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The Best Office Chairs to Make Working Feel Less Like Work

Everything you need to know to find an office chair best suited to your needs, including ergonomics, price, aesthetics and features.

14 best office chairs of 2018 gear patrol full lead 02
Gear Patrol

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.

    What to Look For in an Office Chair

    Adjustability

    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 Support

    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.

    Materials

    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.

    Office Chair Brands to Know

    Humanscale

    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.

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    Herman Miller

    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.

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    Steelcase

    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.

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    Knoll

    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.

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    The Best Office Chairs of 2022

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    How We Tested
    best office chairs
    Gear Patrol Staff

    The features we test for are founded in notes gathered through interviews with 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.

    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 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 weighed against the product's price and warranty, as well as the brand customer service response times. We've evaluated more than 60 office chairs, and whittled down those to the 21 best.

    We're currently in the process of testing two new office chairs — the Humanscale Path, Humanscale's most sustainable office chair, and the Branch Verve, Branch's most ergonomic office chair — for potential inclusion in an update to this story.

    Best Overall Office Chair
    Steelcase Series 1
    Amazon

    • Airy mesh back keeps you cool
    • Excellent build quality for the price
    • Backed by a reliable company with a customer support line

    • Can feel cramped for very tall people

    Steelcase's entry-level office chair, the Series 1, combines looks, comfort and ergo-friendly features not usually found in a chair 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. 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.

    Best Upgrade Office Chair
    Steelcase Gesture
    Courtesy

    • Exceptional material quality
    • More ergonomic adjustability than nearly any other chair
    • Extremely comfortable and supportive

    • $1,300 is a lot to spend on a 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
    Courtesy

    • Wide and very breezy mesh back is ideal
    • Adjustable lumbar support
    • Adjustable arms (up-and-down, side-to-side)

    • Foam seat could be more comfortable

    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 Office Chair on Amazon
    Flash Furniture High Back Mesh Chair
    Amazon
    Now 26% off

    • Mesh back and headrest is a nice touch for a budget option
    • The frame isn't too rigid, like many affordable chairs

    • Very poor materially speaking; cheap plastic abounds

    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.

    Best Office Chair Under $200
    Alera Elusion Chair
    Staples
    Alera

    • Mesh-backed office chairs rule
    • We prefer mesh seats, the foam seat is comfortable over the long haul

    • As with all budget options, the seat feels and is cheap. Know what you're buying.

    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.

    Easiest-to-Assemble Office Chair
    Branch Daily Chair
    Branch

    • Lightweight and compact; good for smaller sitters or smaller offices
    • The color is subtle but nice

    • Foam butt cushion is thin and stern

    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 for Neck Pain
    Autonomous ErgoChair Pro
    Autonomous

    • Absurdly cozy and soft cushion
    • Headrest is wide and supportive
    • Loads of adjustability

    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 its 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.

    Best Office Chair for Lower Back Pain
    X-Chair X1 Task Chair
    XChair

    • Exceptional lumbar support
    • Features a host of ergonomic features

    • Lacks cushioning throughout the chair
    • Feels like it's better suited towards taller people

    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.

    Best Office Chair From Ikea
    Ikea Markus
    Ikea

    • High, mesh back
    • Lumbar support
    • Great price

    • Thin and uncomfortable arm rests

    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.

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    Best Office Chair Under $300
    Sihoo Ergonomics Office Chair
    Amazon
    Now 25% off

    • Airy mesh back is breathable
    • Can withstand up to 350 pounds
    • Includes a headrest

    • Armrests don't feel stable
    • Seat cushion is hard

    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 mechanisms of any cheap chair. It's rated to support nearly 350 pounds as well, which is significantly higher than most budget chairs. There's not much more you can ask for out of a desk chair that doesn't cost $500 or more.

    Best High-Capacity Office Chair
    Fully Desk Chair
    Fully

    • High weight capacity despite small frame
    • Sturdy aluminum base

    • Flimsy lumbar support

    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.

    Best Cheap Office Chair for Tall People
    HON Ignition 2.0 Mid-Back Chair
    Amazon
    Now 20% off

    • Attractive design
    • Thick cushion

    • Plastic construction feels flimsy

    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.

    Best Affordable Herman Miller Office Chair
    Herman Miller Sayl Chair
    Herman Miller

    • Y-frame provides excellent support
    • Easy to adjust

    • Design of the chair might not suit everyone

    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 $695 price tag is practically a steal.

    Best Low-Profile Office Chair
    Blu Dot Daily Task Chair
    Blu Dot

    • Beautiful design
    • Adjustable tilt tension

    • Tall people might not like the low-profile back
    • Fixed armrests

    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.

    Best Breathable Office Chair
    Knoll ReGeneration
    2Modern

    • Back moves with the sitter
    • Breathable yet supportive
    • Backed by a 12-year warranty

    • Lacks cushioning

    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 $713 base price tag, it's hard to find better value.

    Best Office Chair for Small Spaces
    Humanscale Diffrient World Chair
    Wayfair

    • Adjustability allows for configurations to sit in compact spaces
    • Body acts as its own counterbalance

    • Lacks lumbar support
    • Arm rests feel flimsy

    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.

    Best Office Chair for Improved Posture
    All33 BackStrong C1
    All33

    • The chair actually forces you to sit properly
    • Built well
    • Cushiony

    • Can start to sink
    • Arm rests are awkwardly designed

    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.

    Best Self-Adjusting Office Chair
    Humanscale Freedom
    Amazon

    • Doesn't require the sitter to guess what the optimal adjustments should be
    • The self-adjusting office chair that started it all

    • Ridiculously expensive

    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.

    Best Office Chair for Weightlessness
    Herman Miller Cosm Chair
    Herman Miller

    • A well-designed chair that reacts to the sitter
    • Fixed a problem that most other brands couldn't

    • Not built for all people; tailored to folks who aren't very small or very large

    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 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.

    Best Classic Office Chair
    Herman Miller Aeron
    Herman Miller

    • Customizable to the nth degree
    • The office chair every office chair wishes it could be

    • Equally good chairs exist for much cheaper

    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.

    Best Grail Office Chair
    Herman Miller Embody
    Herman Miller

    • Arguably the best chair for proper body alignment
    • Designed by physicians and doctors to be good for your health

    • It's almost $2,000
    • Design might not suit everyone

    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.

    The 11 Best Standing Desks for the Home or Office
    standing desks
    Courtesy

    Each has been selected for its design, ergonomics and ability to toggle between sitting and standing positions.

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