How Does an Office Chair Tilt Work? Everything You Need to Know

Although most modern office chairs come with a tilt mechanism, most of them don’t tell you what mechanism they are using and how they work. However, there are many tilting mechanisms that you will find in a modern chair, from low-end chairs to high-end chairs.

An office chair tilt works in a way that enables you to recline backward and rock in your chair to a specific limit. There are many tilting mechanisms such as Swivel Tilt or Center tilt, Knee tilt, Synchro-tilt, Multifunction mechanism, Forward Tilt, Mechanism Free Tilt, etc.

In this article, I will explain the tilt mechanism, tilt tension, tilt lock, and different types of tilt mechanisms that you could find in modern office chairs. I will also help you understand which tilt mechanism would be best for you. I will discuss all that and more in this post, so make sure you keep reading!

How Does an Office Chair Tilt Work?

Like any modern office chair, your office chair is likely to have a tilt function. This tilt function is a mechanical part of your chair that you will find underneath your seat. This mechanical part comes with a variety of chair tilt adjustments such as tilt tension adjustment, tilt lock, and tilt limiter.

The tilting mechanism allows the seat pan and the backrest to tilt together, maintaining a certain angle. 

The tilt mechanism works when you unlock your tilt function and try to recline back, and you will be able to recline back to a certain degree according to your chair’s mechanism. 

Tilt Tension Adjustment:

Tilt tension allows you to adjust how much effort you want to give while reclining your chair backward. If it’s too easy or too difficult to tilt, you can use the tilt tension adjustment feature to solve the issue.

If your chair has the tilt function, you will find a big round tilt tension knob underneath your chair. Most chair manufacturers use this knob to adjust the tilt tension. However, a few chairs use a lever dial to increase or decrease the tilt tension.

Adjusting tilt tension: You can turn the knob clockwise to loosen the tension and counterclockwise to tighten the tension. So, this feature helps you adjust the tension of tilting according to your preference.

Tilt Lock:

A tilt-lock is a mechanism that helps you lock your backrest and seat into a specific reclined position or upright position. Suppose you want your chair to stay 110-degree reclining position; you can lock your chair to a specific position with this tilt lock function. And it will remain in that position until you unlock the tilt function.

Most office chairs offer this tilt locking mechanism. However, some chairs offer only one locking position; and other offers 3-4 locking positions; some are free locking, which is handy because you can lock into any place you want.

Chair manufacturers provide a tilt locking lever that you will find underneath your chair seat; sometimes, this locking lever is hard to find because manufacturers positioned this lever according to their preference. 

However, this tilt lock mechanism is leveled as a tilt lock; with this lever you can push in to engage the tilt lock and pull out to disengage the tilt lock. To better understand this mechanism, you can read your chair’s manual as this tilt lock works differently in each chair.

Types of Office Chair Tilt Mechanism

Tilting mechanisms are widespread these days, and you will find this mechanism on every modern office chair. I will explain some of the common tilt mechanisms that most chair manufacturers use.

1. Swivel Tilt or Center Tilt

Center Tilt or Swivel Mechanism - Office Chair Trends

Swivel tilt or center-tilt is the most common tilting mechanism that you will find on basic office chairs. 

This mechanism is called center-tilt because the chair recline from the center point of your chair seat. The angle between the backrest of your chair and the seat remains the same during reclining. 

So, when you recline, you will see that your knees come up and your feet get up off the ground, and this posture is not suitable for your ergonomic. That’s why swivel tilt or center-tilt is very common, and most of the basic office chair uses this mechanism.

This mechanism works from the center point of a chair. Most of th body weight remains on the front half of the chair, making this center-tilt mechanism difficult to recline and rock back.

You will get the tilt tension and tilt lock mechanism on this type of chair, and most of the time, they have only an upright locking position.

2. Knee Tilt

Knee Tilt Mechanism - Office Chair Trends

The knee tilt mechanism is not that common like swivel tilt or center tilt. Most of the mid-range to high-end chair has this knee-tilt mechanism.

This mechanism is called knee tilt because the chair recline from behind the knee position instead of the center position. Knee tilt is much more comfortable in reclining and rocking because the mechanism works from behind the knees and takes a lot less effort to rock.

Knee tilt chairs are way better option than swivel tilt because rocking and reclining are smooth. The center of gravity works from behind the knees that helps the feet remain flat on the floor without lifting them up like the swivel tilt chair.

Some Popular Chair with Knee-Tilt Mechanism:

  • HON Wave Mesh Chair
  • Secretlab Omega Chair

3. Synchro-tilt

Synchro-tilt Mechanism - Office Chair Trends

The synchronized mechanism is a very popular tilting function found from mid-range to high-range ergonomic office chairs.

In the synchro-tilt mechanism, the seat and backrest move into a different angle while rocking or reclining. Generally, the backrest reclines at a 2 to 1 ratio to seat angle. If you recline to 10 degrees from your upright position, your seat will recline 5 degrees in a 2:1 ratio.

To understand better, when you recline back, your seat front rises only one degree for every two degrees of backrest recline. This mechanism helps you recline in a more natural position while keeping your feet flat on the floor.

The synchro-tilt mechanism helps your posture to remain ergonomic while rocking and improve better blood circulation. Using the tilt lock, you can lock into a different position.

According to a research, the synchro-tilt mechanism while the backrest is reclined is preferable from a lumbar spine kinematics point of view.

How would you know that a chair has a synchro-tilt?

Syncrho Tilt knob on an office chair

Most of the synchro-tilt office chair has two knobs on left and right side of the chair. Generally, The right knob has the tilt tension function while the left knob having a tilt lock function.

Some Popular Chair with Synchro-Tilt Mechanism:

  • HON Ignition 2.0
  • Oak Hollow Furniture Aloria Series Office Chair
  • DUOREST ALPHA Breathable Mesh Office Chair

4. Forward Tilt

Forward Tilt Mechanism - Office Chair Trends

The forward seat tilt mechanism feature is available from mid-range to high-range office chairs.

The forward seat tilt function allows a user to tilt the seat forward rather than keeping it parallel to the ground. This feature is essential for computer tasks if you want to be more upright position while working.

To be more exact, this tilting option allows you to come forward (a perched forward position) to your desk maintaining the ergonomics of posture. The chair will forward seat tilt function offer great support to your back while sitting forward.

Some popular chairs with Forward Seat Tilt:

  • SIDIZ T50
  • SIDIZ T80

5. Multifunction Mechanism

Multifunction mechanism chairs work the same way as swivel tilt chair does. The tilting mechanism works from the center point of your chair, and your feet rise above the floor while you are rocking or reclining.

The difference between the Multifunction mechanism and the swivel tilt is you can lock into any reclined position in the multifunction chair, even in the forward tilt position. You can also adjust the backrest angle of these types of chairs.

This mechanism is convenient for heavy tasking and computing.

6. Mechanism Free Tilt or Weight Activated Mechanism

Mechanism-free chairs are very unlikely than other tilting functions. You will find a lot of adjusting options on swivel tilt, synchro-tilt, forward tilt, multifunction chairs, but on the mechanism free tilt you will only find seat height adjustment, and that’s it.

As you can sit in the chair and adjust the seat height then based on your weight the weight-activated mechanism automatically adjusts the recline resistance maintaining your ergonomic position.

This mechanism also decreases the weight of a chair, making the chair more clean and minimalistic. Most of the premium chair has this feature.

Popular Chair with Mechanism Free Tilt or Weight Activated Mechanism

  • Herman Miller Cosm
  • Steelcase Series 1

Related Question

How do I adjust the tilt on my office chair?

You can adjust the seat tilt tension of your chair by turning the round knob clockwise or counterclockwise. Generally, this knob can be found underneath your chair seat. To loosen the tension, turn the knob clockwise, and to tighten the tilt-turn the knob counterclockwise.

Should your office chair tilt?

An office chair should have a tilting function as this function allows you to recline and rock, which is an excellent movement to relieve stress while working. Rocking and reclining also improve the blood flow of your body.

What does the twist knob on the bottom of an office chair do?

The twist knob on the bottom of a chair is for adjusting the tilt tension of the chair. You can tight or lose the tilt tension by turning clockwise or counterclockwise.

Before you go

In this post I have talked about different tilt mechanism that comes with tilt lock and tilt tension adjustment features. All of these tilting mechanism are not the best option for rocking.

If you are interested to check rocking chair, you can check our article “Best Office Chair for Rocking: A Detailed Guide with Pricing“. In this article, we have listed rocking chairs with different tilting mechanism. You will understand more if you check those chairs.

Sifatul Shohan

Hi, I'm the co-owner of A blogger and a freelance web developer.  As I work as developer, I have to work for prolonged hours at a desk that's where I developed back pain. I started researching on ergonomic chairs and gained knowledge throughout the process.  This is the site where I share everything I've learned about office chairs.