Before the pandemic, you likely never gave office chairs much thought after you left work for the evening. But now, with many people working from home both on a full-time and a flexible basis, our homes have had to accommodate all manner of WFH essentials. And though sitting on uncomfortable stools (or even working from the sofa) was passable in 2020, having a comfortable, supportive office chair in 2022 has never been more important, whether you dial in from an upstairs study or are hot-desking from the hallway.
Finding the perfect office chair, however, will depend on several factors, not least of all your budget: While you can find supportive chairs for as little as £50, the expert- (and cool-person-) approved ergonomic designs can cost upwards of £1,200. Adjustability, material, comfort, and weight are all important, too. We spoke to architects, authors, and remote workers to find the best office chairs, as well as two chiropractors to find out what to look for when shopping. We checked customer ratings on websites such as Amazon and Wayfair, and when it got really granular, we scoured sub-Reddits dedicated to chair design to figure out the best options.
What we’re looking for:
Adjustability: This is key to finding a chair that works for you, as everyone’s needs will be different. A good office chair will help you maintain a neutral posture, which means sitting with your feet flat on the floor, your knees slightly level to or higher than your hips, and your hips, shoulders, and ears all lined up with each other. “Try to create 90-degree angles at the waist and knees,” recommends chiropractor Dr. Randi Jaffe. Different chairs have different adjustability, including the armrests, seat height and depth, and the angle of the backrest tilt. Some will also come with removable headrests, which provide additional support to the head and neck.
Material: The kind of material will also impact how the chair supports your body. Foam is typically found in more affordable options, while mesh is more common in expensive chairs. According to Dr. David Perna of Back and Body Medical, “Mesh breathes, it’s dynamic, it kind of bends and moves with you.” It’s also ideal if you run hot, as it’s more breathable.
Best overall office chair
Adjustable arm and lumbar support | Mesh back and seat
We’ve made Herman Miller’s Mirra 2 chair our best in class — though it is less well-known than the Aeron chair, it comes recommended by Dr Perna, and offers many of the same high-end features while costing about a third of the price. The Aeron is a favourite of both Adam Baidawi, British GQ head of editorial content, and London-based architect Thomas Bestwick. “This chair is a design classic,” says Baidawi. “If you work from home, you’ve got to invest in yourself.” While they are not cheap, Bestwick offers a work-around. “I got mine on eBay, and I love it,” he says. “If you have to spend a lot of time sitting down, this is the best way to do it.” While the Mirra 2 lacks some of the more sophisticated features (such as leather armrests) that the Aeron has, it still retains fully adjustable arms, lumbar support, and butterfly-shaped mesh, which promotes airflow and will help keep you cool. The multi-purpose castors can also be used on hard floors or carpets.
To compare the two models as closely as possible, I spent an afternoon browsing the r/HermanMiller sub-Reddit, where I found an impassioned post about the Mirra 2 from one user who, unsurprisingly, wanted a cheaper alternative to an Aeron. They noted that the shape of the chair’s back was “flexible but firm,” while reclining was smooth and fun, “like a true rocking chair.” One notable difference was in the arms, which were described as stiffer than the “squishy, nice to touch” Aeron arms (this is likely because the Aeron uses leather and padding on their arms, while the Mirra does not). However, the Mirra’s arms were considered more comfortable and ergonomic and, therefore, likely to be better for the posture in the long term.
Best (less-expensive) office chair
Adjustable arms and back | Foam back and seat
Chris Whitaker, author of We Begin at the End, said he opted for this Topstar chair after a more stylish option caused him aches and pains. The chair is more simple than the Herman Miller range — the website lists it as having a “permanent contact mechanism,” which basically means you can adjust the angle of the back, but not the chair (the height of both, however, can be adjusted). “This is honestly the perfect chair, in my opinion,” said Whitaker. “It’s the only chair that I’ve ever had where I don’t notice any pains or aches from sitting for prolonged periods. I used to have to get up constantly to stretch my muscles, but I can sit at this all day and I don’t feel a thing.”
Best budget-friendly office chair
Adjustable back | Mesh back and seat | Lumbar support
I didn’t honestly think it was possible for a £50 office chair to come highly recommended, but my friend Bobby Palmer, author of the forthcoming novel Isaac and the Egg and a Strategist contributor, says this Yaheetech chair was so good he ended up buying a second one for his fiancée, Nina. I first spied the chair when visiting his house one weekend and enquired about it when I started researching this story. “I saw people talking about it on Twitter,” Palmer said when I called him to ask for more details. “It really is perfect for me. It’s very supportive in the lower back, and I’ve never felt like I need to spend more on a flashier model.” Palmer says it’s comfortable enough that “I can sit and write for hours without back pain, which is good for me, as someone who is allergic to taking screen breaks.” And it’s unassuming enough that he is happy having both their chairs at their dining table, rather than keeping them in an office. The chair, which has 3,900 reviews on Amazon, offers lumbar support in the form of the two mesh “wings” on the back of the chair as well as the shape of the cushion, which helps promote good posture. While this chair lacks adjustable arms, it offers impressive support and comfort for the price.
Best compact office chair
Height adjustment | Foam back and seat
While the chairs featured so far would not look out of place in a co-working space like Second Home or Huckletree, working from home might require a chair that looks less officey. If you’re looking for something compact, colourful, and easy to stash away, animator (and Strategist contributor) Natalya Lobanova recommends the Reis wheely chair from Wayfair. “The main appeal (aside from the fun colours) is how small and compact it is while still being on wheels,” she says. “It’s comfortable, and the lack of armrests is actually super-useful. I loved how it fit underneath my own desk, which has quite a narrow space for a chair — most wheely chairs don’t do this.” Despite the lack of armrests, it offers lumbar support in the form of the wing-tipped cushion, which will help posture, and the rounded edge of the chair, known as a “waterfall” seat design, reduces pressure on the back of the thighs and improves blood circulation to the lower limbs.
Best office chair with head and neck support
Adjustable back support, headrest, seat height, tilt adjustment, and arms | Mesh seat and back
Depending on your height, you might be let down by the lack of neck support on even the most ergonomic of chairs. But this one by Sihoo has built-in neck support that will help prevent aches. It has 9,118 reviews on Amazon, and 95 reviews specifically highlighted the neck support. One customer said that while this was “no Herman Miller” (the chair they had in their pre-pandemic office), it was an excellent dupe. They went on to write that the adjustable headrest was solidly made and had helped them through long days on back-to-back Zooms. Another reviewer pointed out that the headrest can go left and right as well as up and down. This has the largest number of adjustable features we’ve seen for a chair under £300, too — including back, seat height, tilt adjustment, and arms.
Adam Baidawi, head of UK content, British GQ
Thomas Bestwick, architect
Dr. Randi Jaffe, chiropractor
Natalya Lobanova, animator and Strategist contributor
Bobby Palmer, author of Isaac and the Egg and Strategist contributor
Dr. David Perna of Back and Body Medical
Chris Whitaker, author of We Begin at the End
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