Ask LH: How Can I Pick The Best Office Chairs?

Ask LH: How Can I Pick The Best Office Chairs?

Dear Lifehacker, I work in an IT-related company as a team leader. My manager has generously assigned me the task of looking into getting better office chairs for my team (I have back issues). What is the ‘best’ office chair for people who are sitting down for more than eight hours a day? Are there companies that offer chair trials? Is there a sweet spot for price versus functionality? Any advice? Thanks, The Chair Person

Office chair picture from Shutterstock

Dear TCP,

We’ve expounded the virtues of office balls and standing desks in the past, but your workmates will probably prefer something a little more conventional.

The first thing to do is to get an idea of your budget allocation — there’s no point examining options that are outside your spending limit. In the unlikely event that money is no object, here are five of the best office chairs that money can buy.

In terms of ergonomics, some basic things to look out for include comfortable cushions, adjustable seat and back rest height, lumbar support and the ability to swivel with ease.

For more ergonomic advice, check out our Ergonomic Workspace Guide, which contains a section on office chairs. You can also glean some handy hints from this office chair infographic.

It’s a good idea to buy from a physical store so you can test the chairs prior to purchase. Shopping online might save time and money, but it’s also a riskier gamble. Using a local retailer also makes it easier to exchange the chairs if they don’t meet your expectations.

While some companies offer trial periods, they tend to be for more expensive executive-style chairs. That said, if you are ordering a sizable fleet the supplier will probably be persuaded to let you try before you buy.

You should also remind your bosses that a “one-size-fits-all” approach isn’t necessarily the best option — if you already have back issues, buying a better chair for you will be cheaper than subsequent OH&S fixes.

See also: The Quest For The Perfect Office Chair | How To Ergonomically Optimise Your Workspace | Is There An Affordable Ergonomic Chair Out There?


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  • A large angle between your thighs and body is what’s needed. 90deg is horribly uncomfortable. 120deg is wonderful.

  • a “one-size-fits-all” approach isn’t necessarily the best optionI can’t stress this enough!

    I absolutely love my Aeron, but I know people who scoff at it and prefer dining chairs! If at all possible, please, please, please ask your employees what their preference is first – they might all already agree, or you might have to get them a trial chair (that they can each use for a day, not just 5 minutes).

    Any decision such as this that involves a large number of people’s working environments should be done with those people 🙂

    • Yes, yes, yes! Consult the people who will actually be sitting in the chairs and listen to them. Allow for the fact that there may be fewer options for the very petite and the very tall. It’s more important that the chairs fit their users than that they all “match”. And yes, I speak from bitter experience. I also second the point that testing a chair means sitting and working for several hours at a time, not perching on it for five minutes.

      • Great point about the “very tall” – I am 6’3″, and I need an Aeron Size “C” chair, which is way too big for most other people. Past work places have given me a size “B” which is no better than a cheap chair from OfficeWorks since it doens’t fit my body at all (the sides stick into my hips, and it doesn’t raise high enough for my knees or elbows).

        In the end, I forked over $1,000 for an Aeron Size “C” which I lugged into work, because the manager got it wrong 🙁

  • Number one rule: get chairs where the armrests can go under the desk. Otherwise, no matter how good it feels sitting on it, it will be a pain to work close to a desk. Everything else is subjective.

    • Doesn’t good ergonomics dictate that the arm rests should be at the same level as the desk so your wrists aren’t bent back?

    • Get chairs where the armrests are completely adjustable (up, down, in, out) OR can be easily removed by the user. For the most part, armrests (especially the average cheap kind that may have limited or no adjustments) do more harm than good.

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