As a business owner or a senior executive in a company, there will come a time when you need to make a purchasing decision as to whether you should go for an executive leather office chair or a mesh/fabric office chair. Although I cannot hide the fact that I am a leather freak given that this article is originating from here, I will do my best to be objective in order to maintain a level of impartiality and credibility. Cough…cough…snicker…snicker coming out from readers…..I heard you Okay!
Different Types of Office Seating
Just as there is a hierarchy in any corporate environment, likewise there are also various types of office chairs and seating to reflect the status and position of the individual within the organization structure. Although modern office designs and open concepts have largely done away with many of the old traditional office layouts and concepts especially in many of today’s large and global corporations, there are still remaining vestiges of the old forms of projecting hierarchy and authority via the types of seating assigned to employees based on their ranks and positions.
To Leather Up or Mesh It Up
This article’s primary focus is to discuss the Pro and Cons of the various choices of upholstery to be used on office seating and not into the detailed specifics of the following types of office chairs. So I shall only touch on them briefly before going into the merits of having either leather or mesh/fabric upholstery on them.
Task Chairs – Fancy marketing term created to describe essentially a generic office chair which to the layman can mean any type of office chair since all office chairs are meant to perform specific functions and tasks just like the rest of the following below;
Guest Office Chairs – If placed at the reception area, they are then called Reception chairs. These chairs can be a good gauge of the corporation’s attitude towards their guests and customers as they ranged from the downright cheap and uncomfortable ones meant to show you who’s the boss to those exuding comfort and class, making you feel so welcome and important to them.
Conference Chairs – Also known as Boardroom chairs and since they are all usually confined to the conference room, oftentimes is of the same design and style for that uniform look. Like guest chairs, they ranged from the nothing special to those that would make a gathering of mafia bosses seated in them looked extra intimidating.
Ergonomic Office Chairs – A somewhat less fancy marketing term to describe an office chair specially designed to ensure you are able to work longer hours at your workstation in a productive manner without straining your back, neck and limbs and hence cutting the potential earnings of your chiropractor.
Stacking Office Chairs – As they are meant to be stacked, you can expect them to be cheap looking and often made from plastic or wood.
Executive Office Chairs – As the name implies, it is an office chair suited for high powered executives, business leaders and corporate decision makers. It must project an image of professionalism, authority, power and prestige.
Leaving Out the Fake Leathers
Now that we have quickly run through all the various available office seating, it is time to answer the question as to whether we should Leather It Up or Mesh It Up. Perhaps it would be easier to just list out the Pros and Cons of both leather and Mesh/Fabric in summary form. However, before we proceed further, I wish to reiterate that when we are referring to leather in this article, we are talking about real leather here and not the notoriously fake leathers such as Bonded leather, Bi-Cast (Bycast) and PU leathers which are to be avoided at all costs.
Leather – The Pros
Image – If you’ve been to one of those prestigious established law firms, you would have seen and probably sat in one of those high back full rich leather executive office chairs set against the backdrop of fine mahogany wood paneled walls. That’s right, Leather oozes with class and distinction that is unmatched by any other types of material and appeals to those seeking to portray an aura of elegance, power and prestige to top off their professional corporate image.
Durability – Real leather will last a very long time if properly cared for and you can certainly expect your leather office chair to outlast its wheel castors and gas cylinder lift many times over especially in an air conditioned and carpeted office environment.
Protection – Spill some coffee or tea onto your seat, no problem, simply wiped it off and you can even take your own sweet time to do it if they are pigmented leathers as the liquid will not soak in. Many employees have a fondness for snacking and eating at their workstations. Food crumbs can be easily brushed off or vacuumed off the seat surface with minimal effort.
Comfort – In summer and non-air conditioned environments, it will be cool to the touch and not absorbed sweat and perspiration easily. On cold days, it will warm up and retain the heat that your body imparts to it.
Hygiene – If your sweaty and smelly colleague sat on your pigmented leather office chair after you, you can just use a cloth damped with water and if required, even slightly soapy water, to just give it a good rub down and you will not need to feel squeamish after that. But never ever use this cleaning method on aniline dyed leather office chairs as you will damage the fine leather.
Leather – The Cons
Costs – This would be the only apparent disadvantage of choosing leather over mesh/fabric for your office chairs as leather chairs are certainly more expensive. However, this cost issue becomes a non-issue over time as leather will outlast mesh/fabric by a replacement factor of more than 3 to 1 so it is in actual fact cheaper in the long term to purchase a leather office chair.
Additionally, its purchase costs can be reduced substantially by using synthetic leather or vinyl for the non-contact areas such as the back and underneath the seat. This option would immediately nullify any cost advantage that mesh/fabric office chairs have over leather.
Mesh/Fabric – The Pros & Cons
Image – If you want an ultra-modern and minimalist office theme or make some sort of Eco-friendly statement, then perhaps Mesh office chairs will suit your set-up better. A major appeal of mesh office chairs is their economical design, use of fewer resources in their manufacture and economizing on space in their appearance. Although Mesh office chairs can easily display a professional image, this is just about the only image it can portray as it will not be able to beat a full leather office chair in projecting power and prestige.
Durability – Mesh office chairs are basically nothing more than fabric that are full of holes and resemble fishing net more than anything else. Hence, constant contact and friction will wear it down eventually and it will lose some of its tautness and firmness over time. The seat area will bear most of the wear and tear during its life cycle and since it is made from fabric, its durability will be much lesser as compared with leather.
Protection – Liquid spills will be absorbed by the mesh and fabric almost instantly and complete stain removal would be difficult at best. Hence, extra care needs to be taken when consuming food and beverages at the work station.
Comfort – Depending on the actual material used, the comfort level should be comparable with its leather counterpart so there should not be any significant difference in this aspect.
Hygiene – As explained above, just as it easily absorbs liquids, the same should be said of bodily fluids like perspiration and sweat. Using a damp cloth and soapy water may get rid of some of the offending substances but it will not be anywhere as complete a removal as that for leather.
Costs – There is no denial that its initial purchase price is cheaper than leather assuming all else being equal but since its product life cycle is significant shorter than leather, there is no real costs savings in the long term. Also, once the supportive shape of a mesh office chair is lost, a new replacement is needed immediately because continued use could result in muscle strain or injury.
The Final Verdict
The Jury is still out on this one despite the fact it is a no brainer that leather office chairs enjoy numerous advantages over their mesh/fabric equivalents. This is because there will always be some individuals who feel strongly or are uncomfortable about using products that were once the skins of living animals.