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How to choose an office chair

white rolling ergonomic office chair with a mesh back and lumbar support besides a wooden desk - how to choose an office chair
(Image credit: Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels)

Considering how to choose an office chair probably isn't something you thought you'd be spending a lot of time on, but an office chair is an essential part of your setup, so it's important you know how to choose the right one. For many people who are working remotely, they may have first thought it wouldn’t last very long and that any chair would do. That may have been the case but now it’s time to consider, have you chosen the right office chair?

If you work at one of the best desks for all or part of your working day, it’s important to have a comfortable chair that offers you sufficient cushioning, as well as back support to help you keep your posture in check and prevent muscle strain. 

There are a lot of factors to consider before you invest: what type of chair is right for you (don’t worry, we’ll break them down for you), what level of adjustability do you need, and what level of support? Outside of those main considerations, you also want your chair to be stylish and work with the overall feel of your home office, as well as be good value for money and from a trusted brand. 

We’ve rounded up our top recommendations of the best office chair elsewhere, but before you browse and buy, read on for everything you need to consider about how to choose an office chair.

01. How to choose an office chair: Types

woman relaxing in a white office chair

Choose an office chair that is comfortable (Image credit: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

The first thing to consider before choosing your office chair is what type of chair you want. We don’t mean whether you want an armchair or a beanbag as all of our recommendations will be dedicated office chairs, but you do have the options of a regular ergonomic office chair, a chair with a saddle seat, or a kneeling chair. Plus whether you want it to have fixed feet, or be on wheels.

Saddle seat chairs consist of round cushion seats with no back: think of the kind of chair your dentist has. Long periods of sitting have been linked to increased spinal pressure, and a saddle seat is thought to reduce this as it encourages good posture. These chairs are a good option if you move around the room a lot during the day, but if you’re quite stationary at your desk it can be tiring on the spine to sit this upright without a lumbar support. If you favour something minimal but don’t want to lose out on lumbar support, we recommend the HAG Capisco Puls 8010 ergonomic office chair.  

Kneeling chairs are sometimes recommended because they can help prevent the lower spine from curving by forcing you to sit upright, however it’s vital that to get the benefit from this you sit properly and don’t slouch which is a big ask of someone who works at a desk all day and doesn’t have a chair back to lean against. They’re also not suitable for anyone with knee problems or injuries. 

When it comes to choosing an office chair, our recommendation is to opt for a regular ergonomic chair because of the support they offer the back and neck (there's more on that below). Within this category, consider whether you want a mesh or cushion back, and a fixed base or wheels. A rolling chair gives you the ability to easily move around the room, but if your office floor is laminate, or perhaps uneven stone, then a fixed chair with soft feet might be a better fit.  

02. How to choose an office chair: Material 

woman sitting on a mesh office chair

Many classic office chairs have a mesh back (Image credit: Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels)

As referenced above, your two main choices for regular ergonomic chairs are mesh or cushioned. Mesh-back chairs are breathable and more flexible, which means they can adapt to the shape of your body to a degree. They tend to be rolling and many come with built-in lumbar supports and so are likely more suitable if you're an all day, every day desk worker.

Cushion-back chairs are upholstered rather than mesh and can be more comfortable to sit in for long periods of time, but you miss out on support that comes from a mesh back chair. This means while you've got maximum comfort under your bottom, you're at a higher risk of back pain. Cushioned chairs do tend to be cheaper, until you start looking at leather upholstered chairs, for example our pick of the best budget office chair is the AmazonBasics Upholstered Office Chair

03. How to choose an office chair: Support 

Next on the list of important considerations is support, including lumbar and neck support and armrests. Your basic and most minimal office chairs won’t have lumbar support, but this is important to ensure you sit with the correct posture.

Sitting for eight hours a day isn't any good for anyone, and so you should always take frequent rests to get up, move around and/or stretch. But if you can't avoid sitting for a large portion of the day while working from home you should take measures to stop yourself slouching, and choosing the right office chair can help.

Slouching pushes the lower back outwards, in the opposite direction to the way the spine naturally curves, which puts a strain on the lower back leading to tension and pain. Choosing an office chair with a lumbar support that sits at the small of your back keeps the spine in a natural position rather than allowing it to lean backwards. 

You might also want to have a headrest, relieving tension from and offering support to your neck muscles. For this, you'd need to opt for an office chair with an extra-high back or headrest.

Lastly, consider whether you want arm rests. Some people find arm rests obstructive, while others find them a great additional support at times when they're not typing. 

04. How to choose an office chair: Adjustability 

woman sitting upright at a desk on an office chair

An adjustable office chair allows for customisable comfort  (Image credit: Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels)

Once you’ve decided on what type of office chair you want and what level of support you require, check that the height and tilt are adjustable. The heights of all of the chairs we recommend in our best office chair roundup are adjustable as it’s so important to be able to set up your workspace correctly. The correct height for the seat of your office chair is when you can sit with your thighs parallel to the floor when your feet are flat on the floor. If you can’t reach the floor with flat feet because of the height of your desk then you should consider getting a foot rest too.

If your chair has arm rests, then they should be at the height of your elbows when you rest your elbows by your sides. When typing your arms should be at a right angle when resting on the desk (not reaching up or pointing downwards). A good option here for a fully adjustable chair is our top pick of the best office chair for US and UK shoppers, the Herman Miller Mirra 2.  

05. How to choose an office chair: Style

a white office chair at a desk in front of a blue wall

A well-designed office chair adds style to your home office (Image credit: Pixabay)

Now that you’ve considered all of the functional features that your office chair needs, it’s time to think about style. As we've already alluded to, sometimes with style comes a trade off with support, but you can still find stylish chairs that don't fully compromise on support. 

The most supportive office chairs are made from either mesh, upholstery or a combination of both, but if this look is too functionally "office" for you, look for leather or other plush, padded materials. For example, there’s no mesh in sight on the OFM Essentials Collection Plush High-Back Office Chair (with has built-in lumar support) or the super-stylish and armless Newhall Desk Chair from Wayfair. 

06. How to choose an office chair: Cost

Price is also an important consideration, and can help you narrow down your choices. If you’re a regular home worker, or could be for the foreseeable future, we would advise that it’s worth investing in your office chair. 

You should expect to pay at least $75/ £55, but as with anything there are benefits when you spend a little more. When it comes to office chairs the price reflects the features we've covered here: type, material, support, adjustability and style, as well as build quality.

The price of our overall top recommendation, the Herman Miller Mirra 2, is $795.00. Here you’re paying for a fully-adjustable office chair and support, plus incredible quality and style. 

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