Buy Side | How to Shop for an Ergonomic Office Chair, According to Back Experts (2022)

Early in the pandemic, interior designer Nicole Fisher and her husband were in the same mode as many of us: working from home perched awkwardly on dining room chairs. Six months in, their lower backs screamed, “Enough!”

So Fisher’s husband suggested they buy ergonomic desk chairs for their Hudson, N.Y., home. At first, Fisher resisted. “They’re aesthetically not my favorite,” she admits, but she was in so much discomfort, she agreed. And then she saw the light. Or rather, she felt the light, in the form of no more lower back pain. “It has been the greatest decision,” the designer says of her Herman Miller ergonomic chair.

Call it a vibe shift in how we sit. It’s part of a whole “well home” movement, says San Diego-based designer Jamie Gold, author of “Wellness by Design: A Room-to-Room Guide for Optimizing Your Home for Health, Fitness, and Happiness.” “Before the pandemic, people said, ‘What is wellness design and why should I care about it?’ Now it’s, ‘My house is just not working for me!’”

As many of us continue to work at least partly from home, as The Wall Street Journal newsroom reports, we’re in need of a more supportive seat. Pain is a driving force, no doubt: One 2021 study found 46% of people had more upper back pain working from home during the pandemic than they did pre-Covid logging their hours from their offices.

In fact, sitting in the wrong chair for eight (or, let’s be real, 10) hours a day can cause “a cascade of problems for your back,” says Rahul Shah, M.D., a spine and neck surgeon in Vineland, N.J. Subpar chairs not only put extra pressure on our vertebrae and discs, he says, but they can also cause us to slump, throwing our spine out of the ideal neutral spine position, where your back isn’t hunched forward or back and maintains its ideal S shape.

So we all know slumping is bad, but what kind of posture is good? “The fundamental rule is your head should be over your pelvis,” says Dr. Shah. If it’s not, your muscles have to work overtime to get your head back in line.

This is where ergonomic home office chairs can be game-changers, according to Carisa Harris Adamson, Ph.D., director of the Ergonomics Graduate Training Program at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health. “Research shows features like the forearm support or a seat tilt can be instrumental in reducing low back pain,” she says.

One thing the best ergonomic chairs do is adapt to your body. You’ll know you found a winner if you can sit upright against the back with your pelvis, hips and knees flexed at a 90-degree angle and your feet flat on the ground so you have a solid base, Dr. Shah explains. He’s not a fan of kneeling chairs because they don’t have back support, throw your pelvis too far forward, and over time put pressure on your knees and shins.

Beyond doing a posture check, what else do you need to keep in mind? Consider these expert guidelines before you click “add to cart”:

Look for an adjustable seat height

Most, including popular picks like Branch Ergonomic Chair, let you adjust from around 17 inches to 21 inches (and some, like the Herman Miller Aeron and Humanscale Diffrient World, adjust even more). This ensures your feet sit flat on the floor. “If your feet are dangling or out in front of you, it’s a lot harder for your back muscles to keep you upright,” Harris Adamson says.

Check the seat depth too

Some models like Via Seating’s Onda Chair and the Branch Ergonomic Chair offer adjustable depths, which is helpful if you’re on the petite or tall side. To test if a chair is the right depth for you, sit against the backrest and see if you can fit two or three fingers between the front of the seat and back of your knee. If so, it’s a perfect fit. No room for two fingers? That means the chair is too deep and can compress your veins and reduce circulation to your lower legs—or cause you to scoot forward and not get back support, Harris Adamson explains. If the seat’s too shallow (more than three fingers fit), you’ll have extra pressure on your femur.

Look for a tilt feature

If you don’t know how to use it, you’re not the only one. “We have to teach people how to use their tilt a lot,” Harris Adamson says, with a laugh. The key points: “You don’t want to be forward. If you’re doing precision work, you want to be upright.” Go ahead and tilt back now and then when you’re reading or on a Zoom to give your back a break.

Check the maximum weight

This is especially important to consider if multiple members of your family will be using the chair. Most chairs hold 200 to 400 pounds, but some are less. If you don’t see a weight capacity listed on the specs, that’s a red flag.

Consider the armrests

When you’re working on your computer or doing other precision work, your arms should rest at a 90-degree angle to avoid shoulder, arm or wrist pain. In a perfect world, you’ll find an ergonomic chair with adjustable armrests, but your desk can provide that arm support too. “Your arms are about 15% of your body weight,” Harris Adamson says. “If you don’t have armrests and are working to keep the arms upright, it’s more weight adding to the compression on your cervical discs. And the muscles in your neck have to work to keep your arms in that position.”

Based on our research, the ergonomic desk chairs below check all the important ergonomic boxes—and one was spotlighted by The Wall Street Journal newsroom for its stylish design too.

Buy Side | How to Shop for an Ergonomic Office Chair, According to Back Experts (1)

Herman Miller

Aeron Chair

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The Aeron is an investment, for sure, but it’s built to last and take a load off. Not only does it come in three sizes, but it is also exceptionally adjustable (think seat height, seat tilt, lumbar support and armrests). That comes in handy if you’re sharing your setup with a partner or the kids. If you’re having trouble choosing from the six color options, consider that the Onyx version is made from plastic waste diverted from the ocean, the manufacturer notes. As for the weight capacity, medium and large hold 350 pounds and small holds 300.

Buy Side | How to Shop for an Ergonomic Office Chair, According to Back Experts (2)

Herman Miller

Setu Chair, With Arms

$795 at Herman Miller

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This sleek chrome-and-mesh find is the model that saved Fisher’s back. While it doesn’t have all the ergonomic bells and whistles that the Aeron does, the Setu is designed to move with your body (what the company refers to as “kinematic spine”). As Fisher reports, “Getting something that has the curvature in the back and that forced me to sit upright was key for my lower back pain.” The mix of polypropylene materials in this chair—which can handle 300 pounds—is easy on the back and bum too. If your desk is parked in your living room, you’ll appreciate that the Setu brings design cred. You can customize by choosing colors for the upholstery, frame and base “and have a bit of fun with it,” Fisher says.

Buy Side | How to Shop for an Ergonomic Office Chair, According to Back Experts (3)

Laura Davidson

SOHO Soft Pad Management Chair

This midcentury modern find has key comfort musts, like soft padding and back and height adjustability. While the armrests don’t move up and down, they’re removable so you can ditch them if they’re not the perfect height. Plus, the company offers a 60-day trial period, so you can test out this sturdy model. It’s an especially chic white ergonomic office chair option, but if you’re not loving the leatherette, spring for Italian leather instead (about $200 more). It holds up to 400 pounds.

Buy Side | How to Shop for an Ergonomic Office Chair, According to Back Experts (4)

(Video) Buying An Office Chair: 9 Things to Consider

Via Seating

Onda High Back Ergonomic Executive Chair

In 2020, people were walking into furniture stores with a stipend in hand, hunting for a desk chair as supportive as the one they used at the office, according to Nora Fenlon, ergonomist and Via Seating’s chief commercial officer. So Via, a Las Vegas-based manufacturer of commercial office furniture, introduced a handful of their made-in-the-U.S. ergonomic chairs to the home market. Fenlon works in Via’s Onda, an all-mesh number made of a fabric infused with copper, which may have antimicrobial properties. “It’s a self-sanitizing chair,” she says. “We developed it for the healthcare industry, but since Covid, people are concerned with their health at home.” A full 20 micro adjustments across the arm rest, height, seat depth, and lumbar support, plus a four-way stretch fabric and waterfall design that doesn’t impede leg circulation, let you max out on comfort. Choose from white or black support bars, four shades of mesh, and a midback or highback model. The Onda holds 300 pounds and comes with a 12-year warranty.

Buy Side | How to Shop for an Ergonomic Office Chair, According to Back Experts (5)

Humanscale

Diffrient, World Mesh Swivel Desk Chair

There’s a reason go-to home retailers from Pottery Barn to Room & Board stock this compact, mid-priced ergo classic: It blends an industrial minimalist design by famed designer Niels Diffrient with a slew of feel-good features. They include a stretch mesh panel that conforms to your back, no-fuss lumbar support that’s part of the chair’s form and a frameless seat front engineered not to cut off circulation to your thighs. And, bonus, Diffrient World reclines without a mechanism (it works by body weight and physics). It holds up to 300 pounds.

“You want a chair that moves with you,” advises Harris Adamson—and this ergonomic workhorse does just that. Not only can you adjust almost everything, including seat height, seat depth, arm height and lumbar support, but it also gives you three reclining options. Wait, we can recline? Isn’t that bad for the spine? No, it’s actually important, says Harris Adamson (she likes to do it on Zooms). “It changes the force of gravity through your spine and reduces the muscle activity required to keep you upright, so it gives your back a break.” The Gesture holds up to 400 pounds.

Buy Side | How to Shop for an Ergonomic Office Chair, According to Back Experts (7)

Branch

Ergonomic Chair

If you’re trading up from a repurposed kitchen chair, you know it’s all about the feel under your seat. Branch’s Ergonomic takes gold in that category, thanks to a plush three-inch, high-density foam seat. You also get seven-point adjustability, which means you can change up the height, seat depth, tilt and tension, armrests and lumbar (which is removable) for a custom fit. If pale blue isn’t your thing, choose from a gray or black seat and a white or black frame. Designed in Italy and under $350, it proves Gold’s point: “You don’t have to spend thousands to get something supportive, but you do want a chair that’s well-made and works for you.” Weight limit: 300 pounds.

The advice, recommendations or rankings expressed in this article are those of the Buy Side from WSJ editorial team, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by our commercial partners.

FAQs

Is it worth buying an ergonomic office chair? ›

We'd recommend investing in an ergonomic office chair that will adapt the back of the chair to your position throughout the day, provide support to your back and lumbar and allow you to sit at the right height for the desk you're working at. You might want to also think about if you want to move around on your chair.

Which chair is best for back support? ›

Summary: Best Office Chairs for Back Pain
ProductForbes Health RatingsMaterial
Takasan Ergonomic Home Office Chair4.7Mesh
Homall Computer Desk Chair4.6Leather
ComHoma Ergonomic Office Chair Swivel Mid Back4.4Mesh
ComHoma Ergonomic Desk Chair Mesh With Flip-Up Arms4.4Mesh
6 more rows
5 days ago

What are the features of a good ergonomic chair? ›

Features to look for in an ergonomic chair:
  • Seat width and depth adjustment. Adjusting the depth of your chair will determine how much support your thighs receive. ...
  • Seat height adjustment. ...
  • Fully adjustable armrests. ...
  • Five-star base. ...
  • Back support. ...
  • Fabric.
23 Dec 2021

Why you should invest in an ergonomic chair? ›

Ergonomic Chairs Reduce Pain and Increase Productivity

Ergonomic chairs help users maintain good posture while sitting, which reduces the incidence of joint pain and muscle stiffness (from lack of movement). Employees who feel better physically at work are more productive and happier.

What is low back ergonomic chair? ›

Low-back office chairs

Low-back chairs, also referred to as “task chairs” or “typist's chairs”, are designed to provide lower back and mid-back lumbar support. They typically have a relatively small backrest that comes as high as the middle of the back.

Which type of chair is best for long sitting? ›

Summary Of Chairs For Long Hours Of Sitting With Price List
S. NOModel NamePrice
1CELLBELL® C104 Medium-Back Mesh Office Chair[Black]₹ 3,699
2AB DESIGNS DESIGNS STARTS HERE Mid Back Ergonomic Office chair₹ 4,100
3Savya Home® APEX Chairs™ Apollo Chrome BaseHigh Back Engineered Plastic Frame Office Chair (Apollo)₹ 5,841
7 more rows

How do you make a chair support back? ›

If your chair does not have good lumbar support, consider adding a rolled towel or other cushion between your lower back and the chair. Just remember to sit all the way back in your chair so the roll supports your spine, not just cushions it.

What makes an office chair comfortable? ›

The goal of these chairs is to promote healthy posture so you can avoid back pain or injuries from sitting too long at work. As a general rule, for a chair to be comfortable, it should have adjustable features, including seat height and depth, forward tilt, armrests and headrests, as well as lumbar support.

How do you request an ergonomic chair at work? ›

A doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist, occupational therapist, or registered nurse can all write you a letter of medical necessity for an ergonomic chair or standing angle chair. Sometimes it can be beneficial to have more than one medical professionals sign the letter.

How do you adjust an ergonomic office chair? ›

How-To Properly Sit In An Ergonomic Office Chair - YouTube

Why is a good office chair important? ›

A good ergonomic office chair reduces chronic back, hip and leg strain associated with being seated for long periods of time. This naturally helps employees work more efficiently and productively. Another benefit is reduction in healthcare expenses related to poor posture from unsuitable office chairs.

What is ergonomics Why is it important? ›

Ergonomics is designing a job to fit the worker so the work is safer and more efficient. Implementing ergonomic solutions can make employees more comfortable and increase productivity.

How do you know if a chair is ergonomic? ›

A good ergonomic chair will allow for the seat height to be adjusted from 15 to 22 inches off the floor. This range suits people that are 5' to 6'4” tall. At the proper height, your feet should be flat on the floor, with your knees at a 90-degree angle. This will reduce stress on your knees and lumbar region.

Are ergonomic chairs necessary? ›

Adding an ergonomic office chair can drastically improve your posture, reduce back pain and ultimately improve productivity. Your comfort in the office is enhanced when you use an ergonomic chair.

What is the meaning of ergonomic chair? ›

An ergonomic chair, for example, is a chair that has been designed to best support the human body, including considerations like posture, comfort, support and health.

What is the most comfortable chair in the world? ›

The Napoleon Chair is definitely the Most Comfortable Chair in the World and remains a perennial best seller since it was the first piece we ever produced all the way back in 1988.

How do I choose a chair for a job? ›

The backrest of the chair should be adjustable & provide proper support to the lower back. Height of the chair should be adjustable so that the feet can rest flat on the floor. The armrest should be close to the body and positioned to provide proper support to the shoulders. The seat of the chair should be long enough.

Which chair is best for working at home? ›

24 Best Work-From-Home Chairs (2022 Comparison)
  • Flash Furniture Mid-Back Black Mesh Swivel Ergonomic Task Office Chair.
  • Elliana Task Chair.
  • Amazon Basics Classic Office Chair.
  • Alori Task Chair.
  • OFM Essentials Gaming Chair.
  • Furmax Office Mesh Chair With Armrest.
  • Furmax Office Mid Back Swivel Lumbar Support Desk.
9 Jun 2022

Are high back or mid back chairs better? ›

Essentially, a mid-back office chair offers reasonable support to the mid and lower back. Although many office workers prefer a high back office chair, it's not a superb choice, especially if you have limited workspace. If you need to perform many tasks and move back and forth, a mid-back office chair is your best bet.

What is the best seating for lower back pain? ›

Sit in a high-back, firm chair with arm rests. Sitting in a soft couch or chair will tend to make you round your back and won't support the curve of your back. At work, adjust your chair height and work station so you can sit up close to your work and tilt it up at you.

Are low back chairs better? ›

Low back chairs are good for posture

Unlike standard desk chairs, low back executive chairs provide neck and lumbar support, which helps to keep the spine in alignment. This can reduce pain and fatigue, and help to prevent long-term problems such as chronic back pain.

Is wooden chair good for back? ›

The traditional wooden chair was designed to enforce upright posture position and fails to maintain the natural 'S' curvature of the spine, thus often leading to poor posture in students. Because children are growing and very active, it is necessary to ensure that they maintain a good posture.

How do I know if my chair has good lumbar support? ›

To test if the ergonomic chair fits well, the user should sit up straight, with the head, spine, and buttocks in alignment. Then sit all the way back against the seatback. The curve of the ergonomic chair should naturally follow the curve of the lower back.

Can office chairs cause back pain? ›

Why does it do this? When you are seated, the lumbosacral discs at the base of the spine are loaded three times more than when you are standing. If your chair doesn't have adequate spine support, this will lead to poor posture, which stresses the soft tissues and joints in the spine leading to pain.

Do you need ergonomic chair? ›

Besides regular breaks from sitting, as well as regular stretching of your body, the easiest and time proven way to maintain good posture is to buy an ergonomic chair. A comfortable and thoughtfully made ergonomic chair is essential for improving your posture.

Which type of chair is best for long sitting? ›

Summary Of Chairs For Long Hours Of Sitting With Price List
S. NOModel NamePrice
1CELLBELL® C104 Medium-Back Mesh Office Chair[Black]₹ 3,699
2AB DESIGNS DESIGNS STARTS HERE Mid Back Ergonomic Office chair₹ 4,100
3Savya Home® APEX Chairs™ Apollo Chrome BaseHigh Back Engineered Plastic Frame Office Chair (Apollo)₹ 5,841
7 more rows

Are gaming chairs actually ergonomic? ›

gaming chair the office chair is better suited for productivity, focusing more on strict ergonomic support than on comfort. Gaming chairs are also designed for ergonomic support, though they tend to prioritize comfort, which is expected of a product designed to enhance fun and recreation.

Do I need arms on my office chair? ›

Do I Need Armrests in an Office Chair? The short answer is 'yes. ' You need desk chair arms in your office chair. This feature offers many benefits to office workers.

What makes an office chair comfortable? ›

The goal of these chairs is to promote healthy posture so you can avoid back pain or injuries from sitting too long at work. As a general rule, for a chair to be comfortable, it should have adjustable features, including seat height and depth, forward tilt, armrests and headrests, as well as lumbar support.

Why a good office chair is important? ›

Sitting in the wrong office chair can cause major health issues for you. Simply avoid this by investing in an ergonomic chair. A good office chair can bear wonders for your back. It works by improving your posture, reducing unnecessary back pains, and reducing hip pressure.

How do you know if a chair is ergonomic? ›

You should be able to adjust the height of the seat pan so that the front of your knees is level or slightly below level and your feet are firmly on the ground. In most cases there should be no need for you to use a footrest. The mechanism to adjust seat height should be easy to reach and operate when you are seated.

Are high back chairs better? ›

A high-back chair offers more support to your neck, lower and upper back, and shoulders. When compared to other options, the high back office chairs offer more adjustment options. This type of office chair is best suited for people who sit for extended periods.

Which chair is best for working at home? ›

Green Soul® Jupiter Superb Office Chair

Made from high-quality material, it has a sturdy and durable build. The 4-way adjustable lumbar support, 4-way adjustable headrest and 2D adjustable armrest help provide support and comfort while working. Also, it features dual castor wheels to ensure easy movement.

Are ergonomic chairs more comfortable? ›

When it comes to the seat padding, standard chairs do, of course, come with padded seats, but an ergonomic design will usually have much more cushioning, both in the seat and the backrest to make it more comfortable, especially important when you're sitting for long periods of time.

What's an ergonomic chair? ›

Ergonomic is any work-related item that was specifically designed for maximum comfort and efficiency. An ergonomic office chair is usually defined by having the following features: Seat depth. Adjustable arm height and width. Lumbar support.

What is a task chair vs office chair? ›

Office chairs are lightweight, easy to move, and require minimal maintenance. Task chairs, on the other hand, have basic foam and normal upholstery. They may have wheels for functionality. They usually are low-styled to enable a large feel of the work area in an office.

Are armless chairs better? ›

More active Than an Armed Chair

While a chair without arms is not better than a stool for active sitting, it is better than a chair with arms in terms of keeping your back and spine in constant motion.

Should I remove armrest chair? ›

There are a number of reasons why you might need to change the armrests on your chair. The user or task of the chair may change and require different levels of support (Extra height, width adjustment, pivoting arm pads, etc.), a new user may have different preferences, or the armrests may simply be worn out/damaged.

What do you call the back part of a chair? ›

backrest. noun. the part of a piece of furniture that supports your back.

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