You spend hours at a time sitting at your desk, so you want to have the most comfortable chair you can get for your money. If you get aches and pains while you work, it might be time for an upgrade. This week we're checking out five office chairs that offer the best combination of value, comfort and ergonomics.
Photo by Masahiko Ohkubo.
The Aeron chair set a new standard for ergonomics and comfort when it was first released, making it one of the most famous office chairs in the world. It also set a new bar in terms of cost: new models having a starting retail price of $1200, although they can usually be found for less if you buy second-hand. The Aeron's design is so popular that companies around the world order them by the hundreds, and the chair even has a permanent instalment at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was initially designed in 1994, so even though it still looks modern and comfortable, recent studies have pointed out that the Aeron may not be the best ergonomic choice over long sitting sessions. But there's no doubt the Aeron is comfortable, adaptable, highly customisable and still has a huge fan base.
The Embody is Herman Miller's next-generation office chair, and it was designed by one of the original designers of the Aeron. It takes a more modern approach and hones in on ergonomics and full back support. Any complaints about the Aeron's ergonomics were largely addressed in the Embody, which can be independently adjusted and moved separately from the base and arms. It's still a pricey model at over $1700, but it's easily one of the most comfortable chairs you'll ever sit in. The back conforms to your shape using what Herman Miller calls "Pixelated Mesh" and multiple points of flexibility all along the length of the chair back. Some people complain the Embody has subpar lumbar support and more complicated settings compared to the Aeron, but most will tell you it's the best chair they've ever owned.
The Steelcase Leap earned praise for affordability, superior construction and customisability. It's a bit more of a task chair than others, but the design makes sure your whole back is supported. Its design includes a special breathable foam padding that airs itself out through special slots that ensure you won't get too hot during long work sessions. Rather than conform to you, Steelcase designers give you individual control over everything from the arm height to the seat depth. They retail for around $1000, but they can be found for less, especially if you buy second-hand. I was lucky enough to sit in a Leap every day at my last job, and it's just as sturdy and customisable as the marketing promos say.
The Raynor Ergohuman series was designed primarily for people who sit in their chairs for long periods of time. The design may not win any artsy awards, but its customisable components, add-ons and independent control over the seat height, arm height, headrest and rocker tension are impressive. It has breathable mesh and leather upholstery, a high back and comfortable headrest. The Ergohuman also features a slightly wider seat pan than most chairs, and it's ideal for taller folks who want decent back support. Raynor just unveiled the Ergohuman v2, which offers a number of improvements in design, ergonomics and weight capacity. The v1 will run you around $900 at retail, while the v2 has a list price of around $1000.
The $399 IKEA Markus is a high-backed chair that comes in a variety of colours and your choice of leather or padded fabric. The Markus lacks some of the features and customisability you'll find in the others, but it has been praised for being remarkably comfortable (I was thinking about getting one myself before I got my Embody). It's height adjustable with tilt and lock, but don't expect to independently adjust the armrest or change the seat depth. The curved design, mesh back and shallow seat pan enforces good posture, making it a great bang-for-your-buck office chair.
This week's honourable mention goes to the simple exercise ball for its comfort (once you're used to it), flexibility, and the fact that it naturally enforces proper posture. Plus, the fact that they're widely available for little cash (at least compared to the other five mentioned here) makes them an attractive option for home office workers on a budget. Also worth mentioning is the Herman Miller Mirra, one of the more affordable Herman Miller chairs that also has space-saving and comfort options.
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Let us know in the comments below.