I'm a programmer and I spend a lot of time at my desk. I now have pain in my neck, back, and hands because of a poor work center. I'm now looking for a new desk and chair. What should I look for? What details matter?
In the USA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is offering a purchasing guide checklist that can help you find the proper equipment you need.
They also offer a checklist on good working positions that I reproduced below.
The workstation is designed or arranged for doing computer tasks so it allows your:
Consider these points when evaluating the chair:
"No" answers to any of these questions should prompt a review of Chairs.
Consider these points when evaluating the keyboard or pointing device. The keyboard/input device is designed or arranged for doing computer tasks so the:
"No" answers to any of these questions should prompt a review of Keyboards, Pointers, or Wrist Rests.
Consider these points when evaluating the monitor. The monitor is designed or arranged for computer tasks so the:
"No" answers to any of these questions should prompt a review of Monitors or Lighting/Glare.
Consider these points when evaluating the desk and workstation. The work area is designed or arranged for doing computer tasks so the:
Check to see if the:
"No" answers to any of these questions should prompt a review of Work Surfaces, Document Holders, Wrist Rests or Telephones.
Finally, when it comes to shopping for a good chair, you may want to look at this article from Wirecutter.
One tip would be that when you do finally find something that works for you, stick with it. One example of this would be (I've just moved house and job). My chair at work seems really nice, so I've bought the exact same one for home.
Previously i bought 2-3 chairs for home online without being able to try them, and it doesn't really work. Even if it's an expensive one, it's no substitute for actually trying it out.
Just a word of warning about work chairs. I recently moved office, haven't had back problems in years. I ordered some nice new chairs but there was a 2 week lead time, within those 2 weeks I'd been using poor quality chairs in the office. Result was I'd to go to chiropractor a few times. As programmers we spend the guts of 8 hours (when not doing overtime) in a chair, invest and invest wisely. You wouldn't like to spent 8 hours on a poor quality laptop, so why do it with the chair.
So while I can't advise on what makes a good chair, I know from experience problems can build up quickly.