using armchair as a desk chair

5 Reasons You Never Use an Armchair for a Desk Chair

by | Work from Home Ergonomics

Are you using an armchair for a desk chair?

Do you think the desk chair is ugly and cumbersome?

You need a chair in your home to work with as a desk chair but you don’t like the look of the office chair. It doesn’t fit your decoy. It takes up too much space and you really don’t want it.

But you decide on an armchair for a desk chair. You read that it was OK if it has swivel castor wheels. 

Or you are still considering which to buy: an office chair or an armchair. These are the reasons you should never use or buy an armchair for a desk chair.

Pros of an Armchair 

  • Armchairs are so pretty that you want to cosy up to them. 
  • They come in different materials that make them plush to sit on. 
  • They are aesthetically pleasing, fitting your décor and style.
  • They are comfortable for other uses like reading documents or even making calls.

But this is where it ends for an armchair as a desk chair. The cons outweigh the pros. But before we discuss the cons of using an armchair as a desk chair. Let’s find out what you need in an office chair.

What You Need in a Desk Chair

1. Comfort

Working a whole day’s shift means you sit on this chair for up to 6 hours. You need a chair comfortable throughout the day.

2. Back Support

Your back gets tired with prolonged sitting, you need a chair where you can rest your back and take breaks.

3. Adjustable

Do you know you are constantly moving when you work? You could reach out to grab a document or move the keyboard nearer you. You could adjust your leg or tuck it under the chair. So, you need a chair that can move with you. A chair that can easily swivel when you swivel. 

And these are the reasons you should never use an armchair for a desk chair. 

Cons of an Armchair

1. They Are Rigid

They are unforgiving. You can’t raise your seat to level up your elbows with your computer desk. They can’t adjust the seat pan to prevent it from digging into the back of your knees. The armrest is fixed to a position that might not suit a petite or tall stature. What you see is what you get. Rigid and unforgiving. 

2. Inadequate backrest

Usually, the seat pans of armchairs are too deep for you to rest your back and still work from a desk. You would usually sit on the edge of the seat to reach your desk. This prevents you from resting your back on the backrest. And when your back gets tired, you have no support and this leads to back pain. 

That’s why it’s common to see cushions to bridge that gap between your back and the backrest of the armchair. Not ideal!

3. Inadequate Lumbar support

This is the one thing a good ergonomic office chair provides. The lumbar support (the hump at the bottom of the backrest) sits snugly in the hollow of your lower back. That gives your (lower back) lumbar spine adequate support. And reduces the build-up of pressure in the spine. Subsequently, halting the onset of back pain. 

Armchairs are not designed to have that lumbar support, the small hump at the bottom of the backrest. So, you would never get support where you need it most: at the lumbar region of your back. That’s why you should never use an armchair for a desk chair.

4. Rigid Legs

Usually, armrests have four legs instead of a star-based swivel with wheels. You usually make small movements when you sit at a computer desk. Either when reaching out to pick an item or adjusting your spine. 

A chair with a swivel base would allow you to make such small movements without straining your back. The lack of a swivel base of an armrest makes it heavy to manoeuvre increasing your risk of back injury.

5. Fixed Armrests

Do you know the importance of armrests when working at a computer desk? They allow you to rest your arms. They take the weight of your arms off your shoulders (which can be heavy after a prolonged period). It places your elbows in the ideal position, snug by your side. 

But armrests can also be in the way. Because, when you sit to work at your desk, you need to be close to your desk as possible to prevent overstretching. To do that, your armrests could either be tucked away or lowered (to slide underneath the desk). Armchairs do not come with adjustable armrests. 

If you can’t do either, you would have to sit further away from your desk and that could result in overstretching. 

Using an Armchair for a Desk Chair Would Give you Pain and Discomfort

The armchairs are great. They are quite snug and cosy. Good for reading or chilling. But they definitely cannot to be used as a computer desk chair. 

You can sit in them if you’re reading a document. It’s good to have them around when working at home because you can move positions. It’s OK to sit in them and look out of the window and even great to sleep in. 

But they are not as good as desk chairs and would definitely increase your risk of injury. They put your back in an awkward posture. You are either leaning back and overstretching or overstretching to get to the desk. Those postures give you pain and discomfort, including back, shoulder, and neck pain.

What You Should Do Instead

Replace your armchair with a desk chair. One that has;

  • adjustable armrest
  • swivel base with wheels
  • adjustable seat height
  • good lumbar support.

Invest in a good ergonomic chair if you work from home. Your back, shoulders, neck, elbows, and hips would be better for it. You would reduce your risk of developing these injuries and work in comfort. 

Ugo is a Workplace Musculoskeletal Health Expert. She is a Chartered Physiotherapist with a master's degree in Ergonomics. 20 years of experience. Treated thousands of patients and workers. Conducted numerous work assessments across many industries. Worked with companies including BP, and UKPN. On a mission to help you work from home pain-free and reduce your risk of developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD).

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