The humble office chair has seen a huge bump in interest since 2020. It's no surprise. Because so many people were forced to turn their homes into home offices, office chairs provided the comfort needed to work at home, stay productive — and prevent future appointments to the chiropractor's.
Not all office chairs are built the same, however, but they run the gamut from super-cheap to super-expensive — and we don't love either end of that spectrum. The only office chair that has ticked every box for us and doesn't cut into your 401(k) is Steelcase's Series 1 office chair.
Granted, this under-$500 office chair is by no means cheap. But compared to offerings that are double, triple or even quadruple the price, the Series 1 feels like a steal. So what makes this such an amazing office chair? Read on.
What's Good About the Steelcase Series 1
This office chair is adjustable to your liking
Any office chair worth its weight should be adaptable to its users. The Steelcase Series 1 does all the usual adjustments, like arm height and seat height, but goes beyond the standard for chairs priced under $500. The Series 1 comes standard with adjustable seat depth, lumbar support and tilt control. The mesh backing is called 3D Mesh Knit, and it adapts well to your body for optimal support.
Active armrests are a godsend
Going beyond adjustable arm height, the Series 1's armrests are as active as its sitter. The arms are 4D, meaning they slide around with you as you work. Each arm rest, which is soft and supple on bare skin, moves forward and backward, side-to-side and has 40-degree pivot rotation. If you're someone who is constantly moving around a mouse, you'll be thankful for the range of motion.
The Series 1 excels at both form and function
As well as it performs, the Series 1 looks just as good, too. Unlike other ergonomic office chairs, with their aggressively sharp lines and edges, the Series 1 is much softer in comparison with its rounded edges and compact figure. The chair comes in a rainbow of colors, whether you want to go bold with your office chair or keep it low-key and subtle.
What’s Not Ideal About the Steelcase Series 1
This chair has a low backrest and no headrest
I'm 5 feet 9 inches tall, which means I'm about as average as average comes for folks of "average height." The backrest measures in at 21.5 inches, which offers me just the right amount of back support, but I imagine taller people might find that it's a bit lacking. Also, a headrest doesn't come standard with the chair — but on Steelcase's website, you can add one for $80.
The Series 1's armrests are a bit irksome
Okay, I first praised the armrests for their mobility — but they're also slightly annoying. While it's great that they move with the user, that also means they can move around a little too much. You can't set the armrests to stay in one position, and just the slightest amount of pressure can shift them. Also the plastic underneath the armrests have a sharp edge that has scraped my arm every once in a while. Some may find the armrests to not be padded enough, but I haven't found that to be an issue.
This office chairs suffers from subpar lumbar support
We appreciate Steelcase for adding adjustable lumbar support. And while it's good, it's not the best. First, it's annoying to adjust and it doesn't move smoothly. The plastic construction is also noticeable with the lumbar support, and a few reviewers have said their lumbar support broke. For the past couple years of testing, I've had no issue with any breakage, but I've also been delicate with the chair when it comes to making lumbar support adjustments.
The Steelcase Series 1: The Verdict
Like so many people during the onset of the pandemic, I was skeptical about getting an office chair. Then I realized it would be the single-most important thing I could do for my productivity, while staving off future back pain. The Steelcase Series 1 was not the cheapest office chair around, but compared to the one we used to use in the office – the Herman Miller Sayl — the Series 1 offered comparable, if not better, support and comfort. Probably the best part about the Series 1 is the way it can be adjust to suit your body (although people above six feet tall might prefer the addition of the headrest), which makes this feel like a custom-made chair.