This definitive guide to the best office chairs of 2021 explores everything you need to know to find an office chair best suited to your needs, including ergonomics, price, aesthetics and features.
Best Budget Office Chairs
- Best Office Chair Under $150: Flash Furniture High Back Mesh Chair
- Best Office Chair Under $200: Alera Elusion
- Best Office Chair Under $250: Branch Daily Chair
- Best Office Chair Under $300: Branch Ergonomic Chair
- Best Office Chair Under $400: Autonomous ErgoChair Pro
Best Ergonomic Office Chairs
- Ikea Markus Chair ($229)
- Sihoo Ergonomics Chair ($260)
- Fully Desk Chair ($299)
- HON Ignition 2.0 ($320)
- Herman Miller Sayl ($545)
- Blu Dot Daily Task Chair ($599)
- Knoll ReGeneration ($610)
- X-Chair X1 Task Chair ($690)
- Humanscale Diffrient World ($700)
- All33 Backstrong C1 Chair ($799)
- Humanscale Freedom ($1,169)
- Herman Miller Cosm ($1,345)
- Herman Miller Aeron ($1,395)
- Herman Miller Embody ($1,635)
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 lots 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 Chair: 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 under $500 into one very strong value proposition.
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. 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 arm rest — 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.
Best Upgrade Office Chair: Steelcase Gesture Chair
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 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.
Best Budget Office Chair: 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. You'll be hard-pressed to find a chair that offers that much for under $300.
Best Budget Office Chairs
As with most products of the budget variety, temper your expectations. There is no sub-$100, $200 or even $500 office chair that does all things for all people, or performs equally to premium chairs. Expect materials that don’t necessarily ensure a long life and may not look stellar. That said, these chairs are ergonomic. Our budget picks are simply the most affordable you can go without sacrificing your health and wellbeing at work.
Best Office Chair Under $150: 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 under $100. 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.
Best Office Chair Under $200: 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.
Best Office Chair Under $250: 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.
Best Office Chair Under $300: Branch Ergonomic Chair
Branch is a new company that makes affordable home office gear. Its plainly named Ergonomic chair ticks the ergonomic boxes you’re looking for — adjustable height armrests, tilt, tilt tension, lumbar support, up-down functions, adjustable depth seat and an airy mesh back. Instead of the cheap plastics deployed by other ultra-cheap options, its base is made of a sturdier anodized aluminum. The brand offers white glove delivery in NYC, but self-assembly otherwise, which takes about 10 minutes.
Best Office Chair Under $400: Autonomous ErgoChair 2
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. All this, in tandem with a mesh back and a wicked sub-$400 price point, make Autonomous' chair one of the best value buys there is.
Best Ergonomic Office Chairs
To different extents, ergonomic design is present in all seating, but not all office chairs fully commit. By way of built-in automatic adjustments or manually turning knobs and pulling levers, the best ergonomic chairs are the ones that conform to the human body, and the best do that to specific human bodies, no matter their weight, height or posture. These are those chairs, in every specific taste and style we could think of. (Note: chairs are listed in price-ascending order. Gear Patrol writers and editors have independently tested every chair we recommend.)
Ikea Markus Chair
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.
Sihoo Ergonomics Office Chair
What you get from this chair, for less than $300: a breezy mesh back, adjustable headrest, lower back support, variable armrests and easily one of the best spring-lock tilt mechanism of any cheap chair. That’s everything you can ask for out of a budget 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 testing we've found many chairs rated for more than the standard 250 lack important adjustability features or quality of build. Fully's desk chair is good for 330 pounds and loses nothing.
On top of the weight limit bump, the chair is built with a sturdy aluminum base, a high back, a firm butt cushion and armrests that adjust inward (toward the sitter) and outward (away from the sitter). These are all features that serve folks who aren't 5'9", 165 pounds, and that's a good thing.
HON Ignition 2.0
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.
Herman Miller Sayl
Designer Yves Behar based the Sayl on suspension bridges like San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. The chair's Y-frame back and ventilated elastomer provide both support and ventilation, earning the Sayl numerous design awards after it was released in 2010. For Herman Miller, the chair's $545 price tag is practically a steal. And to put things in context, these are the office chairs we use in the office and we can't get enough of them.
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 providing a little flex for the sitter, 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 $600 price tag, it's hard to find better value.
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 were 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.
Humanscale Diffrient World Chair
Few manufacturers set out to make office chairs specifically for small spaces. This chair, also designed by 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.
All33 Backstrong C1
If you're prone to slouching down into your seat during the workday, this chair should be on your radar. Because the seat and lower-half of the back rest of a fulcrum on the base of the chair, separate from the top-half of the back, the back comes forward when you start to sink into it. Effectively, it won't allow you to slouch. It's also been on Shark Tank, for what that's worth. Admittedly, this chair is really meant for users who need to fix their posture, as the measures its design takes are rather extreme. The construction of the chair could be better for the price as well.
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.
Its base model ships in a PU leather upholstery (as almost all “leather” office chairs do) with a die-cast aluminum frame, but you can special order real leather upon request.
Herman Miller Cosm
The success of Herman Miller’s office seating line is unquestioned (just look at our list), but this might be the largest departure from that line since it began. Where our “Best Value” choice was of the old school of passive ergonomics, Cosm is of the new.
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 tension to you without the need to slide your body forward or lift you up at all. This sliding and lifting lifts your legs ever so slightly up, resulting in added tension to the body.
It’s a subtle difference, but one 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.
Herman Miller Aeron
The Aeron is the chair against which all other chairs are measured. Not even the worthy competition on this list 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 seating du jour, in style and function, its importance and power is 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.
All told, it’s an expensive, luxury office chair, but not because of whims of fanciness and wealth, but because it is a throne built on the idea that a chair doesn’t have to be a health-negative.
How We Test Office Chairs
Testing and getting hands-on with products is integral to what we do at Gear Patrol. And given the price of a quality office chair and the task its given — keeping your spine and neck in a healthy line — we don't recommend chairs lightly.
Every office 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 approval in the guide. Tester's notes on delivery, assembly, comfort, issues, strengths and any other quibbles they have are recorded and weighed against the product's price and warranty, as well as the brand customer service response times. Have a question about a chair that's on the list (or one that's not)? Email this story's editor, Will Price, and ask: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best Office Chair Brands
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 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 newly released 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.
Allsteel is function and performance driven above all else. It bullied its way into office gear in the early 20th century making steel electrical boxes and lockers (it would take until the middle of the century to add its first chairs) Not all of its seating is beautiful looking (except for the Acuity, which is), but it is all based on the science of ergonomics.
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. 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.