Selecting the right office chair mechanism

The mechanism fitted to the office chair you chose will dictate the way the chair is used and must be considered carefully, related to the style of working carried out. There are 3 main systems, the pros and cons of which are explained below:

1. Synchronous

The most common mechanism used in task seating this operates with the seat and backrest adjusting as one. When 'open' this enables a recline (or free float) function, allowing movement while seated, with resistance adjusted using a body weight tension control

Pro's:

It's easy to use with a single control to lock or release the free float. So a user might lock the chair for computer working and chose to recline for tasks such as reading paperwork or phone calls.

Con's:

Usually the mechanism has 3 or 4 locking positions. If you don't like any of the angles the backrest locks at there is no option to fine-tune this.

When to use it:

Works well for general use for healthy workers, although very limiting if a user develops pain symptoms or has more specific postural requirements.

2. Independent (A-synchronous)

The choice for all true orthopaedic seating and a smart consideration for long-term prevention of back pain and other common workplace health issues. As the name suggests this mechanism allows the seat and backrest angles to be adjusted independently, without the restriction of fixed locking positions.

Pro's:

In this case a user can set the angle of both seat and backrest to suit their exact requirements for good posture and comfort. This mechanism is both preventative and also ideal for effective back pain management.

Con's:

User's need to learn the controls to understand how best to personalise fit.

When to use it:

This mechanism offers the most flexible adjustment and therefore is suitable in all environments and for all users, including those with existing health issues. With low and mid-range independent seating now more common, prices can be comparable to a synchronous mechanism, representing a forward-thinking approach to both pain prevention and management, without the need to buy specialist chairs for back pain.

3. Self-tensioning free-float

Pioneered more than a decade ago but still the least prevalent among manufacturers, this mechanism has no body weight tension control but self-adjusts to the users weight when they sit in it. Most self-tensioners also do not lock and are on a constant free-float, although some mechanisms do now offer a lock option.

Pro's:

Simple to use, usually with just a height adjustment lever and possibly height adjustable backrest.

Con's:

The simple design makes them less adaptable to personal preference or for managing issues such as back pain. Heavier users may also find the free-float reclines too easily and does not support them sufficiently upright for computer working.

When to use it:

Generally more suited for agile working environments and hot-desking. Users with a personal workstation are likely to benefit from a chair with greater adjustment that can be set for personal comfort.

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