- Steelcase/Business Insider
- If you spend the majority of your day parked in your office chair, you owe it to your body to choose a chair that gets an A+ for ergonomics.
- Our top pick for the comfiest office chair is the Steelcase Leap, but we also like ones from Knoll, Herman Miller, and SPACE Seating Professional AirGrid.
- See more: The best standing desks you can buy for your home or office
If you are like the majority of office workers, you spend as much time in your desk chair as you do in your bed. Those sedentary hours wreak havoc on your body if you sit in a chair that isn’t designed for proper ergonomics – a word that comes from the Greek “ergon,” meaning work, and “nomoi,” which means natural law.
With so many people spending their workday sitting in front of a computer – a position that is not natural for the body to hold for long periods of time – cumulative stress contributes to problems like bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, osteoarthritis, back and neck pain, headache, poor posture, and eye strain, including blurriness, eye pain, dry eyes, and reduced focusing ability.
Because most of these problems come on slowly, it’s often difficult to recognize them until the pain becomes severe enough to limit function. Ergonomically designed workstations and chairs help to prevent damage before it begins, leading to a more comfortable and healthy workplace.
Whether you work from the corner office of a large corporation, a small cubicle, a home office, or even at your kitchen table, we want you feeling good and remain healthy for a lifetime. That’s why we did the research to bring you five hard-working office chairs that raise sitting to an art form. We’ve also included some tips on how to set up an ergonomic workstation and how best to sit in your new office chair.
Here are the best office chairs you can buy:
- Best office chair overall: Steelcase Leap
- Best chair for your home office: Knoll ReGeneration
- Best classic office chair: Herman Miller Aeron
- Best mid-priced office chair: Herman Miller Sayl
- Best budget office chair: SPACE Seating Professional AirGrid
- See more: The best standing desks you can buy for your home or office
Updated 10/25/19 by Jada Wong: Updated prices, formatting, and links.
The best office chair overall
Spend just one work day in the Steelcase Leap, and you’ll know why it’s one of the most popular office chairs in the world.
Although it’s nothing fancy to look at, the beauty of the Steelcase Leap lies in its design, which is the end result of four years of research into the perfect back support for the human spine. Called the LiveBack system, the seat and backrest of the chair adjust independently and mimic the shape of your spine for all-day ergonomic sitting comfort. You can also adjust the armrests and the height of the chair to your specifications. The chair glides easily over hard or carpeted flooring and reclines comfortably so you can vary your position throughout the day.
Just about every list of the best office chairs includes the Steelcase Leap, including our own earlier buying guide. The Wirecutter recently replaced the Steelcase Leap with the newer Steelcase Gesture as its top pick, due to its slightly increased level of adjustability, but the expert reviewers still highly recommend the Leap.
Gear Patrol chose the Steelcase Leap as “The Best Office Chair for Commercial Use,” praising its excellent design, and adding, “It’s 98-percent recyclable and blanket-wrapped for domestic delivery (instead of boxed) to reduce shipping costs.”
Pros: Ergonomic design and excellent construction, plus 12-year warranty
Cons: Expensive, the seat and back can be hot
The best chair for your home office
Not only does the Knoll ReGeneration support your body in just about any sitting position, it looks good, too.
The Knoll ReGeneration is an attractive, streamlined desk chair that curves and flexes just like your spine to improve your sitting posture, provide blessed relief to your lower back, and help make those 8-hour days feel just a little better.
The Knoll ReGeneration is an update of the classic Knoll Generation, and provides support through 270-degrees of rotation, meaning you can twist nearly all the way around in the chair and still have good back support (not that we recommend you do that). The flex seat and flex back net adjust in nearly limitless ways, so you can get the exact support you need, whether you’re sitting up straight at your computer, or reclining a bit to think.
Wired devoted an entire review to this chair, and the reviewer loved it, stating, “This is a chair any connoisseur could appreciate.” Wired also liked the eco-friendliness of the chair – which is partially made from recycled materials – along with the supreme adjustability, even in twisted positions.
Digital Trends also likes the Knoll ReGeneration in its review, saying it’s flexible and sturdy enough to give you the support you need. The reviewer also liked that Knoll uses soy- and corn-based materials to produce the chair. The only downside is the high price tag.
Pros: Supreme ergonomic design, streamlined good looks, superior adjustability in almost any position
Cons: Might be a little hot if you sweat easily, expensive
The best classic office chair
- Herman Miller
There’s more to the Herman Miller Aeron than good looks – it’s one of the most ergonomic office chairs out there.
You’d be hard pressed to find a review of the best desk chairs that didn’t include the Herman Miller Aeron. The chair is so iconic, it’s in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Originally released in 1994, this sleekly designed ergonomic masterpiece has no straight lines, no foam, no padding, and no leather. Instead, it’s mostly mesh, woven to provide intuitive support just where you need it. Made in large part from recycled materials, and 94% recyclable itself, the Aeron is eco-friendly as well as body-friendly.
The Wirecutter recommends this chair for anyone who finds foam padding too hot. When Lifehacker asked its readers to vote for the best office chair, more than 40 percent of the nearly 5,000 votes went to the Aeron, which Lifehacker describes as, “Probably one of the most famous office chairs in the world, the Aeron chair set a new standard for ergonomics and comfort when it was released.”
The Aeron has all sorts of ergonomic features: Kinemat tilt, which lets your body flex naturally; Pellicle suspension to dissipate body heat; a PostureFit mechanism to properly align your pelvis and spine; and a contoured back to reduce pressure on your spine.
One complaint that does occasionally crop up, however, is that the Aeron has a plastic “lip” around the seat of the chair that can make fidgeting or shifting sideways uncomfortable. The other obvious downside to this chair is its high price tag.
Pros: Classic ergonomic design, very breathable, intuitively and individually adjustable
Cons: Expensive, and the plastic lip around the seat can bother some sitters
The best mid-priced office chair
- Herman Miller
The design looks futuristic, but your back will feel great today with the superior ergonomic design of the Herman Miller Sayl chair.
If the Herman Miller Sayl chair has a familiar look that reminds you of the future, it’s probably because these were the chairs in the control room used by the Gamemakers to manipulate the arena in the Hunger Games movies. Those Gamemakers must have been pleased, because the Sayl is comfortable and supportive in just about any position.
Inspired by the suspension design of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Sayl has an open, urethane mesh construction that not only breathes, it flexes and supports your spine intuitively as you shift positions. The Y-shaped support keeps the mesh in position, while adding to the stability of the chair.
We really like this chair, and you’ll find a full report on its design here. But we certainly aren’t the only ones. Digital Trends likes Herman Miller’s attempt at a stylish budget office chair that works in any office.
Designed to be affordable, yet still highly ergonomic, the Sayl is available with or without adjustable arms and seat. It comes in a lot of different colors, as well.
Pros: Unique appearance, excellent ergonomic support, breathable, and reasonable price for a Herman Miller chair
Cons: Not as adjustable as many other office chairs. Price is still a budget-stretcher for many buyers.
The best budget office chair
- Office Star
You don’t have to shell out the big bucks for a supportive and comfortable office chair, and the SPACE Seating Professional AirGrid is proof of that.
If your budget is tight – and let’s face it, that’s true for many people, especially those of us responsible for purchasing our own office chairs – you might think you’re destined to ruin your back sitting on a hard, uncomfortable chair. But ergonomic relief is within your grasp. The SPACE Seating Professional AirGrid will set you back less than $200, and while it can’t compete with offerings from Herman Miller or Steelcase, it’s still a perfectly adequate, supportive, and comfortable desk chair for most users.
Digital Trends recommends this chair for those on a budget and mentions that the mesh is breathable, the lumbar support is good, and the adjustable arms make it comfortable for just about everyone.
This is a very popular chair on Amazon, as well, with more than 1,300 reviews and an average of 4 stars. Buyers praise its comfort, and those who don’t love the chair mainly complain that it did not hold up long-term, or that the arms were rickety. Still, given that it costs less than $200, this chair is a steal.
Says one buyer who understands the tradeoffs involved in shopping on a budget, “To be clear, this chair is not as secure and plushly-comfortable as, say, a top of the line Herman Miller. For those who like something softer or with more ‘sink,’ this may not be the chair for you, as there isn’t an incredible level of padding and the seat definitely stays on the firmer side. But as someone who spends anywhere from 6-8 hours a day sitting in the chair, I find it perfectly comfortable, especially at 1/5th to 1/10th of the price of the other high end models I was considering.”
The SPACE Seating Professional AirGrid chair adjusts for height, has tilt-control, and adjustable arms.
Pros: Great price, comfortable and reasonably ergonomic, breathable back
Cons: Some complaints of squeakiness, rickety arm rests, and lack of durability
What does an ergonomic workstation look like?
- Omar Havana / Stringer / Getty Images
Your desk, chair, and computer should work together to create a workstation that is comfortable, lets you move freely, keeps you productive, and doesn’t strain or tire your body.
Your desk should be at the height that keeps your arms at a 90-degree angle while typing.
There should be plenty of knee room under the desk, and space to change your leg position periodically.
If using a footrest, the desk should still permit room for moving your legs.
Your desk needs to be big enough to fit your computer, papers, books, and other work essentials. You should never need to prop items on a chair, or twist your neck to view materials.
Use a document holder if you are taking notes from a book or papers. This avoids eyestrain and neck pain.
Position your monitor so the top of the screen is at eye level, or just slightly lower. You should not have to curve your neck up or down to look at your computer.
Laptops are not suited for long hours of work, as the screen is too low for comfort. If you primarily work on a laptop, use a riser to position the screen at eye level, with a separate keyboard and mouse for typing.
Your monitor should be between 18 and 24 inches away from your eyes.
There should be no glare or flickering lights reflecting off your monitor.
What is the best way to sit?
Sitting for hour after hour is very stressful for your body, leading to back pain, headache, posture problems, and even conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. You should get up and stretch or walk around your office periodically throughout the day, and shift your position frequently.
A good office chair makes a big difference in your comfort and health and is one of the best investments you can make to improve the way you feel at the end of the day.
- The height should be adjustable so that your feet are flat on the floor or on a footrest and your thighs are horizontal.
- The seat needs to be wide enough for comfort and deep enough so you can sit with your back against the chair’s backrest without pressure against your knees. You can add a lumbar support cushion to your chair if it doesn’t have enough support on its own.
- Avoid painful pressure and risk of blood clots with a chair that has a padded, gently sloping front edge of the seat.
- A swivel chair lets you move freely to pick up items or reach across your desk without straining your back.
- The back of the chair should provide firm support, keeping a 90-degree angle between your spine and thighs.
- If you have armrests, they should keep a 90-degree angle in your elbows while resting. Don’t keep your arms on an armrest while typing.
- The chair should be padded enough for comfort, but also breathable enough to keep you from sweating.