Long has the doom of sitting been forecasted. Published papers aplenty have argued that a stationary life is shorter and trouble-ridden, and the primary workarounds are many — standing desks, frequent breaks, stretching, taking walks and so on. But none address the simple fact that, sometimes, to get shit done, we simply need to plant ourselves in a chair and get after it.
Luckily, a number of companies are working to beat each other at building the best office chairs, even though they all know it’s not possible. No one chair is the best for everyone, so take our guide with plenty of salt. If you can, go to stores and showrooms in your area and sit down, lean back, lean forward, pull levers and ask questions about everything — your back, muscles, various joints and brain will thank you.
Best Overall Office ChairSteelcase Series 1 Read More
Best Upgrade Office ChairSteelcase Gesture Read More
Best Budget Office ChairBranch Task Chair Read More
Best Office Chair on AmazonFlash Furniture High Back Mesh Chair Read More
Best Office Chair for Neck PainAutonomous ErgoChair Pro Read More
What to Look for in an Office Chair
Every office chair should have some amount of adjustability because each chair needs to be able to accommodate different types of people, whether it's for height or weight. At a minimum, an office chair should have adjustable height. But if that's all the chair offers, it's probably not the best chair for you (or anyone). Look to see what other points of adjustability a chair has such as adjustable armrests, back height, tilt position and seat depth. Keep in mind that the more adjustable a chair is, the higher in price it's likely to be.
Lumbar refers to the part of the spine that's located in your lower back region. If you have lower back pain (or even if you don't), you'll definitely want to look for a chair with lumbar support. This usually refers to some sort of horizontal attachment — whether it's a cushion or piece of stiff plastic — on your chair that helps provide support to your lumbar region. The lumbar support should be adjustable so you can tailor it to where you need to focus extra lower back support.
From leather to fabric, office chairs can be made of practically anything. Upholstered chairs are generally cheaper but harder to clean than their leather counterparts. Also, brands keep inventing new innovative materials that provide better support and breathability than more classic materials.
Ease of Assembly
While prior to the pandemic most of us probably did not have the experience of putting together our own desk chairs, home offices are much more common now — if not the norm. And the last thing you want to do after lugging a giant box to your door is spend hours studying a complicated manual, so buying a chair with simple, intuitive assembly instructions is more important than ever.
Understanding Ergonomics of Office Chairs
Whether you spend $100 or $1,000 on an office chair, you'll need to make some adjustments to ensure that your WFH setup is comfortable and won't lead to injury. Karen Loesing of The Ergonomic Expert recommends having your arms and legs at a 90-degree angle with feet supported by the floor or a footrest, your back slightly reclined at about 105 to 110 degrees and your forearms level with your desk. "You don't want to be completely upright at 90 degrees like people think you're supposed to be, and that's sitting all the way in the back of a chair," Loesing said. Jonathan Puleio, Humanscale's Global Vice President and Certified Professional Ergonomist, said in an email that there should be at least 2 inches between the back of your knees and the front of your seat.
Although you may be excited to spend long days in your new chair, it's still important to take breaks. "Prolonged sitting has been linked to poor cardiovascular and circulatory health and the development of spinal disorders," Puleio wrote. He recommended taking 2 to 3 "microbreaks" from sitting per hour, lasting 30 to 60 seconds each while ensuring that you don't sit for more than about 45 minutes at a time. If you can, Loesing recommends stacking your movement breaks with the 20-20-20 rule for your eyes that says every 20 minutes you should spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away.
You've likely heard about the dangers of sitting for extended periods of time, but Gene A. Kay, President of the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics, said it's also important to change your position. "If we went by and looked at you every 15 minutes throughout the workday, we would want to see that (you are) in different positions and doing different things throughout the day."
Kay said that size, comfort and adjustments are all important factors to consider in finding the right chair for you, adding that choosing a chair is like the story of Goldilocks or the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter: "The chair kinda has to choose the person."
How We Tested
The features we test for are founded in notes gathered through interviews with a handful of ergonomics experts in the category, including ergonomics specialist and President of Human Innovation Designs Dr. Brock Walker. To illustrate the need for a body-friendly desk chair, Walker suggests you picture your head as a bowling ball. "How would your body hold that bowling ball up? If you lean backward, hunch over or slouch, you’re asking your muscles and soft tissue to hold up the bowling ball all day," he says.
Over the years, we've tested dozens of office chairs — at home and in the office. Every chair in this guide has been tested for at least a month's time by an editor or writer, but most are used for three months before being evaluated and, if scored well, added to the guide. Tester's notes on delivery, assembly, comfort, issues, strengths and any other quibbles they have are recorded and weighted against the product's price and warranty, as well as the brand customer service response times. For the latest version of this guide, we've evaluated more than 60 office chairs and whittled down those to the 23 best.
The Best Office Chairs
Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase's entry-level office chair, the Series 1, combines looks, comfort and ergo-friendly features not usually found in a chair costing just over $500.
The chair is simple and compact, which is incredible considering how many built-in intuitive adjustment controls there are in the chair. The Series 1 employs a breathable mesh backing, dubbed 3D Micro Knit, which is flexible and supportive. Then comes the laundry list of adjustments: arm height, lumbar height, seat depth, tilt control and — obviously — seat height. Our tester found that the Series 1's main highlight is its 4D adjustable arms. Like most office chairs, users can adjust the arm height. Steelcase goes many steps further by making the arm cap – the soft, supportive armrest — mobile, too. It can slide forward and backward, side-to-side and pivot about 40 degrees. The only caveat: its compact design makes it not as well-suited for larger sitters, which we hope Steelcase is able to address with a slightly larger version in the future.
For an in-depth look, read our review of the Steelcase Series 1.
If there were a Mount Rushmore of office chair design, Steelcase would be on it, and the Gesture chair would be its carving. Decked out in all the obvious ergonomic features, it also boasts a synchronous tilt system that, when you recline, lifts the seat slightly to keep your feet on the ground, which keeps blood circulating freely. The materials are considered, too. Take the shell that holds the seat; where most of the chair that doesn't touch the sitter is made of a hard plastic, the seat shell has some give, which allows it to move and bend to however you're sitting. On top of this, it's customizable — there are dozens of fabrics, colors and materials to choose from.
Branch Task Chair
Formerly a B2B office supply company, Branch makes furniture built to endure the rigors of a workplace while keeping prices low enough for customers to buy in bulk. Since making the move from B2B to a direct-to-consumer model, its kept that ethos. The Task Chair isn't its cheapest chair (that title belongs to the $219 Daily Chair), but its built-in adjustable lumbar support, wide mesh back, adjustable arms, responsive customer service and firm warranty make it the best value of the bunch.
Our tester found the chair unexpectedly easy to assemble and found that the seat was comfortable even all day long. That, plus its silent swiveling, adjustment options and elegant design made the chair a great work-from-home option. You'll be hard-pressed to find a chair that offers that much for under $300.
For an in-depth look, read our review of the Branch Task Chair.
Flash Furniture High Back Mesh Chair
This mesh-bodied, high-back chair from Flash Furniture is the best and most versatile chair we’ve found on Amazon that isn't from one of the big guys (like Steelcase or Humanscale). It has an adjustable headrest (ideal for those who like to lean back), holds more weight than most dirt-cheap options, has a tilt tension adjustment knob, offers firm lumbar support and isn’t absolutely atrocious to look at. If it’s missing anything (other than quality materials that would drive the price up), it’s adjustable armrests, but that’s the lowest number of serious compromises you’ll find out of seating in this price category.
Autonomous ErgoChair Pro
Autonomous isn't a new company, but it's found its niche in the affordable-but-clever office chair space. The ErgoChair 2 features the mass-adjustability that's needed in a chair you'll sit in eight hours a day – the armrests move, the seat pan moves, the seat cushion moves, and, perhaps most helpfully, the lumbar support slides up and down the spine of the chair. Most office chairs don't include a headrest as part of their base model. And when a headrest is an option, it's an added price and the addition of the headrest ruins the overall look of the chair. With the ErgoChair Pro, the adjustable headrest is standard (though definitely already built into the price) and helps reduce neck strain with 45 degrees of flexibility.
Alera Elusion Chair
It looks as simple as any other chair you’d run into at Staples, but it isn’t. Alera’s Elusion chair borrows features like a full mesh back for breathability, a waterfall-edge seat cushion to maintain regular levels of leg circulation and more comfort customization than chairs fives times its price. Its only limiting factors are aesthetics (it is rather boring to look at) and the use of cheap materials, which means it’s likely not a great long-term seating option.
Herman Miller Zeph
For 2022, Herman Miller released a brand-new office chair. As arguably the greatest office chair maker on the planet, that’s a pretty big deal in and of itself. But the Zeph is a special chair, even for Herman Miller. The Zeeland, Michigan-based company has always had two halves that lived separate lives. There’s the designer furniture half that’s associated with a number of iconic mid-century modern designers, and there’s the office furniture half that’s credited with popularizing ergonomic desk chairs. The Zeph is the first chair to really meld these two halves together, and it does so at a price point lower than almost every other office chair Herman Miller makes.
Our tester has spent a couple of months working in the Zeph, and he’s definitely a fan. The chair is, frankly, hard not to like. Its looks are striking and quirky but not so out there that they’re going to look out of place in any home office setting (it’s also available in a dizzying number of color combinations). The “Kinematic Monoshell” structure gives you a classic Shell Chair look but has a built-in ergonomic recline that moves as you move, with basically no effort required. It’s extremely fluid (though definitely feels like you’re falling the first couple of times it kicks in), and with it, our tester never felt the need to adjust any tilt mechanism (there isn’t one anyway). Ergonomic, flexible back aside, the Zeph still isn’t the comfiest office chair in existence. Even with the optional 3D Knit cover, there’s very little cushioning in the seat of the Zeph, and after 8 hours our tester was wishing for a seat cushion. He also says you should get the armless version — the optional arms are too low for most people to use and aren’t adjustable, so they just end up getting in the way.
For an in-depth look, read our review of the Herman Miller Zeph Chair.
Herman Miller Sayl
Designer Yves Behar based the Sayl on suspension bridges like San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. Our tester found that the chair's Y-frame back and ventilated elastomer provide both support and ventilation, which is why the Sayl earned numerous design awards after it was released in 2010. However, the chair's back isn't all positive, as its large holes proved a little too good at catching things during our testing, as our tester who lost a button from the back of his pants after standing up quickly in the chair can attest.
The Sayl is also easy to adjust for even more personalized support. Although the unique design may not be for everyone, for Herman Miller, the chair's $695 price tag is practically a steal.
Flexispot OC15 Ergonomic Office Chair
From the makers of one of the best standing desks and standing desk converters you can buy, this chair offers a more vibrantly-colored alternative for those who work from home. I've been testing the chair for about two months now, and it's just as comfortable as it is stylish. The chair has a simple design with an S-shaped back that provides excellent lumbar support. The breathable mesh provides nice cushioning as well, but I’d recommend adjusting the tilt control (which is quite easy) to ensure you don’t feel like you’re falling when you lean back.
The most refreshing thing about the chair is that it is available in eight colors, which is optimal if you’re looking for a pop of color in your WFH setup (a harder find than you might expect). The tilt and height can conveniently be adjusted using the same lever. My only major qualm with the chair is that I wish it had more seat cushioning, but if you prefer a firmer seat then this may be the one for you.
Branch Daily Chair
Some who may be looking for an office chair to alleviate the strain (in more ways than one) of working from home without breaking the bank should look to Branch's Daily Chair. There are a number of office chairs that come in at the same price point and under, but the Daily Chair is truly a chair you can sit in daily. It has a clean and elegant look, which makes it a pleasure to look at and sit in. The chair has a lightweight quality to it that, unlike other chairs, doesn't make it feel cheap. However, it's not very substantial, which probably accounts for its 225-pound weight capacity.
In terms of ergonomics, the Daily Chair is great to sit in. It has the basic adjustable features of an office chair — recline with adjustable tension, seat level adjustments and armrest movement — without getting too into the weeds with customizability. The cushion is firm and comfortable, and the nylon-weave back is lightweight and cushiony. Additionally, our tester found that putting the Daily Chair together was fairly simple as there aren't many parts.
Humanscale Diffrient World Chair
Few manufacturers set out to make office chairs specifically for small spaces. This chair, designed by Niels Diffrient, has armrests that can be lifted or lowered to slide under a desk when not in use, a back high enough to allow for comfortable reclining and a width on the slimmer end.
Instead of chairs requiring manual adjustment via knobs and levers like most task chairs before it, the Diffrient World adapts to the sitter automatically (it was one of the earlier task chairs to do this). It uses your body weight as a counterbalance to allow for seamless and steady reclining and the whole thing is a springy mesh that’s just tight enough to sink into but not so much to the point of sagging and stretching. It’s also guaranteed to last for 10 years.
Branch Verve Chair
If you're still working from the couch, then this might be the desk chair that finally convinces you to fully furnish your home office. Branch's Verve Chair has a sleek design that will blend seamlessly into (if not elevate) your WFH space. Our tester said that the best feature of the chair is its 3D-knit back that stretches ever so slightly to support your back. And let's face it — it looks cool too. The chair also excels in the ergonomics department, offering adjustable lumbar support and armrests.
Assembly was a breeze and the chair itself is comfortable even throughout long days of sitting. The one pain point our tester identified is the armrests. They feel a little too flimsy to boost yourself up with and they can be finicky while adjusting if you aren't paying attention. But overall, our tester found that the chair benefited his body and productivity over the two months of testing.
For an in-depth look, read our review of the Branch Verve Chair.
Humanscale Path Chair
Humanscale’s dedication to sustainability in its home office products resulted in the Path Chair: the world’s most sustainable office chair. And that’s no joke — the Path is half made up of recycled plastics. Aside from its better-for-the-earth construction, the chair is solid. The Path requires minimal adjustments because it essentially adapts to you, the sitter, as you’re sitting in the chair. Your own weight acts as Path’s counterbalance, and in our experience in testing it, we feel a sort of weightlessness. The chair we tested was decked out with Humanscale’s FormSense Eco Knit, which conforms to the body and has a stretch that feels like it’s working with you and not against you. Though if you aren’t feeling that Eco Knit, there are over two dozen other materials — from leather to fabric — to choose from.
X-Chair X1 Task Chair
If you value the breeziness of mesh, the X1 chair may be for you. The chair's stainless steel undercarriage provides a sturdy foundation for a host of ergonomic features, the most impressive of which was the arms, which can move up, down, sideways and shift angles at will, and the lumbar support. The brand calls it DVL, or dynamic variable lumbar, and it's basically the lower third of the chair attached to the middle back. The DVL is tense enough to resist bending inward without serious pressure but not so tense as to not bend at all. Our reviewer found it to be the ideal balance between overly aggressive lumbar support systems and lumbar support systems that you barely notice.
Herman Miller Cosm
Apart from aesthetics and sizing options (the high-backed Cosm is stunning online and in-person), the primary functional difference between the two is a single, completely unique innovation — the ability to use your weight to adjust the tension to you without the need to slide your body forward or lift you up at all. This sliding and lifting move your legs ever so slightly up, resulting in added tension to the body.
It’s a subtle difference, but no other company had managed until Cosm. In fact, the only reason Herman Miller didn’t release an auto-adjusting chair prior was its inability to solve the riddle of the lifting legs.
Most of Ikea’s desk chairs are built with aesthetics top of mind rather than performance. Avoid those. The Markus chair is the Swedish company’s most body-minded offering. Its high mesh back is good for taller folks and those of us who run hot, and despite Ikea’s reputation for cheapness, it’s better built than most frugal options. Plus, because it’s from Ikea and not a nobody Amazon company run by bots, you’re more likely to get customer service if anything goes wrong.
American industrial design legend Niels Diffrient authored many products of great importance, but this was his magnum opus. The Freedom chair marks the beginning of the shift away from manually adjustable office seating (primarily because most people don’t actually know how to adjust the chairs properly) and to self-adjusting chairs.
Specifically, the Freedom chair handles all recline tension and tilt functionality itself while still allowing you to slide the seat backward or forward and the armrest up and down. Since its release, a hundred or more self-adjusting chairs have cropped up, but few have done so as elegantly as the Freedom chair.
Fully Desk Chair
An unfortunate truth of design (office chair and otherwise): if your needs don't fit the middle of the bell curve, you may be left out in the cold. When it comes to sitting, this takes shape in weight limits, chair back heights, static armrests and shoddy materials that fail to support bigger bodies. Most chairs on this list are ergonomically sound and rated to safely carry about 250 pounds, and in our testing, we've found many chairs rated for more than the standard 250 lack important adjustability features or build quality. Fully's desk chair is good for 330 pounds and loses nothing.
HON Ignition 2.0 Mid-Back Chair
It won't win any awards for its looks, but HON's Ignition 2.0 chair is a good value buy nonetheless. For just over $300, you get an airy mesh back, a comfy foam cushion, adjustable arms, basic up-down adjustability and dynamic lumbar support. The only downside at the price was the size; the cushion is a little higher up than is standard, making it better-suited for sitters about 5'9" and up.
Blu Dot Daily Task Chair
Blu Dot’s mantra: bring good design to as many people as possible. As such, the Midwestern company’s designs ride the “I could afford that if I wanted to” line more than any modern furniture brand, and it’s all original, sturdy and hardwearing. The Daily Task Chair isn’t a loud or boastful piece to bring into your own home, but it’s interesting, a bit retro and comes with a few foundational ergonomic perks.
If you're willing to splash a little more cash, Knoll's ReGeneration is an excellent upgrade from the Steelcase Series 1 chair. The chair's back bends with the user, so you're never fighting against the chair to get comfortable, but it doesn't give too much, sacrificing structure or support. And though mesh-backed chairs are generally great for breathability and provide a little flex for the sitter, the mesh will stretch and sag over time. Knoll opted for a flexible but far sturdier elastomer back, which keeps the breeziness of mesh while ensuring fidelity years into use. The chair has won countless design and sustainability awards and comes with a robust 12-year warranty. If you can swing the $713 base price tag, it's hard to find better value.
Herman Miller Aeron
The Aeron is the chair against which all other chairs are measured. Not even the worthy competition on this list can challenge its status as the most influential office chair of the modern era.
Released in 1994, Aeron is the chair that bookended a shift in task seating design from a form-first to function-first industry. Its critical, commercial and cultural successes are many. It ushered out clean lines in favor of shapes contouring to the human body and was the first hugely successful mesh chair. It is among the most customizable designs ever conceived. It’s earned a permanent place in the Museum of Modern Art. It’s even 94 percent recyclable, a feature years ahead of its time.
Though the Aeron chair is no longer the seating du jour, in style and function, its importance and power are unrivaled.
Herman Miller Embody
This is not luxury in the plush leather, animal skin, bedazzled sense; it’s luxury in just how effective it is at what it does. Herman Miller puts it this way: “so intelligent, it makes you think.” It prioritizes and glorifies movement above all else — movement lessens muscle tension and increases blood flow, thereby increasing the amount of time your brain operates at a high level, which in turn makes for better work.
Thought up by the late and great Bill Stumpf (father of the Aeron chair) and designed by Jeff Weber with the guidance of a team of 20 physicians and doctors in physical therapy, ergonomics and biomechanics, it uses the human body as its blueprint — a spine with a flexible rib cage bends and turns are you do and redistributes pressure to lessen tension.
Office Chair Brands to Know
An extreme and praise-worthy focus on sustainable, eco-friendly design and gorgeous aesthetics come together with research-backed ergonomics at Humanscale. A through-line can be seen in all Humanscale’s more recent products — simplicity. Simplicity was urged forward by the late American industrial designer Niels Diffrient in his partnership with Humanscale, which yielded two of the most notable and respected chairs ever — the Freedom and Diffrient World.
Herman Miller is the company behind many of the most iconic pieces in the era of mid-century modern but its catalog has far more to offer than famous lounge chairs. When Herman Miller released the Aeron office chair, it instantly became the, or at least one of the best makers of office seating the world over. The American brand’s most notable office chairs are likely the Aeron, Embody and the relatively new Cosm, a fully passive ergonomic chair with a few unique-unto-itself features.
Where Herman Miller and others work in a variety of furniture areas, Steelcase narrows its gaze to furniture with a performance and sustainability bend. The 105-year-old company is unrelenting in its focus on research-guided design, and it is most known for the Gesture, Leap and its auto-adjusting (and fairly new) SILQ.
Like Herman Miller, Knoll was (and has become again) mid-century royalty. Also like Herman Miller, it didn’t fall off the face of the earth. In fact, the two brands became one when Herman Miller acquired Knoll last year. Knoll still peddles high-end, luxurious home furniture aplenty, but its office seating, the Generation line in particular, is a revelation. Ergonomic, good looking and sold at price points low and high, Knoll covers the spectrum of what you need now and in the future.
Chairs to Avoid
No chair is perfect, but there are some common complaints to watch out for, such as lack of seat cushioning, unstable armrests, flimsy support and whether the chair can accommodate different heights and body shapes. For example, you'll notice that while Herman Miller's Cosm will not work for everyone because of its auto-adjusting mechanism, the brand's Zeph Chair is a great option for all body shapes thanks to a wider seat.In terms of price, you probably don't want to be paying only $50 on the chair you'll be spending most of your days sitting on, but there are plenty of great chair options under $500 or even $200. The cheapest chair on this list, the Alera Elusion Chair, offers a supportive back and tons of customization for just $132, proving that like any product, a higher price does not always equal higher quality.
New and Upcoming Releases
Knoll Newson Task Chair: Designed by Marc Newson for Knoll, this chair features a flexible frame and a unique floating seat. You can adjust almost every part of the chair, including the recline, seat and armrests.