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Differences Between Office Chair Types

By Philippa Baker, 8th September, 2010

To get the best out of your office chair, you first need to decide what type it is you need. There are four main categories available, each suited to its particular usage. This article will talk you through the advantages of each one in turn, exploring their defining features to ensure you select the ideal design for you and your workspace.

Leather Office Chairs at Boardroom Table

Operator Style

Also known as task chairs, operator style office chairs are found in most offices. Whilst cheaper than other more premium models, they possess many ergonomic features. Indeed, their functionality is in their name. Designed to aid the task of operator type professions, for example typists, their upright shape supports an ergonomic seating position for those working at a computer all day. Shaped to the natural s-shape of the spine, they encourage good posture and provide quality lumbar support, with an adjustable tilt backrest so each user can vary the position of the back for their comfort.

A gas lift mechanism in the frame provides variable height, a great feature if multiple people could be using the chair as each user can adjust it to their individual requirements. Set on a five spoke nylon caster base for optimum mobility, it allows workers to glide round the office with ease. Plus, 360 swivel enhances its easy manoeuvrability. Practical designs with a simple no fuss look, they cut a slim silhouette and are well-liked for their compact shape that makes them perfect for busy offices where space is tight.

Padded for comfort, they’re typically upholstered in breathable fabric designed to withstand heavy usage, as seen in the Rome. Alternatively, modern mesh models like the Cologne (pictured below) further encourage the circulation of air, helping to keep you cool as you work.

General Ergonomic Office Chairs

Designed to create a relaxing and comfortable working environment, general office chairs encourage optimum concentration and productivity. A happy medium between operator and executive, they’re often favoured by those in management positions and prove brilliant all-rounders, ideal for meetings and interviews as well as desk work.

At an affordable price, they provide all the features of operator models, plus some added extras. With denser padding and higher backrests, you’re able to sit comfortably for extended lengths of time, as seen in the Munster. What’s more, there are armrests for increased support, as well as a tilting mechanism in the seat that can be locked into place for an upright or reclined working position. Whilst some are upholstered in fabric, faux leather is proving increasingly popular due to the wealth of colours it facilitates.

Executive Models

With an exclusive luxury touch, executive office chairs will enhance the look of any workspace. Exuding importance and prestige when sat beside average operator models, they’re typically favoured by those in top executive positions.

Whilst the most expensive type of office chair, undoubtedly you get what you pay for. As well as all the standard functions, from adjustable tilt to variable height, they also include a range of deluxe features to facilitate a truly ergonomic working experience. With generously cushioned seats, thicker layers of high-density foam and comfortably padded armrests, they promote a superbly sumptuous office space.

Many are upholstered in faux leather, well known for its durable wipe clean surface, whilst an increasing number are covered in plush real leather for that premium aesthetic.

Home Study & Professional Use

Smaller in size than the average office chair, these chair-stool hybrids are more common than you might think. Designed to fit into more compact spaces, they’re great for a home study or at a homework desk in the corner of a child’s bedroom. With a cool contemporary styling, they’re often less formal and work-like in appearance, yet still include much of the functionality. The Rochelle (pictured below) is a trendy example with an encompassing backrest, and likewise the Skyline (pictured below) is popular for its retro style and unique shaped seat.

This category also makes highly practical seating for non-office professions where mobility is key. From artists, beauticians and hair stylists to dentists, opticians and medics, 360 swivel allows optimum flexibility in order to reach equipment, documents or screens with ease.

A wheeled base enables effortless movement around the room, whilst a gas lift mechanism allows variable height to find the ideal position to treat patients or customers. The Swivel Stool With Back comes with a supportive backrest and is well suited to a whole range of occupations, listed in more detail in our Bar Stools with Wheels essay.

Take a look at three stylish and compact chairs, perfect for home office use:

So whether you’re after an ergonomic operator model, an indulgent executive design, or something in between, browse our full range of office chairs to find the ideal addition to your workspace.


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