If you’ve ever worked from home for a week and tried to use your laptop on the kitchen table, or on your knees on the sofa, you’ll have quickly worked out that there are some very good reasons why office chairs are in a category of their own—and look different from your average kitchen chair or armchair. You’re probably going to spend more hours in your office chair than you spend almost anywhere else, and when you’re sitting working at your desk for eight hours or more, that means you need a chair that’s going to be comfortable, yet supportive. And, with more of us working from home than ever before, these crucial decisions are no longer just left to the office manager or the HR department: it’s down to you. So how do you find the best office chair for you? Obviously, the aforementioned comfort and support are important, but—especially if it’s for a home office—the size and style of the chair also come into play. And the best office chairs effortlessly blend form and function to create something that looks as good as it feels.
- Best ergonomic office chair: Staples Hyken Technical Mesh Task Chair
- Best looking office chair: Armen Living Geneva Office Chair
- Best ball chair for the office: Coreseat Balance Fit Ball Office Chair
- Best big-and-tall office chair: BestOffice Executive High Back Ergonomic Chair
- Best office desk chair without armrests: Boss Office Products Black Boss Office Deluxe Posture Chair
- Best budget office chair under $200: Hon Crio High-Back Task Chair
Things to consider when shopping for the best office chairs
As with everything, in an ideal world, buying your office chair wouldn’t involve any compromises at all. But unless you’ve got an unlimited budget and unlimited space, there might be a bit of give and take required when it comes to picking the best office chair for your needs. Hopefully, the considerations below will help you prioritize what’s most important to you, and help you find a balance between form, function, and a design that won’t leave you desperate for a massage at the end of every working day.
1. How key is a comfortable office chair to you?
It might sound obvious, but when you’re buying your office chair, your absolutely primary consideration should be how comfortable it is. Because repeatedly sitting in a chair that’s uncomfortable isn’t just mentally wearing, it can have serious implications for your long term health. So let’s just have a quick rundown of what to consider from a comfort perspective when looking for an ergonomic chair.
According to occupational health therapists and chiropractors, you want to think about 90-degree angles. So your feet should sit flat on the floor, with a 90-degree angle at the ankle, between your foot and your lower leg, a 90-degree angle at the knee between your lower leg and your upper leg, and a 90-degree at your hips between your torso and your thighs. (Your keyboard should also be at such a height that there’s another 90-degree angle at your elbows between your lower arm and upper arm.)
Ideally, your chosen chair will allow you to adjust the tilt of the seat as well as the height, and will also give support to your lower back (lumbar spine)—and may even have adjustable arm supports and a headrest too. But beyond the biomechanics, bear in mind you’re also going to be sitting in that chair a lot, so while you might want a certain amount of padding, you don’t want it to be made of materials that are going to make you hot and uncomfortable when the temperature starts to rise.
2. What’s it look like?
If you’re picking a chair for a dedicated commercial office space, you can probably skip this section, but if you’re buying for your home office, it’s worth spending a bit of time thinking about the aesthetics of your purchase—unless, of course, you’re happy with a part of your home looking like commercial office space! First up, is your office chair going to have to do double duty? Might it have to be an armchair in the corner of a guest bedroom? Or perhaps an extra seat at the dining table? How you plan to use your chair in addition to its primary function may well dictate the type of chair that you choose. This might mean you want to go for an upholstered version, rather than a mesh version, or that rather than getting a chair on casters, you get one with fixed legs and a pivot point just below the seat. It might mean you want to forego armrests—see below—or opt for a slightly more streamlined design.
Even if your chair isn’t doing double duty, you may well want it to coordinate with your design aesthetic. And, in recent years, that’s become easier as standard office chairs have started to be produced in different colors, and smart designers have come up with functional chairs that also look attractive. Whatever you opt for, be careful you’re not choosing style over substance. Height adjustability and swivel function are probably the bare minimum that you want—and consider using an extra cushion for lumbar support if that’s not built-in.
3. Ever thought of a yoga ball for “active” seating?
The ergonomics section above should have made it pretty clear that, if you want to avoid musculoskeletal problems, your chair should be as much for your body’s biomechanical benefit as anything else. But if you know that you’re prone to back problems, there are atypical and interesting designs that can do exactly that. Very often back problems are caused by a lack of core stability—your core being the muscles around your abdomen that keep you upright. Introducing some instability into your seating so your core has to work harder to keep you balanced can improve your core, and consequently your back, without you even realizing it. One way to do this is to switch your chair for a Swiss ball, an oversized inflatable ball that’s large enough for you to sit on. You can also buy a frame for your yoga ball chair for times when you want a little less instability.
You might also want to consider a kneeling chair or kneeling stool where you “sit” with your bottom and thighs supported by one pad, and your knees and shins supported by another—a position that eases your hips forward to encourage you do be more upright and better align your back, shoulders, and neck.
4. What’s your height and weight?
While most office chairs will do fine for the average bear, if your height and weight are higher or lower than average, it might be worth tracking down a chair that’s made specifically for someone of your stature. Take a look at the “comfort” section above for good pointers about exactly how your body should sit in relation to your office chair. It would be ideal to go and try out the one you’re thinking of buying, but failing that, search online reviews for keywords like “big and tall” “weight capacity” or “height” to see if it’s rated well by people of a similar size to you. Office furniture makers also produce specific chairs for petite and larger framed folks, so consider looking for a chair made just for your body type.
5. Armrests or no armrests on your desk chair?
When it comes to office desk chairs, armrests can be controversial—you’ll find as many experts saying that they’re important, as those saying that most of the time you probably don’t need them. And similarly, you’ll find that many users have very strong preferences for or against.
First, let’s start with the arguments in their favor. When positioned correctly they can help support your arms which, in turn, means less pressure on the muscular system of the neck and shoulders. They can also help the forearm to rest in the appropriate position for using a keyboard and mouse to help avoid repetitive strain injury, and, especially for those who are less mobile, can be an aid when standing up and sitting down.
However, armrests are less useful when they prevent you from sitting as close to the desk as you need to or are the wrong height. For that reason, fixed armrests are probably only suitable for situations where people are unlikely to be spending much time writing or typing at a desk, such as meetings. If you do want armrests on your workstation chair, you should look for those where you can adjust as many aspects of their positioning as possible, including height, width, pivot, and forward/back glide.
6. How much do you have to spend?
A lot of people will tell you that office chairs are like shoes and beds—you’re going to be spending a long time in them so it’s a false economy to skimp on price. We heartily agree. That said, you can definitely get a decent chair for less than the price of one night at a middling beach town hotel. And isn’t your productivity worth at least that? No matter how much you have to spend, look for something that will support your back, and has as much adjustability as possible.
Best ergonomic office chair: Staples Hyken Technical Mesh Task Chair
Staples Hyken Technical Mesh Task Chair
Breathable mesh back and seat plus extensive adjustability helps create a comfortable chair that fits you. Amazon
Adjust the seat height, the headrest, and the armrests. Factor in lumbar support, tilt tension and tilt lock, and you’ve got a superior ergonomic office chair that mimics some of the better-known brands for a fraction of the price.
Best looking office chair: Armen Living Geneva Office Chair
Armen Living Geneva Office Chair
Cleverly combines attractive, retro-modern styling with practical design features. Amazon
With adjustable height and 360-degree swivel, you get a lot of the functionality of a conventional office chair, but the combination of chrome, walnut, and vegan-friendly faux leather give this elegant Armin Living office chair an aesthetic edge that many office chairs just don’t have.
Best ball-style office chair: Coreseat Balance Fit Ball Office Chair
Coreseat Balance Fit Ball Office Chair
All the benefits of a Swiss ball but much more space-saving. Amazon
With castors and height adjustment, this semi-spherical ball chair helps to align your spine and improve your posture, but doesn’t take up the same amount of space as a Swiss ball so can be easily moved out of place as needed.
Best big-and-tall office chair: BestOffice Executive High Back Ergonomic Chair
BestOffice Executive High Back Ergonomic Chair
A well-reviewed option with lots of adjustability, and an extended weight capacity. Amazon
We like the sleek and simple design of this high-back, ergonomic chair—and the mesh back for some extra airflow, which someone of any size can appreciate on a long day at your desk. It has adjustable lumbar support, tilt, armrests, and height and is built to seat people up to 400 pounds.
Best office desk chair without armrests: Boss Office Products Black Boss Office Deluxe Posture Chair
Boss Office Products Black Boss Office Deluxe Posture Chair
Simple but comfortable pick, in three variations, depending on your armrest preference. Amazon
Also available in burgundy and blue, this minimalist office chair comes with lumbar support, adjustable seat, and adjustable back height and depth and can be purchased without armrests, with fixed loop armrests, or with adjustable armrests.
Best budget office chair under $200: Hon Crio High-Back Task Chair
Hon Crio High-Back Task Chair
Simple, but comfortable pick with lots of happy buyers. Amazon
We like the budget office chair from Hon Crio for its sleek design, mesh construction, and adjustable armrests.
Best office chair brands to know
Perhaps it’s not surprising that the brands to know when it comes to office chairs exemplify the fact that the office chair can be both functional and attractive, spanning the space between office supplies, design icon and furniture, they also showcase the scale and diversity of pricing in this area—from budget buys, through to four-figure splurges.
The Office Superstore opened its first store in Brighton, Massachusetts in 1986, less than a year after the idea came to founder, Tom Stemberg, who struggled to get a replacement ribbon for his typewriter over the July 4th weekend. The idea was to provide domestic and corporate customers with one-stop shopping, so you could pick up everything from paper and pens, to office furniture and microwave ovens, at low prices. Staples went public in 1989 and by the late 1990s had more than 1000 stores, worldwide.
Very few office chairs reach the sort of status that Herman Miller’s Aeron chair has reached. It’s become something of a design classic after its launch in 1994— the New York Museum of Modern Art added it to its 20th Century Design Collection, and in 1999 it won a Design of the Decade award from Business Week magazine and the Industrial Designers Society of America.
The company itself was founded in Michigan in 1905 and was originally the Star Furniture Company. It wasn’t until 1923 it became the Herman Miller Furniture Company, named after the father-in-law of the company’s then-president, who bought the majority of shares in the company.
A leading manufacturer of furniture for offices, hospitals, and classrooms, Steelcase was established in 1912 as the Metal Office Furniture Company, and their first patent was for a metal wastebasket which improved safety for office workers—at a time when smoking was permitted in offices—as they replaced flammable wicker waste bins with steel. The company continued to grow, and in 1973 delivered the furniture world’s biggest ever order, providing over 400 truckloads of furniture for Chicago’s Sears Tower. Steelcase floated on the stock market in 1998 and in 2020, was named by Fortune as one of the world’s most admired companies.
A final word on the best office chairs
As you can see, the best office chair for you is dependent on numerous factors—ultimately it has to be functional, but that functionality doesn’t mean that you can’t also consider the environment that it’s going to sit within, and also your own personal preferences when it comes to design. Just remember when you’re choosing that your neck, back, and shoulders won’t thank you for choosing something that looks good if it doesn’t also feel good, and keep in mind the cardinal rule that the more points you have where you can adjust the chair to fit your body, rather than adjusting your body to fit the chair, the better you will feel.>