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6 October 2020

Choosing the best home office chair

Discover the most popular home office chairs, how much you'll pay, and how to ensure back support and a healthy posture while working from home
1. home office chair
Tom Morgan

A home office chair that's comfortable and good at preventing muscle strain is essential if you're sitting for long periods while working at home.

According to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, adopting a healthy posture at your desk can prevent muscle strains in your back, neck and other joints. 

This guide will help you choose between the different types, from ergonomic office chairs with built-in lumbar support to prevent lower back pain, to leather chairs.

Office chair types at a glance

Office chairs come in a range of shapes and sizes. Ideally, you want a chair that suits the layout and colour scheme of your office or working space. It also needs to meet your ergonomic requirements.

Below, we've rounded up a selection of office chair types with some information on how much you should expect to pay.

Popular office chair types compared

Kneeling chairs

Typical spend £100-150

Pros Promotes good posture, adjustable to various desk heights, builds core muscle strength

Cons Puts pressure on knees, getting up can feel clumsy, no backrest

Using a kneeling office chair positions your body so that your knees are below your waist. In theory, this should feel like a more natural sitting position compared with a regular desk chair.

As kneeling chairs have no back, your core and back muscles will gradually strengthen over time to keep you steady as you work. As a downside, if you already experience pain in your knees, using a kneeling chair might put unwelcome pressure on that area.

Saddle chairs

Typical spend £50-100

Pros Improves circulation in legs, builds core muscle strength

Cons Most don't have a backrest

Saddle chairs are designed to reduce pressure on your spine and lower back, encouraging an upright stance. As the name implies, you sit on a saddle chair like you would on the back of a horse. These chairs sometimes feature a split seat that encourages you to sit with your legs slightly apart.

Some saddle chairs do come with a backrest, but the majority don't. To help you stay comfortable while you're working, you can adjust the height and the tilt angle.

Ergonomic chairs

Typical spend £100-200

Pros Lots of variety, adjustable

Cons Premium options can be expensive

Ergonomic chairs come in all shapes and sizes. You might have seen them referred to as '24-hours chairs', 'big and tall chairs' or 'petite and small chairs'. The idea behind all these variations is the same – to improve your posture by supporting your back.

When looking for an ergonomic chair, pay close attention to the features that matter the most. Ideally, you want a chair that offers adjustable height, seat width and depth. A seat that tilts is also a bonus as this will correctly position your pelvis. Most chairs that promise an ergonomic design will have some built-in lumbar support.

Posture-correcting chairs aside, there are lots of other ways to improve your working from home experience. Our guide on 10 ways to stay healthy working from home has more top tips.

Balance ball chairs

Typical spend £50-100

Pros Strengthens back muscles, relatively cheap

Cons No height adjustment, can be annoying to store when done

The use of an exercise ball in place of a regular office chair has become more popular in recent years. By balancing yourself as you work from home, you'll be improving your posture and strengthening your back muscles.

We've seen balance ball chairs specifically designed for the home office that come with a cradle to stop the ball from rolling around. You'll find that some also have a back rest for added support.

Drafting chairs

Typical spend £100-200

Pros Ideal for working at a kitchen counter, adjustable

Cons Getting on can be clumsy

Drafting chairs are designed to be used at a height greater than a standard office desk. They're a good option if you work at a raised surface such as a kitchen counter.

Most drafting chairs include a ring around the base of the chair that you rest your feet on. They usually arrive with seat backs and arm rests and, in some cases, tilt adjustment. 

Leather office chairs

Typical spend £50-150

Pros Stylish, come in a range of colours

Cons You might be sacrificing an ergonomic design for looks

If you want to keep your home office looking sophisticated, investing in a leather chair will score you some style points. 

The sheer number of leather office chairs available online can be overwhelming, so make sure you're buying one that provides some effective back support. 

Mesh office chairs

Typical spend £50-150

Pros Breathable back, stylish, adjustable levels of support

Cons You might prefer a cushioned back

Unlike a standard office chair that offers cushioned back support, mesh is stretched across the back of the chair.

This mesh is breathable and better at conforming to the shape of your body as there's more flex to it. On some, you can control the tightness of the mesh, which is handy if you want it to feel firmer on your back.

Executive office chairs

Typical spend £100-200

Pros Sophisticated, good-quality materials, tall back

Cons Expensive

If you want to treat yourself to a lavish chair that wouldn't look out of place in a chief executive's office, this type of chair could suit nicely.

These tall-backed chairs aim to provide support across your entire upper body and are designed to be used for hours at a time. Most of them have wheels.

Six key considerations for choosing your home office chair

Before you buy, Kirsty Angerer, ergonomic consultant and member of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics & Human Factors recommends checking for these six features (especially the first three).

The whole height of the chair needs to be adjustable to accommodate different statures and heights.

Ideally, the seat should be deep enough to support your legs if you’re tall or not too deep if you’re short. The front edge of the seat should be rounded over to stop it digging into your thighs and the seat not so deep that you sink into it as this may hinder you changing position.

The backrest of your chair should give firm support to the lower and middle parts of your back. Height adjustment is important, too, unless the backrest is high enough to provide complete back support.

Armrests aren’t essential, but if you prefer a chair with them, make sure they’re set back from the front of the seat, or adjust to allow the chair to be drawn up close to the work surface.

Having a recline adjustment will allow you move in the seat so you’re not constantly sat in one position.

Ideally, your chair should have a five-castor base so you can move around freely. ‘Check whether you need carpet or hard floor castors depending on the flooring in your home,’ says Kirsty.

Where to buy a home office chair

If you're on the hunt for an office chair while you work from home, only hand your money over to reputable sellers.

Make sure you're shopping savvy by checking the retailer's returns policy. Our advice on online shopping has more details.

Popular retailers that stock home office chairs include:

  • Amazon stocks hundreds of ergonomic chairs that you can filter by colour. Expect to spend around £50-150
  • Argos sells leather chairs, mesh chairs and fabric chairs. Prices start around £50 and rise to £150
  • eBay thousands of options sorted by popular categories including 'executive office chair', 'high back office chair' and 'ergonomic office chair'
  • Ikea has swivel chairs, stools and office chairs. Its priciest office chair with armrests, the HATTEFJÄLL, is £275
  • John Lewis Prices for John Lewis office chairs can soar as high as £1,500. One of its bestsellers, the Abraham Office Chair, is £300
  • Office Furniture Online Hundreds of office chairs made from fabric, faux leather, mesh or plastic. Most chairs on the website land between £50 and £100
  • Ryman he brand's 'executive leather chairs' come in a range of colours. Expect to pay £150 to £200
  • Wayfair stocks a range of executive chairs, kneeling chairs and ergonomic chairs

Discover which retailers are rated highly by Which? members with our guide on the best and worst online shops.

Popular home office chairs from major retailers

Ergonomic consultant Kirsty Angerer, also known as The Travelling Ergonomist, advises checking the following before buying a home office chair:

'It's a very personal choice, dependent on your height and stature, the tasks you'll be doing, how long for and the overall aesthetic you're looking for.

'You'll want to look for five adjustments on a chair for work: height adjustment, seat depth adjustment, lumbar height, adjustable armrests and recline tension.'

We don't currently test home office chairs at Which?, but our research identified Argos, eBay, Ikea, John Lewis and Wayfair as the most popular retailers selling ergonomic home office chairs. 

We asked these retailers to tell us what were their most popular ergonomic home office chairs. 

We ran the recommendations from those who responded past Kirsty, who shortlisted the following based on her ergonomic expertise:

1. JL Comfuni Ergonomic Home Office Chair, eBay (£56.99). An ergonomic home office chair with a breathable mesh back and tilt lock. It has silver accents under each padded arm rest.

2. JARVFJALLET Office Chair with armrests, Ikea (£175). You can adjust the headrest, the height of the chair and the tilt angle. A small lumbar cushion at the base of the chair offers some support through those long work days.

3. MARKUS Office Chair, Ikea (£179). The MARKUS shares a similar look to the JÄRVFJÄLLET (above), but there are some subtle differences. This chair has curved silver arm rests and, while the other chair has a padded fabric base, this one is made from leather.

4. Herman Miller Aeron Office Chair, John Lewis (£1,299). You can tilt the back of the chair and the seat simultaneously at different ratios, which should ease some pressure on your lower back. The backrest has been designed with 'eight zones of varying tension'.

5. Humanscale Diffrient World Task Office Chair, John Lewis (£579). This ergonomic chair, designed with a weight-sensitive recline mechanism, has adjustable seat height, armrest height and depth. A non-stretch mesh on the back of the chair acts as your lumbar support.

6. Ergonomic Mesh Desk Chair, Wayfair (£108.99). A high-back home office chair with a black swivel base. It has tilt lock, height adjustable arms, an adjustable mesh headrest and adjustable lumbar support.

7. High-Back Ergonomic Mesh Executive Chair, Wayfair (£174.99). This home office chair is available with a black, blue or red mesh back. It has an adjustable headrest, a curved seat and a knee-tilt mechanism that lets you recline the chair while keeping your feet flat on the ground.

How to sit correctly

According to the NHS website, improving your posture will effectively alleviate muscle tension. If you work from home at your desk for long periods of time, sitting correctly is crucial.

It's easy to fall into a slouching position while you're concentrating on your work, but over time this can cause muscle strain. Buying an ergonomic chair and sitting in it correctly will keep you protected.

Take a look at the graphic below for some tips on how to sit correctly.

Source: NHS

Back support for office chair: avoiding back pain

If you don't want to buy a new ergonomic chair, you can add improved back support to a chair you already own, there are a couple of ways to get the job done to help avoid getting back pain.

Mesh lumbar back support

For as little as £10, you can get a curved mesh backrest that wraps around the back of your office chair. The mesh material will keep you cool, while the shape will relieve pressure on your spine. This is an affordable way of correcting your posture and preventing back pain – you don't always need to spend hundreds of pounds on a home office chair.

Rolled up towel

Alternatively, grab a towel from the bathroom or a pillow and position it at the base of your spine for lower back support. But note that in the long term, you'll get better results from a proper ergonomic chair.

Office chair cushions

You might find that the material of a mesh back support feels a little hard to lean against. If you'd prefer a softer surface, consider an office chair cushion. These can sit at the base of your back or underneath your legs.

Amazon stocks a wide selection of office chair cushions. These aim to relieve pressure on your spine and lower back pain by using memory foam that moulds to the shape of your back and legs. When picking the right office chair cushion for you, aim for one that has a removable, washable cover.

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