Chair Etiquette: Know the Do’s and Don’ts

Prolonged sitting in an office chair can increase stress in the back, neck, shoulders, arms and legs…and can add pressure to the spinal discs. That’s why I’m a huge fan of ergonomic chairs, which can help provide back support and encourage good posture. But whether you have an ergonomic chair or not, here are some important guidelines for maximizing your chair’s effectiveness.

Sit comfortably close to your desk so that your upper arms are parallel to your spine. Rest your hands on your work surface–if your elbows are not at a 90-degree angle, adjust your chair height either up or down.

Check that you can easily slide your fingers under your thigh at the leading edge of the office chair. If it is too tight, you should prop your feet up with an adjustable footrest.

With your buttocks pushed against the chair back, try to pass your clenched fist between the back of your calf and the front of your chair. If you can’t do that easily, then the office chair is too deep. You should adjust the backrest forward and insert a low back support, such as a lumbar cushion or pillow.

Your buttocks should be pressed against the back of your chair…and there should be a cushion that causes your lower back to arch slightly so that you don’t slump forward or slouch down in the chair as you tire over time.

Close your eyes while sitting comfortably with your head facing forward. Slowly open your eyes. Your gaze should be aimed at the center of your computer screen. If your computer screen is higher or lower than your gaze, you need to either raise or lower it to reduce neck strain.


Adjust the armrest of the office chair so that it just slightly lifts your arms at the shoulders. Use of an armrest on your office chair is important to take some of the strain off your neck and shoulders, and it should make you less likely to slouch forward in your chair.

Finally, always remember to stand, stretch and walk for at least a minute or two every half hour. Even some minimal movement – such as walking to the water cooler or bathroom – will help keep the joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons loose, which in turn promotes an overall feeling of comfort, relaxation and ability to focus productively.

Healthy sitting!