We’re quite prepared to spend perhaps thousands of pounds on PCs, tablets or phones, and maybe a good chunk of money on a huge 4K eye-friendly monitor. But we may well be sat in front of all this expensive equipment in a £30/$30 desk chair.
And while our eyes are being treated nicely by that monitor’s flicker-free or low blue light tech, our back probably won’t thank us in the long run for being hunched in a rickety old seat that would probably be more at home in the nearest skip than in our study or office.
You’ve doubtless heard it before, but it’s definitely true that if you spend long hours at a desk in front of a computer, it’s well worth spending some money on a proper ergonomic office chair that ensures you maintain good posture while working (or indeed watching videos, online gaming, or whatever your PC poison happens to be).
Some of the fancier chairs may be expensive, but they provide all manner of clever tricks and tweaks to make sure the seat is properly adjusted to your needs – such as a sliding seat pan, or movable armrests. A pricey chair will also generally be covered by the likes of a 12 or 15-year guarantee, so these manufacturers put their money where their mouths are in that respect.
Although if you can’t afford one of the more expensive names, we have of course covered some cheaper yet still ergonomically solid options in this article. And rather than buying new, you could always get your Herman Miller or Humanscale chair much cheaper second-hand.
In theory, there’s nothing wrong with buying a used chair and potentially saving yourself a packet, but the possible danger with second-hand is the product could be old and might be so well-worn that it no longer provides the same level of support for your back (and limbs).
So we’d advise those in the market for a second-hand seat to actually check out the chair in person, if at all possible. Or at least buy from a trusted seller with some kind of solid return policy, otherwise you could be taking a substantial leap in the dark.
Even with new chairs, if you can possibly get to a store where you can try them out and give them a ‘test sit’, that’s probably a good idea…
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1. Humanscale Freedom
A seriously comfortable chair that adjusts to the user’s body
Dimensions: 69 x 63.5 x 109-135cm (W x D x H) | Seat height: 41 - 51.5cm (minimum to maximum) | Maximum load: 136kg
Humanscale makes some seriously nifty seats, and the Freedom is, for us, the pinnacle of that niftiness. It not only looks fabulous – particularly in the leather option – but the really clever bit is that the Freedom is designed to do away with any complex knobs or levers, adjusting itself automatically to fit the ideal ergonomics for your body.
For example, when reclining the chair, it automatically adjusts the backrest resistance to the optimal level. The headrest (which is optional) also dynamically adjusts itself to the user, and the end result is a whole lot of comfortable sitting, without having to do any thinking about tension settings and so forth. There are, of course, some adjustable parameters, including the armrests which move in tandem (so they’re always at the same height as each other).
This is not a chair for the faint of wallet, but bear in mind that the pricier models are the leather and polished aluminum offerings. Remember that there are versions with plain fabric and a graphite frame – they might not look as high-end, but they still provide the same superb sitting experience, often for a few hundred pounds less. Also note that this chair is backed by a 15-year warranty, which exceeds even Herman Miller’s confidence levels.
- You can buy the Humanscale Freedom at John Lewis
2. Herman Miller Aeron
A stalwart of the ergonomic seating world
Dimensions: 63 x 64 x 97cm for ‘Size A’ (W x D x H) | Seat height: 41 - 53cm (minimum to maximum) | Maximum load: 136/159kg (depending on specified size)
Herman Miller is one the biggest name when it comes to ergonomic seating, and the Aeron is our favourite from the many chairs this vendor offers. It uses a mesh material for the back and seat, and recently benefited from a redesign in which the chair kept its essential aesthetic but was improved in a number of ways.
These included the overall frame being shifted forward to encourage what the designers describe as a more natural sitting posture, along with a new more streamlined tilt mechanism. The overall idea is the chair is more ‘lively’ and responsive to the user’s body, and it also offers more intuitive controls than the older Aeron.
The mesh material allows for good airflow and also helps with keeping the body cool, or that’s certainly the design intention, although we have heard some folks moaning about the comfort level of the mesh. Ergonomic chairs aren’t supposed to be big padded things, though, as in fact great wads of cushioning aren’t conducive to correct posture.
This is an expensive offering that comes fully assembled and offers a lengthy warranty at 12-years.
3. IKEA Markus
A sturdy desk chair with an eminently sensible price
Dimensions: 62 x 60 x 129-140cm (W x D x H) | Seat height: 48 - 57cm (minimum to maximum) | Maximum load: 110kg
For those whose wallets are cowering at the price of some of the more expensive ergonomic chairs out there, IKEA’s Markus is doubtless a welcome spot of fiscal relief.
Unsurprisingly, you don’t get much in the way of fancy adjustments, but this is a sturdy chair which is well liked by many people, and offers a comfortable upright sitting position, with a long back and integrated headrest. The back is made of a mesh material to let the air through and provide better breathability.
There are some adjustments available to the user: you can adjust the seat for height, tilt, and the back can be locked in place, or it can be reclined. Other than that, this is a fairly basic chair, but well-made for the money – it costs a fraction of some of the higher-end seating options. An unexpected bonus in this price bracket (around the £150 mark – that’s about $200) is that the Markus comes with an impressive 10-year guarantee.
- You can buy the Markus at IKEA
4. Steelcase Gesture
Our favorite from the Steelcase range
Dimensions: 62.5 x 62.5 x 103cm (W x D x H) | Seat height: 41.5 - 52cm (minimum to maximum) | Maximum load: 180kg
Steelcase is another well-known name in the ergonomic chair world, and our recommended pick from this manufacturer is the Gesture. This is a smartly designed seat replete with a load of adjustments, including highly mobile armrests which you can position wherever they’re needed (so you can adjust them for width, pivot and so forth). That’s a major plus point when it comes to getting a chair that feels just right for you.
The Gesture can be equipped with a headrest, too, although note that the base chair doesn’t come with an adjustment for lumbar support – if you require this, you’ll need to specify it as an option. The reason this feature is omitted by default is that Steelcase has designed the seat to automatically adjust its lumbar support to the user’s body and weight. However, you might want to test out the chair yourself and see if you might require the manual lumbar adjustment, as we have seen a few complaints online regarding the lack of this ability.
Note that stock of these chairs is plentiful enough in the US, but can be thin on the ground in the UK, so you might have to look at second-hand options, bearing our aforementioned caveats in mind – although there is some new stock for sale on Amazon at the time of writing.
The other alternative Steelcase chair is the impressive Leap, which gets a mention in the ‘also consider’ section that follows…
- You can buy the Steelcase Gesture at Amazon
5. Herman Miller SAYL
One of Mr Miller’s more wallet-friendly options
Dimensions: 63 x 66 x 96cm (W x D x H) | Seat height: 38 - 48cm (minimum to maximum) | Maximum load: 133kg
If you want a more affordable option in the Herman Miller range – bearing in mind that affordable is a relative term here – then check out the SAYL, a lightweight and compact chair with a very novel design.
Again, this has a mesh back, and not only does it use this material to help with breathability and keeping your body cool, but it’s actually frameless, and designed to adapt to the specific contours of your back. Essentially, the design of the back was inspired by the suspension bridge, and the idea is to allow you to move with freedom, while still supporting the spine.
This is a chair you might well want to test out before you buy considering its rather unique aspects, but those who fall in love with the SAYL give it truly glowing reports. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s coming on for half the price of the likes of Herman Miller’s Aeron.
6. Herman Miller Embody
The Embody chair is a firm favorite with many, although it’s a pricey piece of equipment. Its narrow backrest and ‘pixelated support’ system is unique, and supposed to give the user the sense that they are ‘floating’ and perfectly balanced. Both the seat and backrest automatically adjust to all the micro-movements made by the person sitting in it.
7. Humanscale Diffrient World
Another one from Humanscale, this is a lightweight and minimalist task chair which is designed to use the laws of physics and user’s bodyweight to adapt itself to the correct position for good posture. Diffrient World is a more affordable option than the Freedom chair which we covered above.
8. Kloeber Mera Klimastuhl
This is a novel product which boasts something that no other ergonomic chair on the market offers: climate control. The Mera Klimastuhl has built-in heating pads (in the seat and backrest) to warm the occupant up if it’s cold in the office, and it also has a ventilation function to keep the user cool on a hot summer day. It’s also a well-designed ergonomic chair to boot.
9. ONGO Seat
Here’s something a little different – this is a simple stool which is designed to promote core strength and good posture by sitting on it for short periods at a time. Note that ONGO isn’t supposed to be used as an all-day seat, but rather it’s something you can swap in for your normal desk chair for a little while, to help build those core muscles.
It’s kind of like sitting on a Swiss ball (aka exercise ball) with the same strengthening effect, except it’s safer! Although you could try a Swiss ball if you’re very careful – it’s certainly cheaper (we draw the line at dragging your Space Hopper out of the attic, though).
10. Steelcase Leap v2
This is a good alternative to the Gesture, and is built along similar lines. Indeed, some folks prefer the Leap, particularly those who want lumbar support to come as standard (as opposed to an additional extra). It also offers highly adjustable armrests.
Top Image Credit: Humanscale
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