Best Office Chairs

CR's in-house ergonomics expert reviewed eight popular models from Branch, Herman Miller, Steelcase, and others. Here's what we learned.

row of office chairs in room with Consumer Reports tester in one of the chairs Photo: John Walsh/Consumer Reports

A well-designed office chair is one of the smartest upgrades you can make to your home office.

Ideally, it’s comfortable to sit in, easy to adjust, and provides plenty of support for your back, butt, and arms.

But with so many models to choose from, it can be hard to find the one that’s right for you, especially if you’re shopping online and unable to test for yourself how well the chair fits your build. Given the high prices on certain designs, the last thing you want to do is spend your hard-earned money on a model that leaves you in pain. 

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That’s why we recently bought and evaluated eight popular office chairs, ranging in price from $170 to more than $2,000, to help guide you to the ideal choice for your needs. 

The list includes the Amazon Basics Ergonomic Adjustable High-Back, the Branch Ergonomic Chair, the FlexFit Hyken Mesh Task Chair, the Herman Miller Aeron, the Herman Miller Sayl Chair, the Hon Ignition 2.0 Task Chair, the Steelcase Gesture, and the Steelcase Series 1.

All get billed as ergonomic, but as we discovered that leaves lots of room for interpretation.

“When you see a chair branded as ergonomic, you can’t put a lot of stock in that,” says in-house expert Paul Ritchey, doctor of public health and certified professional ergonomist (CPE), who led the evaluation for Consumer Reports. “What you should be looking for is adjustability, because one hallmark of ergonomics is understanding that one size does not fit all.”

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, good ergonomic design can help reduce the number and severity of work-related musculoskeletal disorders caused by varied and repeated stress on muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons.

In the reviews below, we rate all eight office chairs on not only ergonomic design (how well they comply with standards and best practices), but also comfort, ease of use, and ease of assembly. We give more weight to the ergonomic design scores than ease of assembly. Building a chair may not be fun, but you only have to do it once.

The comfort scores come from a panel of three people who reviewed each chair after sitting in it for 90 to 120 minutes in a typical work setting. Ease of use considers things like how simple it is to adjust the chair’s controls while seated, how well the controls are labeled, and how clearly the model’s features are explained in manuals and other documentation from the manufacturer.

Before we share our findings, it helps to know a bit more about that last part: sitting in a chair. While many of the models scored well in our evaluations—not one was “bad” per se—even a top-performing chair will offer little benefit if you don’t know how to use it.

How to Properly Sit in a Chair

According to Ritchey, there are a few high-level principles to follow when sizing up a chair. Ultimately, the more it adjusts to fit your torso and limbs the better off you’ll be.

The armrests should support your arms, elbows at your sides (and bent at a 90- to 100-degree angle), while your shoulders are completely relaxed. You may need to raise or lower the height of the armrest to make that happen. Some models also let you slide armrests forward or backward, pivot them, and set them wider apart to provide more clearance for your hips.

The seat should be high enough for you to keep both feet flat on the ground or on a footrest, with equal pressure applied to both. That means your knees are bent at an angle of no less than 90 degrees.

Ideally, you want to adjust the seat pan to leave a roughly two-inch space between the back of your knee and the edge of the seat. “If you don’t have a gap there, it can cause pressure and discomfort,” Ritchey says.

The backrest should ably support your back, of course, but also allow you to ease into a comfortable recline. To start, you want the angle between your torso and thighs to be a little more than 90 degrees, with the lumbar support positioned to help you maintain the natural inward curvature of your lower spine.

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We investigate, research, and test so you can choose with confidence.