raise or lower the desk relating to the optimal seat height.
  • When sitting in a healthy way, your back should touch the backrest as well as both feet should stand on the floor.
richtig Sitzen: Anleitung und Infografik

Instruction and infographics: sitting correctly

The pelvis is always the key element. The adjusted seat height supports your spine, providing the right base for permanent straightening. The pelvis always tilts backwards when the seat height is adjusted too low. Usually, one consequence is a straining hunchbacked posture.

Korrekte Sitzhaltung auf dem Bürostuhl: Unterarme liegen locker auf der Tischplatte

Correct sitting posture on an office chair: forearms laying relaxed on tabletop, upper arms hang down the shoulders relaxed.

Adjusting the seat depth

  • The seat depth is determined by the office employee’s thigh length.
  • The seat depth is adjusted optimally when three or four fingers fit in between your calf and the seat’s front edge.
  • Your pelvis should contact the backrest and the edge of the chair must not press against your knee pit or calf.
  • The seat depth is always adjusted too low when you slip forward automatically in order to not sit with your knee pits at the seat’s front edge.
 Die Sitztiefe ist dann optimal eingestellt, wenn drei bis vier Finger zwischen die Wade und die Sitzvorderkante passen. / Foto: Lumina Images / fotolia.com

The seat depth is correctly adjusted when three or four fingers fit in between the calf and the seat’s front edge. / Picture: Lumina Images / fotolia.com

Adjusting the armrests

Armrests of modern chairs are adjustable in many ways. From the ergonomic perspective, the possibility of correct adjustment is an advantage because tensions in neck and shoulders can be reduced by employees resting their arm weight on armrests.

  • The height of the armrest depends on the length of the upper arm.
  • Between the upper and forearm there should be at least a right angle.
  • The adjustment should be made when neck and shoulders are completely relaxed.
  • Elbows should always lay on the armrests, only then shoulders can be relieved.
  • Too long or too big armrests are not recommendable because they prevent rolling close to the office desk.

There are armrests in every possible design, variation, and shape. Often, it’s a matter of the employee’s need if he likes armrests or not. There are chairs as well, where armrests can be fold away if required.

Adjusting the backrest

When adjusting the backrest, it should be ensured that it´s comfortable and supports the back effectively.

  • The most curved area should be at the waist because then, the backrest is adjusted optimally.
  • In the beginning, most backrests are adjusted too high.

But after some time, every employee gets a feel for his very own and most comfortable height.

Adjusting the headrest

Eine falsch eingestellte Nackenstütze ist auf Dauer sehr unangenehm. / Foto: contrastwerkstatt / Fotolia.com

A headrest that is adjusted incorrectly can be quite uncomfortable in the long run. / Picture: contrastwerkstatt / Fotolia.com

When the headrest is adjusted correctly, this effects the whole back and can be a perfect relief for the cervical spine.

  • The adjustments in height can either be chosen as headrest or as a support for the neck.
  • When adjusting the depth, there is only one valid option. The position of the rest neither pushes the head forward nor allows it to fall backwards.

A headrest that is adjusted incorrectly can be quite uncomfortable in the long run. But it is not difficult to adjust it correctly, especially as the office employee can completely place reliance on his body image regarding the extremely sensible neck zone.

Adjusting the mechanics of the office chair

A lot of modern office chairs do have interconnected and flexible seat backs and backrests. When regularly using this mechanics, it should be adjusted to the user’s weight.

  • You can easily set the weight via a control knob, usually placed below the seat surface.
  • Your weight is correctly adjusted when the resistance of the backrest is comfortable for you and leaning back only requires little power.

Take advantage of the mechanics as often as possible! It can be helpful using the impulse of the movement from the mechanics because changing dynamic processes make the body keep going. For example, by breathing in and out, pushing and pulling, burden and relief as well as strain and relaxation.

Using the adjustment of tilting the seat

For some office chairs there is the option of adjustment by tilting the seat. By slightly tilting forward, the employee’s pelvis is tilt forward a little which can be helpful for straightening the spine. Depending on individual circumstances, the adjustment of tilting the seat can be helpful.

Therefore, the height of desk and seat must be adjusted again. The seat slightly declining on the front, benefits the open seat angle. The optional adjustment of tilting the seat is useful for the sitting posture because therefore the spine gets straightened automatically.

Office chairs with individual adjustment

Important: adhere the indication of sitting and its duration

This may sound irritating but even sitting for a long time can be life-threatening. The life expectancy can ease due to sitting long and especially when sitting wrong. Therefore, keep in mind that how to sit correctly and comfortable during work is very important. Additional exercises for strengthening the back muscles can be quite helpful concerning health.

It’s important to not exceed the maximum indicated time spent sitting on the office chair during the day.

Reasons in favour of a high-quality office chair

Working in front of a monitor is quite challenging, both mentally and physically. Staying focused at work is one thing but the strenuous challenge of sitting for hours often is another.

In favour of a healthy sitting posture, an office chair suiting the user is essential. But it is also about using all the features the office chair provides. A fully functioning office chair does guarantee healthy working on a monitor on extremely long working days too.

das stundenlange Sitzen ist nicht selten eine überaus anstrengende Herausforderung. / Foto: Picture-Factory / fotolia.com / Foto: Picture-Factory / fotolia.com

Often, sitting for hours is a quite strenuous challenge. /Picture: Picture-Factory / fotolia.com

People working in an office should move sufficiently during work because sitting too much and probably wrong as well is not only massively bad for the health but actually shortens the lifespan.

Many people who work in offices complain about disc problems and damaged postures as well as enormous tensing in the back. Shoulders or neck complaints are also very common. Too little strain and not enough movement at work have an extremely negative impact on the human organism in many ways.

In most cases, such tensing leads to pain sometime, especially the back can make the office worker’s life hell. There may be many triggers but often the wrong office chair adjustment, or none at all, is one potential cause.

Someone who sits most of their working hours in front of a monitor, constantly exposed to one-sided strain and a lack of movement, should pay particular attention to the office chair and its own sitting posture. The sitting posture is enormously important because everybody has its individual posture when standing, walking or even when sitting. The correct adjustment of the office chair as well depends on the personal sitting posture of the office worker.

How to reveal a good office chair

Die Bandscheiben können bei langer und anstrengender Sitzarbeit ideal durch die Basisfunktion der Wippmechanik entlastet werden.

During long and strenuous work while sitting, discs can be ideally relieved by the tilting mechanism’s basic feature.

Every daily used office chair should have some elements which are absolutely necessary and important. For supporting the back in front of the monitor and therefore relieving it, every office chair needs a backrest.

Every body size is individual, that’s why the office chair should definitely have the option of adjusting the seat height individually for every user. Besides the adjustment in seat height, the office chair needs to have armrests. Only then, the employee can relieve his shoulders and entire neck perfectly.

While long and strenuous work sitting, discs can be relieved ideally by the tilting mechanism’s basic feature.

Bürostuhl einstellen

Adjusting the office chair – the graphic shows what features of a chair are required for a particular duration of sitting.

An optimal, back friendly office chair should have a certain variability. Only then, the chair at work can be adjusted to the user and therefore ensure varied postures while working.

The office chair should also include a flexibility in seat depth in order to cushion the body weight when sitting down or flopping into the chair. Apart from adjusting the seat height, the seat depth is relevant as well. This means that there has to be a slightly hand’s width space between the upper leg and the tabletop when sitting.

Je nach Körpermaß und dem eigenen Sitzempfinden liegt die optimale Sitzfläche zwischen 40 und 48 Zentimetern.

Depending on body sizes and the very own feeling while sitting, the optimal seat depth is between 40 and 48cm.

Depending on body sizes and the very own feeling while sitting, the optimal seat depth is between 40 and 48cm. You have to make sure to not slip off the seat constantly. Therefore, it is important to ensure when buying that the seat is not pulled up in the back. Thus, the user avoids the annoying result of slipping down.

The office chair’s casters should have a certain quality because they are often claimed highly. So, one-coloured and hard casters are best suited for carpets, while soft and two-coloured casters do best on hard floor such as parquet, tiles, or laminate.

The office chair’s mechanics only works properly when it´s perfectly adjusted to the user. The individual and correct adjustment is only helpful and does have a positive effect on the health when body proportions and height are taken into consideration as well.

Consequences of a lack of exercise

Viel zu sitzen bewirkt auch, dass die Magen-Darm-Tätigkeit verlangsamt wird. / Foto: Taras_Muroslavovuch / fotolia.com

Sitting for too long also causes a slowdown of the gastroduodenal function. / Picture: Taras_Muroslavovuch / fotolia.com

The lack of exercise during a long day at work has a considerable influence on the weight. Also sitting for a long time causes a slowdown of the gastroduodenal function. Because there are important organs in the stomach and abdomen which are responsible for the metabolism and digestion.

The immune system can be influenced badly by sitting long and in a bad posture. The blood circulation is clearly limited during sitting and the cardiovascular risk is huge. While sitting, the circulation in legs and feet is made more difficult as well (risk of thrombosis).

Appropriate investment in health

Investments that benefit health are always a win in the long run. Therefore, the office chair must have plenty to offer for the user. Investing in an office chair not only includes the financial perspective. Every office chair’s user should also invest the time necessary to adjust all basic features to the individual body according to the guideline.

The post "Adjusting your office chair: brief instruction for height and seat depth" written by:

Stephan Forstmann

Experte für Home Office und gesunde Büroarbeit

Stephan is from Dresden, Germany. He is a founding member of Deskonia since 2009.

Stephan is a home office worker since 2013 and became a home office expert. He shares his experience and publishes various tutorials for a better life at the office und creates tutorials on topics like ergonomics and communication.

In private, he is also very passionate about photography. He loves to chat about photography-gear and composition an. Stephan also published a lot of photography tutorials.

If you want to get in touch with Stephan, you can easily reach him via e-mail: forstmann@bueromoebel-experte.de.

see all posts by author