Skip to main content

Blog

Office Chair

As most web developers do, I sit in an office chair for a significant portion of my day. As most web developers don’t, I take regular breaks where I walk briskly around town, or cycle across it. Ergonomics are not my primary concern, but comfort certainly is. Is their a chair for me?

At the office, I’ve been using a Herman Miller Aeron chair that I inherited from the previous person that occupied my desk. Over the past six years, I never really thought much about it, which is probably a sign that it’s a good chair. I tend to be one of those people who settles into a routine, and never thinks about what might make something better—which is funny, because that is exactly the question I spend the majority of my days answering in my profession.

Last week, I suddenly realized I was tired of pinching my forearms between the armrests of my chair and my desk, which has been a painful daily occurrence for the past six years. I don’t know why last week is when it finally occurred to me that I don’t have to live this way, but after a quick inspection, it looked like the arms of the chair should be easy enough to remove.

By the way, why in the actual fuck do office chairs have armrests?

As it turns out, my particular Aeron chair does not have easily removable arms. The torx bolts that attach the arms to the rails do not loosen. They twist. They leave metallic dust everywhere. They aggravate your arthritis, but they do not come out. I had to reassemble the chair in defeat.

Thankfully, an astute co-worker suggested I swap out the Aeron for one of the new armless (they exists!) conference room chairs we just got. These chairs are not nearly as well constructed as the Aeron, but they don’t pinch your forearms.

I used this chair for the next few days. It was enlightening to have a new perspective on sitting. This chair is much lighter in weight than the Aeron, and quite a bit more loose feeling. The seat of this chair is a foam cushion, upholstered in a synthetic fabric. I fucking hate it, but not as much as I hate having my arms pinched. The narrower wheelbase was kind of nice, though. The Aeron tends to roll off my chair mat and get stuck on the corner.

During this time, I also made a few pilgrimages to my Public Library to get some work done (don’t get me started on corporate firewalls). There I used a chair constructed out of solid maple in the mid 20th century. I took note of how sturdy, heavy, and non-sweaty it was. I also took note of how pleasant the lack of wheels was. It also had no armrests. I don’t know when we decided desk chairs needed to be so spongy and mobile.

My boss, a much more opinionated chair connoisseur than myself, got stuck sitting in the Aeron I had swapped out in the conference room, and was immediately offended that I had put up with this chair for so long. Granted, it’s a little long in the tooth. It rattles. The mesh fabric on the seat is torn. All of the remnants of the disintegrated foam parts flake off constantly. She insisted I pick out a decent chair and order it immediately.

I’m not a chair expert, but I know what I don’t like: arms being pinched, wheels getting stuck, puffy things touching me. To help my decision making, my boss brought in her personal chair from home (yes, she is like that): a nine year old Knoll Chadwick.

This chair is significantly less Captain Picard-looking than most high-end office chairs—which despite my profound TNG appreciation, is really not my thing. The construction is way more solid and tight than the Aeron, and despite it being nine years old, it looks practically brand new. I really like this chair. I really hate its arms, though.

The Knoll website allows you to order directly online. The options for this chair are caster density, and mesh hue. Arm omission is, perhaps not surprisingly, not among the configurable options.

From the way they attach, it looks as though the arms would be much easier to remove than the Aeron’s. As this is not my chair, I looked up assembly instructions. They are not easy to remove. The bolts that attach the arms are of a length that would cause them to protrude in a non-safe and non-handsome way.

I attempted to contact Knoll directly over the next few days—first via email, then via Twitter, then via telephone where I learned that no one was in the office on account of a massive storm! Knoll HQ is not in California.

I did finally hear back from them (via email) once the eastern skies had cleared, and was delighted to hear that the Chadwick chair is indeed available sans armrests! Now the trick was to figure out how to unlock the hidden options from their website.

Command+f: armless

There it is! Right under, “Additional options available. Call … to order.”

You may or may not be familiar with the social anxiety issues I have with telephone calls.

After a few days, I was able to muster up the courage to call in my order. My sales rep was sharp, personable, and as helpful as can be. The awful experience I had with this phone call was entirely due to the faulty wiring of my brain, but I managed to get through all the number reading and word spelling. I expect to sit in my new armless, mesh back and seat, small wheel-base chair who’s adjusting arm I will continually bump with my right foot, sending me unexpectedly plummeting downward 3 inches in 6–10 business days.