For someone who sits most of the work day, I've never given much thought to office chairs. In frontI started in March and spent most of my work in the CNET Smart Home, a house where we test , and . I submitted stories of upright dining room chairs, upholstered couches, and numbing patio furniture.
I've mostly stuck to my smart home method in the more than four months I've been working from home. Some days I write from a sofa; Other days I sit in a rocking chair on the porch. No two days are the same and I am slowly realizing that it is terrible for my back and my posture. My husband also worked from home, at a desk that we rarely used before the pandemic. As it turns out, the no-seat cushion and no-back office chair that we use for this desk doesn't work very well for him either.
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It was time to change something. So I tested nine office chairs, priced between $ 32 and $ 1,515, and knew that when we finished, we'd buy a few of the favorites for our own home.
I also spoke to an ergonomics expert for general tips on improving work attitudes, be it at home or in a more traditional office setting. Factors such as seat height, backrest, adjustable arms, adjustable lumbar support, inclination tension and seat depth help you to get the most out of your desk chair.
For the purposes of this list, I've only tested traditional office chairs. So if you are looking for something like a play or drawing chair, or something else like a knee chair, this may not be the place for you.
Note: Product prices tend to vary on third party websites. As such, the prices I quoted at the time of writing may change slightly over time. I will do my best to update the list frequently to reflect the most accurate prices at the time of publication.
I also plan to give the Steelcase Gesture Chair a try at some point to add to this list, but shipping was delayed. So check again for updates for this high-end model.
A great chair alone is not enough
Ergonomics is the "science of work," explains Gary Allread, program director, Ergonomics at Ohio State University's Spine Research Institute. However, this definition doesn't just apply to our jobs. Ergonomic principles can be used for pretty much any activity (that is, an ergonomic chair won't relieve your lower back pain immediately). Allread and his team provide advisory services for a variety of jobs, from manufacturing facilities to the auto industry and more. They even occasionally provide product design information to help companies better understand how products are created "to make sure they can interact with people as best they can," says Allread.
A less than ideal work structure can cause pain in your back, arms, hands or wrists. You could also fidget, make more mistakes, or take more breaks – all because you are uncomfortable – Allread says. In the long term, tendinitis or carpal tunnel syndromes can occur.
Allread makes two main suggestions that anyone can try to improve the way they work:
- Sit with your back against your chair. ("You want the chair to do the job, not your back," he explains.)
- Support your feet. Either place your feet on the floor or use a box or other footrest to support your feet when they don't reach out.
If your chair doesn't have lumbar support, you can roll up a towel, secure it with tape or elastic bands, and place it on your lower back to "keep your back in its natural curve". Allread also notes that companies are starting to introduce different chair sizes that support a wider range of body sizes. This is an important consideration when purchasing a new chair.
"One mistake people make is saying, 'Well, if I get a great chair, I won't be sore,' and that's not really the big picture of what's needed to keep people comfortable and productive at work, "explains Allread. There are many factors, and a new chair is just one of many things that can make your work environment more comfortable.
So let's keep that in mind when weighing our options for the best office chair. I have a handful of good options here, including a leather armchair, mesh office chair, and more, and I'll update the list regularly.
The best office chairs
Megan Wollerton / CNET
The Hbada Office Task Desk Chair wins as my favorite office chair in the group. It has a streamlined design that doesn't take up too much space. It also has good lumbar support and a supportive, breathable backrest. At $ 130, it's pretty affordable too.
After trying all of the models, this is the chair I most often reached for. While it lacks the padded comfort of my second favorite chair (scroll down to see the runner-up), it's the well-rounded model I tested that ticks almost every box.
- Price (Amazon): $ 130
- Finish: Black padding and mesh
- Weight Limit: 250 pounds
Megan Wollerton / CNET
It's not the most stylish chair out there, but what the Serta Arlington lacks in style is more than made up for in comfort and adaptability. Serta is a mattress maker, and that goes with the extremely comfortable Arlington chair. It's by far the most upholstered model I've tried, with soft layers of padding on the headrest, backrest, and seat.
Despite its comfort, it also offers good support thanks to an adjustable lumbar lever under the seat.
Currently, Office Depot is priced at $ 220, compared to the list price of $ 300. If you are looking for a comfortable office chair with adjustable lumbar support, this is a great option.
- Price (Office Depot): $ 220
- Finish: black leather
- Weight Limit: 275 pounds
Megan Wollerton / CNET
I instantly liked the leather-padded swivel office chair from AmazonBasics. It was easy to assemble, the leather design looks nice, and the seat and back are padded and comfortable. At around $ 92, this AmazonBasics chair isn't cheap, but it's a great option that is relatively affordable without sacrificing much, with one exception – lumbar support.
If lumbar support is a must have for you, consider one of my other favorites.
Overall, the leather upholstered AmazonBasics swivel chair is a comfortable chair at a reasonable price that is easy to assemble and easy on the eyes.
- Price (Amazon): $ 93
- Finish: black leather
- Weight capacity: 275 pounds
Megan Wollerton / CNET
OK I know. This chair is very expensive, but it also has a lot going for it – great design, lots of adjustability, lumbar support and, bonus, it comes in three sizes. I have a size B which fits my and my husband's size and weight ranges.
The only problem is the award which is why it didn't win for the best chair overall. Almost $ 1,400 for a single chair, even one you use for hours every day, is not a reasonable price for most people, including us. I will be sad to see this one go.
- Price (Amazon): $ 1,395
- Finish: Multiple color options, mesh
- Weight Capacity: Varies depending on chair size
Test office chairs
Here is a full list of the office chairs I tested:
How did I choose my favorites? First, I assembled each chair and found all of the issues with the process except for the Herman Miller Aeron Chair, as it arrived fully assembled (bonus points there). Then I would spend a work day, or about eight hours, sitting in each chair and writing down the comfort, adjustability, and any issues I had. I also asked my husband to try each chair. For reference, I'm 5 feet 7 inches, he's 6 feet 2, and we're both average weights.
Of course, what might work for me or for him might not work for you, but I took into account all of the tips that Gary Allread of the Spine Research Institute had mentioned when I sat and asked Kevin to do the same:
- Was the chair designed so that I could comfortably rest on the back of the chair?
- Did my feet hit the floor with my back against the back of the chair?
- Did I fidget or stand up a lot?
- Did I experience pain or discomfort while using a particular chair?
I immediately had to take the Hodedah Armless Task Chair off my feet after noticing a label inside the box that said "NOT FOR ADULT USE". Apparently, this chair, which regularly appears on adult office chair lists, has a 100 pound weight limit. I wasn't alone either – a number of customers have posted reviews online expressing frustration that this chair (which appears to be marketed to adults on the Home Depot website, if not Amazon) while usage has broken. If you are an adult under 100 pounds this chair could potentially work for you but its limited features, including no armrests, still completely precluded it for me.
So we only had eight chairs left. Although we looked pretty nice and upholstered, we both found the Executive Office Chair from the OFM Essentials Collection a bit stiff and uncomfortable. The lumbar support is also missing. The HON Exposure Mesh Task Computer Chair also lacks the lumbar support and it leans back too far for both of us, making it uncomfortable to sit with your back against the backrest, as Allread suggests. The ergonomic desk chair with medium backrest from BestOffice also leans back too far, although it had a little more lumbar support than the HON Exposure chair.
Most of the Humanscale Freedom Chair arrived; I just had to connect the top half and the wheelbase. Despite the ease of assembly, I tried hard to customize this chair without consulting the instructions. Even after I found out, my husband and I found the backrest and headrest oddly proportioned and extremely uncomfortable on our backs and necks.
The other four chairs that I put on the best list above kept us comfortable all day and offer some level of adjustability that sets them apart from the crowd.