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Shopping for an Office Chair

There are great office chairs and affordable office chairs. It is truly a personal choice which can affect your physical and even your mental health. Shopping for the right office chair can be a challenging and time consuming process – but will be well worth it in the long term. You cannot possibly realize the differences between chairs until you try several chairs.

Comfort and ergonomics are everything if you are spending a lot of time in your chair. Without these, your discomfort and potential long term health issues will seriously have a negative impact on your productivity.

Here are some of the things you might want to consider when deciding the best chair for you if you tend to spend a lot of time sitting and working most days.

Seat Size and Height Matters

Even more important than features, and price, the first thing to look for is a chair that is the right size.

I am not an ergonomic specialists however, my research has revealed that, the size of your chair’s seat should be wide enough for you to sit comfortably. Too narrow, and you will be too close to the edge of the seat placing additional pressure on your thighs. Too wide, and you will feel like you are always floating in your chair, though this might be desirable if you like to sit on your leg (not recommended).

The depth of the chair is also very important. When sitting up straight, the seat should be about 2-3 fingers from the underside of your knee.

The height of the chair should be set so that your knee is bent at a 90 degree angle when you have both feet flat on the floor. If the chair is too high and cannot be lowered enough, this will place pressure on the back side of your thighs.

If you tend to like laying back in your chair every once in a while, I recommend looking for a chair that has a seat that reclines at a slower rate than the back of the chair. If it does not recline at all, you will have a tendency to slide out of your chair. If it reclines directly with the back of the chair, it will again place too much pressure on the back of your thighs.

The seat should be firm but comfortable. Sit in the chair for 20-30 minutes. If the seat is too firm, you may feel like you are sitting on a piece of wood. If it is too soft, you won’t feel properly supported. Also keep in mind that the quality of the foam in the seat. The foam used in many chairs at lower price points may feel great when brand new but will often start to feel too soft within 1-3 years, even if you don’t sit in the chair – just because the foam will start to dry up. You can’t really tell the quality of the foam just by looking at the chair or the spec. However, manufacturers will often tell you by their warranty. If the seat is under full warranty for 10 to 15 years, chances are pretty good that it is because they used high quality foam.

With that said, some chairs now come with a mesh seat. These can be surprisingly comfortable and are definitely cooler if your touche tends to feel warm and uncomfortable.

Regardless of the price point of the chair you choose, the position, size and quality of your seat is a personal choice which should be based on your individual body. Otherwise your chair will be uncomfortable and you will not want to sit in it.

Back of the chair

Chairs may include any number of features. In its simplest form, you will have a chair with a fixed back that cannot be adjusted. However, some of the potential adjustable features you might want to watch out for include:

Height adjustability: If you have ever sat in a chair with a back that is too high or too low for your back, you will know exactly what I am talking about. Most basic office chairs come with a height adjustable backrest. As an alternative, the lumbar support will include a height adjustment.

Top end chairs can even feature the firmness of the lumbar support making it fit your back’s unique curvature providing the best support possible. This adjustment may be mechanical or inflatable, usually with an attached air pump.

Like the seat, the backs of chairs are now made with either traditional foam or mesh, with the later promoting better airflow for your back – which is really nice on hot days or if you are just feeling warm. You can always wear a sweater of throw a blanket over the backrest if you are cold but you will not be able to get more airflow through a foam chairback.

If you are tall like me (6’2″), taller backrests can feel really nice, providing support to your whole back, not just the lower half.

This brings me to a headrest. While not critical, it can be restful to have a place to lay your head back. Personally, I like to take the occasional 8-minute power naps rather than fight afternoon slumps. A headrest will help keep your neck from getting bent out of shape for those quick naps. The rest of the day, a well positioned headrest should support you in a good, comfortable posture.

Note: You cannot add a headrest to just any chair. If this is important to you, check out this option before you make your purchase.

Chair Arms






Ergonomic chairs for professionals

If you spend a lot of time sitting and working in your chair most days, can afford it and are possibly even earning a living using it, consider investing in a higher quality chair that will not only be more comfortable and feel solid but actually last many years, here are the options worthy of your consideration.

ergoCentric tCentric: This is the chair that I use every day and absolutely love it. You won’t find as many reviews for this Canadian-made chair as the company is just starting to penetrate into the U.S. market. However, I feel so fortunate to have come across it in my research and fell in love with it.

Advantages: It has lots of options that can be selected at time of purchase including: Size of seat, chair mechanism, arms, headrest, type and colour of the fabric, type of foam in the seat, upholstered or mesh seat and/or back (hybrid model), seat height, flexibility of arms, type of lumbar support and hard floor or carpet wheels. In other words, it is almost like getting a custom chair made just for you. The tCentric chairs are backed by a 12 year, 3 shift (i.e. used 24 hours a day) parts, labour and service warranty which means it a solid high quality chair that will last you for many years. Covering is available in a wide variety of materials, textures and colours. You can even optionally have chairs covered in your own provided fabric. If you ask nicely, they will even cover the headrest in the same fabric at no extra charge – though this is not recommended because of oils on your head/hair. The chair comes 100% pre-assembled and is ready for you to sit in once the packaging has been removed. Did I mentioned that this beautiful well designed chair is also less expensive than other chairs mentioned here in this class?

Disadvantages: I am still looking for one. Approved fabrics only carry a 10 year warranty but some colours may have shorter 5 year warranties. I am guessing that this might be because they cannot guaranty the availability of certain fabric colours. Because each chair is assembled according to your personal specifications, most but the most basic of models are available in stores. However the company with typically ship your chair out in 10 business days. The optional version with a mesh seat has a solid frame around the seat which can make sitting cross legged or on one leg painful – which can be a good thing if you are trying to break yourself of this habit.

Herman Miller Aeron: This highly rated chair is often a favourite in many offices and home offices.

Advantages: Lots of adjustments, available in 3 sizes which are indicated by 1, 2 or 3 dots under the top of the back of the frame. You can feel with your fingers. Comfortable for people of short and average height. The chair comes 100% pre-assembled and is ready for you to sit in once the packaging has been removed. This high quality durable chair comes with a 12 year, 3 shift (i.e. used 24 hours per day) parts and labour (and service in Canada and U.S.).

Disadvantages: It only comes with mesh seat and back. It does not include a headrest option but you can add an after-market one. I recommend the Atlas Headrest because it doesn’t void the chair’s warranty unlike most other headrests. The seat depth is not adjustable and even the largest size of this chair was not enough to accommodate my long legs. The solid frame around the seat can make sitting cross legged or on one leg painful – which can be a good thing if you are trying to break yourself of this habit.

Steelcase Leap v2 and Steelcase Leap Gesture: I have to admit, I don’t have a lot of experience with these two chairs. This is what I noticed when I read about them online and tried them in a showroom.

Advantages: Top rated and may be just right for you so give them a try. They look great, come in several colours and include a good array of configurable features.

Disadvantages: When I tried them, it only took a few minutes before I decided that the seat was too firm for me – probably because the foam is rather on the thinner side when compared to other chairs.

HumanScale Freedom Headrest

This chair has almost everything that you might want in an ergonomic chair. It is simple and has a nice clean design.

Advantages: Build quality, weight activated recline mechanism.

Disadvantages: The seat is not deep enough for tall people like me. The headrest cannot be raised enough for tall people and has very limited adjustability because it self-adjusts, becoming uncomfortable when reclined because it will pushes on your shoulders. Arms are only height adjustable.

Best Budget / Student Ergonomic Chair

The FlexFit Hyken Mesh Back Task Chair is a budget option worth considering for short to average size people that will not break the bank. This chair could be a great option for students in high school, college or university if you are not ready to invest in a professional chair just yet. Available through Staples, it seems well featured at an affordable price. It may not be made using the highest quality materials but, if you only need it for a few years, it can provide you with good value.

Advantages: Low price, lots of flexibility including features like height adjustable seat, arms and lumbar support, adjustable headrest, tilt tension and lock. This can be a good chair for people who are short and lightweight. This chair is designed for 8 hour workday and includes a 7-year limited manufacture warranty which is fine if you just need a chair that will last you just a few years.

Disadvantages: Lower quality plastic, for those who will only keep their chair for a few years, not ergonomically suitable for tall people as the seat depth is unfortunately not adjustable. Their chair may not provide sufficient support for those over 150 lbs. The solid frame around the seat can make sitting cross legged or on one leg painful – which can be a good thing if you are trying to break yourself of this habit. Significant assembly is required out of the box.

A few word about gaming chairs

They might look cool but, if you look closely, you will start to notice that many of them are very similar. That is not because it is such a great design but rather because they are often all made by the same manufacturer and sold under different brands sporting different colours and designs.

Advantages: The only things they have going for them is that some of them are inexpensive and their colourful design often looks cool.

Disadvantages: Their build quality is quite poor, they are not very adjustable or even comfortable. I am not even sure if I would consider them ergonomic.

If you are considering one of these chairs, do yourself a favour and go try out some other ergonomic chairs first. You don’t know what you don’t know yet.


These are just some of the more ergonomic popular chairs available. If you just take one thing away from this, it is to visit stores and try out the chairs. You won’t regret it.

Also, remember that the manufacturer’s warranty is often an indication of the quality of the materials and workmanship that goes into a chair.

I tried all of the above mentioned chairs as well as the:

  • Embody Chair – Expensive and uncomfortable.
  • Sayl Chair – Did not meet my requirements for a high-back chair.

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