The 15 Best Ergonomic Office Chairs

May 19, 2020

Category: Living

Whether you work from home, in a high-rise, or at a small neighborhood business, there are a few pieces of essential office gear you’re definitely going to need to get all your work done well and in a timely fashion. The kinds of things that probably come to the front of your mind include tech-focused items like computers and headphones, organizational gear like filing cabinets or notepads and pens, etc. But there’s one piece of gear you likely don’t always consider, but you probably use more than all the others.

We’re talking, of course, about your office chair. Chairs are a constant for modern folks. We sit in them as we’re growing up and going to school. We sit on them when we’re at home enjoying a meal or watching our favorite shows. And, as adults, we sit in them all day long while we work. That makes them pretty crucial. What’s even more crucial it just how much they can impact your personal health and comfort. Since, culturally, we spend so much time seated, it’s of tremendous importance to have a chair that’s comfortable to sit in for long stretches — as anyone who has taken a cross-country or international flight can certainly tell you. It’s with this in mind that we’ve gathered together the 15 best ergonomic office chairs. Because, if you’re going to be sitting on your behind all day, you should be very selective of the apparatus in which you are seated.

Why Are Ergonomics Important?

A Spinal Solution

The human body is a fascinating thing. And while science is still trying to unlock some of its most mysterious secrets, modern man has learned quite a bit of useful information regarding our bodies’ capabilities, drawbacks, and everything in-between. For instance (and as any gym rat can probably tell you), our body — specifically our muscles — have the ability to tear, sometimes violently, and then repair themselves. In fact, when it comes to building more muscle and, therefore, more strength, the tearing is an absolute necessity.

Unfortunately, not all of our body is built with this same elasticity and ability to bounce back. There are some bits that, when injured or broken, never quite go back to being as strong and resilient as they once were. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in our skeletal system. Comprised of a complex combination of biological elements — such as collagen, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bone marrow, etc. — the human skeleton is a marvelous system that functions much in the same way a frame of a car or edifice does. Namely, it’s the rigid core of the human body and gives us our general shape and features, as well as allows for the functionality of our moving parts (e.g. muscles).

It’s this rigidity and subsequent resistance to change that, while crucial to our skeletal systems’ function, also causes it to have a number of problems — especially where posture and repetitive motions issues are concerned. You see, while muscles can sometimes regenerate to the point of being even stronger than before, our bones, the cushiony cartilage between, and the ligaments and tendons that hold them together have a much harder time regenerating. This is exacerbated with repetition, as can be seen in people with carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, tendinitis, etc.

One of the most vulnerable parts of our skeleton is also at its core. We mean, of course, the spine. This is largely due to a number of factors including the high number of bones (and therefore cartilage, tendons, and ligaments), its overall flexibility, and the impact of the Earth’s gravity. You see, when you sit in a chair that isn’t ergonomic, your spine may compress and bend in a way that’s not natural. As time passes and this pressure — namely bending and squishing — continues, it can actually reshape your spine. This can result in (at best) mild discomfort and (at worst) permanent irreversible damage.

Ergonomics — AKA “the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment” and its implementation — exists specifically to curb these negative effects of bad posture and repetitive motion. Furthermore, all of the companies on this list have taken sometimes drastic steps to ensure that the design of their chairs is such that it adheres to the most up-to-date understanding of ergonomics. Simply put, ergonomics and ergonomic office gear is consciously made to help keep you healthier and, therefore, happier in your work life — especially in pursuit of the long haul.

Photo: Herman Miller Sayl

Chairs

All-Day Seating

For most folks, especially those who work at a computer or at a desk, a single, comfortable office chair is almost as much of a necessity as your workstation itself. This is especially true for those who spend the majority of their 9-5 sitting in one spot. In these cases, a chair is more than just a chair; it’s the centerpiece of your office space (since it’s the piece of furniture that holds you) and it can absolutely make or break your spinal and muscular health. Of course, everyone has different requirements and budgets, so we’ve collected ten of the best ergonomic office chairs for a wide range of style preferences and budgets. Everyone with a desk job should find a suitable offering here.

Herman Miller Sayl Chair

Herman Miller is one of the most significant brand names, not just in the ergonomic office chair industry, but across the furniture industry as a whole. And this is for a number of reasons, including the fact that they’ve dedicated their business to crafting gorgeous, purpose-driven furniture and often work directly with some of the top designers in the world to make it happen. For instance, the Sayl Chair you see before you was designed by none other than renowned architect Yves Béhar, who drew inspiration from the Golden Gate Bridge and utilizes the same engineering concepts for its lattice design.

Of course, it’s not just good looks; this budget-friendly Herman Miller throne is also 90% recyclable and its unframed, intelligent 3D back was made to offer support where you need it most and flexibility elsewhere — ensuring that, no matter your position, you’re as comfortable and strain-free as possible. The Sayl Chair also proves Herman Miller’s dedication to innovation across the entirety of their catalog, as this tremendously-designed seat is on the lower end of their budgetary spectrum.

Purchase: $545

Allsteel Relate Office Chair

Of all the chairs on our list, this one might look the most basic — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t deserving of a spot, as its relatively-plain appearance betrays nothing of its extensive ergonomic features. For starters, the Allsteel Relate Office Chair features 5-position recline settings alongside a proprietary Quick Tension Adjustment system that allows users to switch positions on-the-fly — which promotes better circulation through movement and changing positions. That pairs with an upholstered seat designed for comfort and its “waterfall edge,” which helps relieve tension on the backs of your legs and also promotes better circulation.

Furthermore, the mesh back actually serves multiple purposes. That includes increasing the breathability for all-day comfort in any climate, as well as Body Adaptive Control — a system that lets the chair pivot with your body while still providing the support you need. Pair that with adjustable armrests made from low-density foam, a hand-crafted construction, and (probably most importantly) a lifetime warranty, and it’s easy to see why this ugly duckling is actually a beautiful swan in disguise.

Purchase: $567

Haworth Zody Office Chair

The Haworth Zody Office Chair is actually one of the older options on our list. While, most of the time, age does not bode well for ever-changing industries — like those involved in crafting ergonomic office gear — the opposite appears to be the case for this offering. To this day, this seating solution remains one of the most beloved and trusted around the world. In fact, over the course of its production, it has won numerous design awards, including a highly-coveted Ergonomic Excellence Award, a Good Design Award, Gold Product Award at NeoCon Canada, and more.

If the accolades aren’t enough to suck you in, perhaps the features will. This chair boasts a fabric cushion, a high mesh back with a built-in and patented asymmetrical lumbar support system, four-dimensional adjustable armrests, and more. It also comes fully assembled — so you don’t have to fiddle with a screwdriver or a frustrating Allen wrench — and it was built with 41% recycled materials and is 91% recyclable (which is a nice added sustainable bonus). It might not look super fancy, but it has it where it counts.

Purchase: $699

Knoll Remix High Back Chair

Often, brands will come to realize that a number of their products all have one or two noteworthy elements that could, potentially, be combined into something greater altogether. That was exactly the case with the Knoll Remix High Back Chair. This office seat is actually a combination of various pre-existing design elements Knoll has developed over the years. And, as you can tell, the result of mashing them into a single, superb package is pretty fantastic.

Along with numerous customization options — like 14 different fabric colors (or Volo leather), hard or soft casters, a plastic or aluminum base, etc. — each one of these chairs also boasts innovative Flex Net Matrix technology, meaning the chair is specially molded for flexibility and durability but also has added support in the lumbar and shoulder region (that latter bit is surprisingly uncommon and can be a boon for taller users). The Tandem Back was also constructed from “intelligent layers of contrasting materials,” which are, together, meant to create an active and adaptive support system. As you can clearly see, this fairly innocuous-looking and seemingly-minimalist chair is actually hiding quite a few tricks up its proverbial sleeve.

Purchase: $823

Steelcase Gesture Task Chair

If a piece of furniture is meant to be used by humans, it should probably take at least a bit of inspiration from the human body — or at least that’s the thought behind Steelcase’s Gesture Task Chair. Of course, it wasn’t simply modeled on the human skeletal system. Rather, it was designed around how the modern person works — meaning it was made for long stretches of sitting and was engineered to suit. That includes things like a back and seat that were designed in tandem to move together and provide support no matter your body’s position.

That attention to ergonomics extends beyond just the back and seat, as well. The arms, for example, are also equipped to move with your body — meaning they can shift to offer support across a wide range of motion. Furthermore, all the moving parts and supportive bits are quickly adjustable to support varying body types and, more importantly, sitting preferences. That way, you can still enjoy the chair’s support as you adjust your position over the course of the day. And therein lies the essence of ergonomics.

Purchase: $947

Herman Miller Aeron Chair

Designed by Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf, the Herman Miller Aeron Chair is actually over 20 years old at this juncture. Yet it is still one of the best ergonomic office chairs in the world — which should give you an idea of just how well-designed and -constructed it actually is. In case that’s not enough, you might also be interested to know that over 7 million of these chairs (and counting) have been sold over the course of their production life. And that makes the Aeron one of Herman Miller’s most important designs ever.

Made in Michigan at the brand’s 100% green-energy facility, this seating solution boasts a wide variety of features that it helped to make standard in the ergonomic office chairs industry — like a breathable mesh back, an 8-zone support system, an adjustable seat angle, superior back support from the lumbar up to the shoulders, and fully-adjustable arms. If you’re looking for the best all-around ergonomic office chair, this one might be in the running for the throne.

Purchase: $995

Humanscale Freedom Headrest Executive Chair

When the New York Times calls a chair “the gold standard in office seating,” people should probably take notice. And that’s exactly the case with the Humanscale Freedom Headrest Executive Chair you see here. Somewhat unassuming in its appearance, this seating solution was designed by Niels Diffrient with the specific aim of “automatically [adapting] to the user, allowing them to move freely from posture to posture.” More than that, it was made to simplify many of the cumbersome aspects of other ergonomic office furniture.

For instance, Humanscale has done away with adjustable levers and dials in favor of a streamlined recline mechanism made to adjust automatically to suit the user. Furthermore, even when reclining or twisting, the back still provides ample support and the cushions are made to adhere to the contours of the human body — allowing for greater comfort across even a full day of sitting at your desk. Best of all, it was crafted with longevity in mind — made to feel like it is brand-new every time you sit in it, even after years and years of constant use.

Purchase: $1,169+

Herman Miller Cosm High Back Chair

Another absolutely exceptional offering, and the newest in Herman Miller’s lineup as far as our list is concerned, the Cosm has already garnered a wide spectrum of accolades for its appearance and functionality. In fact, this particular seating solution was named one of the 100 Best Inventions by Time Magazine in 2019 — a compliment and distinction not given lightly. And while a part of that is likely due to Herman Miller’s sustainable construction practices, it’s also largely the result of its exceptional suite of features.

That includes a tilt mechanism called Auto-Harmonic that automatically adjusts to the person sitting in it, a flexible frame, a high-back with a cooling mesh to keep you cool and comfortable over extended periods of sitting, three available armrest options that can be customized to your own needs and tastes, and a wide variety of customizing options. If you’re going to be sharing your chair with others, this auto-adjusting option might be the best around.

Purchase: $1,745

Steelcase Leap WorkLounge

One of the highest-end options Steelcase offers, the Leap WorkLounge has a pretty high entry price. Thankfully, it has a suite of features that make its comparably high price absolutely worth every penny — especially if customization is in your realm of interest. Unlike a lot of other office chairs, the Leap WorkLounge wasn’t designed for static seating. Rather, it was crafted with the express intention of adjusting as the user changes postures. That means it can give you the support you need whether you’re sitting up straight and rigid, reclining backward, or even leaning to one side or another.

That’s made possible by the integrated LiveBack — a technology that lets the back change shape to adjust to your spine as you move. Following that, it also comes with a Natural Glide System that ensures you can recline and keep right on working without straining your eyes, neck, or arms. Finally, the whole thing boasts plush upholstery and has been tested to comfortably contain up to 300lbs without any loss of performance.

Purchase: $2,212+

Humanscale Summa Executive Chair

While most of these office chairs are superb in their ergonomics and most look quite beautiful, there’s no denying the allure of Humanscale’s Summa Executive Chair. Interestingly, though this chair was clearly made to look great in any setting (especially when combined with its customization options), it still offers plenty of ergonomic support. That means you could put it in your corner office and be proud of it without sacrificing the health of your spine and your greater skeletal system.

Along with its comprehensive customization options, the Summa is built with chrome-free leather (a more sustainable alternative), gorgeous wood backs and arm supports, and a five-caster base for mobility throughout the day. Furthermore, its exceptional exterior hides within it a weight-compensating recline mechanism and integrated armrests to ensure that you stay supported and comfortable through those long, drawn-out meetings. For premium, executive-level seating, you’ll likely not find better.

Purchase: $4,300+

Photo: Humanscale Ballo Stool

Stools

Small & Adaptable

While there’s a large percentage of people in the modern world who sit at a single spot, usually a desk, for most of their 8-hour day, that’s not the case for everyone. If you happen to be in the business of design (graphic or otherwise), art, crafting, architecture, drafting, etc, then a standard office chair — even the most ergonomic of options — might not be the right choice for you. Rather, you may do better with something that’s backless, versatile, adaptable, and small. You might need a stool. Thankfully, there are numerous options out there if that’s the case. For your browsing pleasure, we’ve rounded up five of our favorites in the following section.

Humanscale Ballo Stool

If you’re not using a stool as your primary seating, you might find the Humanscale Ballo Stool to be both a great short-term throne and something that adds just a touch of fun to your office at home or otherwise. And while it will give you the same kind of tertiary core workout as an exercise ball, it’s far less unsightly and was actually made for an indoor setting. It’s also inflatable — so you can adjust the support as needed — and it comes in a variety of colors to match (or stand out from) your surroundings.

Purchase: $299

AERIS Muvman Sit-Stand Stool

If you’re using a stool in your workspace, it’s important to recognize that — for the sake of your spine — it’s important to sit in an active position, thus helping to avoid spine compression where possible. And few stools are as good at helping avoid that as the AERIS Muvman Sit-Stand Stool. With its forward tilt and adjustable 20-33” seat height, this stool requires the user to take an active posture. Furthermore, its intuitive and clever design has resulted in numerous awards, including a Red Dot Design Award in 2011.

Purchase: $449

Fully Capisco Chair by HÅG

If you take a gander at the Capisco Chair, you might notice that it looks unlike all the other chairs and stools on our list. And that’s because it was designed for dual seating postures. First, the seat and back can function as a normal chair, offering support for your underside and spine throughout all-day usage. However, flip the chair around and you’ll find that you can sit in it in a reverse posture, allowing you to lean forward over your workspace for added frontal support — allowing you to focus on your work without exhausting your back. That might make this the ideal seating solution for people that trade in art, architecture, drafting, etc.

Purchase: $799+

Herman Miller Setu Stool

Finely tuned and designed to both look beautiful and function perfectly, this elastomeric one-piece seat is made to adapt to your bones as you sit in it. It’s also equipped with a mesh to increase support while keeping you cool. And it can keep your spine supported regardless of your seating position without necessitating any adjustments. Furthermore, the Herman Miller Setu was made specifically to fit into tight spaces like studios, meeting rooms, and co-working spaces without sacrificing any performance.

Purchase: $995+

Herman Miller Mirra 2 Stool

Even amongst the best products in the world, there are still people who are detractors and/or nay-sayers. So when a product garners a 5-star rating from actual users, it tends to be kind of a big deal. That’s exactly the case with the Herman Miller Mirra 2 Stool you see here. Complete with a Harmonic 2 tilt with a leaf-spring design, this exceptional work stool was finely crafted to offer dynamic ergonomic support automatically and instantaneously, even with the slightest shift. Not to mention it has a mesh back for all-day comfort, passive PostureFit sacral support for spinal health, and there is a wide variety of customization options.

Purchase: $1,290

The 16 Best Ergonomic Office Essentials

Getting the right seat is only step one toward better health and safety while you work. Find the rest on our list of the best ergonomic office gear.

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