Traditional office chairs are obsolete. Those have fixed components that force users into static sitting positions. In the computing era, people spend long periods engaged in screen-based sedentary time. Under those conditions, demand for ergonomic chairs has surged. Luckily for consumers, there are now three types of ergonomic office chairs to choose from.
User-centered design (UCD) is a production process that focuses on the end user of the product. UCD design considers users, tasks, and environments. The goal is to address the entire user experience in the end product.
Ergonomic furniture design also follows the UCD approach. Humanscale defines ergonomics as designing for people. Ergonomic furniture is adjustable to the needs of the user. Good ergonomic design understands the user’s needs. Then it fills those needs with adjustable features.
Per modern ergonomic seating standards, the point of adjustments is to promote good sitting posture and movement.
At present, the multi-billion dollar office industry is making a transition towards ergonomic, UCD designs. That’s partly because enterprise demand for cheap office chairs has dried up in the lockdown era. Another reason is because of the rising popularity of ergonomic computing chairs.
Types of ergonomic office chairs
Today, there are three classes of ergonomic computing chairs to choose from. This section summarizes each one, starting with the most expensive option and ending with the cheapest.
The Herman Miller Aeron came out in 1994. Today, it still reigns as the gold standard for ergonomic office chairs. Chairs at the level of the Aeron cost over $1000. A sub-class cuts prices by removing a key luxury feature from the equation.
Synchro-tilt task chairs
Price range: $450 to $1500
The Herman Miller Aeron was the world’s first mass-marketed ergonomic office chair. Launched in 1994, it remains the most robust ergonomic chair on the market to this day. Its standout feature is called ‘synchro-tilt’. That angles the backrest in sync with the seat. When you lean back, the seat angles up. Unlike other chairs, the Aeron also supports forward synchro-tilt. When you lean forward, the seat angles down.
The Aeron was such a massive hit that several other high-end synchro-tilt chairs emerged. For instance, Herman Miller released the Embody chair in 2008. In July 2020, they released a gamified version. That model also has a synchro-tilt feature, but only when leaning back. When you lean forward, the seat remains fixed.
The point of synchro-tilt is to let your body move while sitting. At the same time, it ensures good posture by keeping the thighs parallel to the floor, no matter your sitting position.
Herman Miller Aeron specs
The best synchro-tilt chairs are the most expensive ergonomic options on the market. As such, they also come with the richest feature sets.
For instance, here are the features on a fully-loaded $1400 Herman Miller Aeron:
- Synchro-tilt: seat pan angle -1° to 16°; backrest 93° to 104°
- Upholstery: Pellicle 8Z mesh provides eight zones of varying tension for ultra-responsive support..
- Seat: adjust the height; limit the tilt range; adjust the tilt tension; sync-tilt with the backrest.
- Backrest: forward tilt option; height and depth adjustable PostureFit lumbar support.
- Armrests: 3D adjustable.
- Warranty: 12 years.
Beyond the Herman Miller chairs, other top synchro-tilt models include the Steelcase Gesture, Sidiz T80, and Hon Ignition. Prices range from $450 to $1500.
Conventional tilt task chairs
Price range: $359 to $799
A step down from synchro-tilt task chairs are conventional tilt models. These have seats that stay fixed at all times. Otherwise, they have the same rich features as pricey synchro-tilt task chairs. These chairs come with adjustable lumbar support, adjustable armrests, and a reclining backrest. Like the Aeron, all models also come with breathable adaptive mesh upholstery.
Prices range from $359 to $799, but there’s not a huge selection. Current top options come from Sidiz, Cougar, Secretlab, and Vertagear.
PC gaming chairs
Price range: $120 to $550
Racing seat developer Recaro launched their first racing style ergonomic seat in 1967. That featured a body-hugging seat shell, adjustment options, and foam upholstery. In 2005, they revolutionized seating design with a new lightweight PU leather shell.
A year later, DXRacer stood on the shoulders of race car seat giants. They borrowed the rich ergonomic development and modified it for gamers.
To this day, modern gaming chairs have tall backrests that offer complete support. The chair supports your thighs, hips, back, arms, and entire upper body.
The best pro esports chairs have the richest ergonomic features. Those come with 4D armrests and a multifunction tilt-lock. That lets you tilt and lock the seat at different angles. It’s like a manual version of synchro-tilt.
The gaming chair industry is robust, with a huge range of options. As a counter to pricey pro esports chairs, there’s a solid selection of cheap chairs with basic features. You can also choose gaming chairs using size parameters. Most models suit average sizes with slim hips. But there are also specialty models for small and extra-large users. To browse all genres, browse through our comparison guides:
Cheap ergonomic office chairs
Price range: under $250
For around 100 years, the commercial office industry has been furnishing the schools and offices of the world. Buying decisions were based on price — the cheaper the better. Those making the decisions shunned individuality of favor of conformity.
It took a global lockdown to break this cycle. With millions now working from home, buying decisions are have reverted to the individual. The demand for ergonomic furniture is booming. In response, the office chair industry has started releasing a new class of affordable ergonomic office chairs.
These models are decent but not spectacular. Modern ergonomic chair guidelines call for adjustable lumbar, adjustable armrests, and a reclining backrest. Among the new crop of cheap ergonomic chairs, only a few meet the criteria. The others have adjustable lumbar and armrests, but no reclining function.
Look for a surge of new models to appear in this price range in the coming months.
Other types of computing chairs
There are two other types of computing chairs available. Both lack the essential ergonomic features demanded by most experts. Those features are:
- Adjustable lumbar support
- Adjustable armrests
- Reclining backrest
Traditional office chairs
Price range: $52 to $169
Ergonomic scientists have been pointing out the health hazards of office chairs since the 1990s.
Traditional office chairs only let you adjust the seat height and rock the chair. They have fixed backrests and fixed armrests. These limited features promote static sitting positions.
The problem is that sitting for long periods in fixed positions is bad for your health. That promotes muscle strain, slouching, slower circulation, and lethargy.
The attraction is the price. You can get a cheap office chair delivered to your door for less than $50. If you only need a seat for a few hours a day, these models might suffice.
Console gaming chairs
Price range: $40 to $350
Console gaming units attach to televisions. Most users play console games in the living room. Usually, options while playing are to sit on the floor or on a sofa. Both of those options are bad for your back over long periods of gaming.
As a result, console gaming chairs arose as a popular living room option. These are better for your back than the floor or sofa, but not ideal. Over long periods of sitting, these chairs will flatten the lumbar area and curve the spine into the shape of a boiled shrimp.
On the positive side, they’re cheap, portable, and better than sitting on the floor or sofa. There are four types of console gaming chairs to choose from. These are floor rockers, pedestal rockers, recliners, and racing simulators.
Today, most experts lay out clear guidelines for ergonomic office chairs. These models should have an adjustable lumbar, adjustable armrests, and a reclining backrest.
That has been common knowledge among ergonomic experts for decades. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has similar standards for office chairs. They also demand that a chair has adjustable armrests, lumbar support, and a reclining backrest.
In our old, institutionalized world, seating in schools and offices was decided by corporate buyers. Ergonomics was never a factor. Instead, corporate buyers focused on price, durability, and style.
But now, 42% of the American labor force works from home. Many believe this trend is here to stay. For example, Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom says that once the pandemic passes, “…rates of people working from home will explode.”
Work-from-home ergonomic chairs
In the work-from-home era, the institution no longer decides the working environment. People are free to choose the furniture that best suits their needs.
Luckily for consumers, there are now three types of ergonomic office chairs to choose from. Expect the selection of options to grow quickly over the next twelve months.
- Synchro-tilt task chairs: the most advanced and expensive ergonomic chairs. These models angle the seat in proportion to the backrest as the user leans back. ($450 to $1500).
- Conventional tilt task chairs: these have the same rich features pricey Herman Miller chairs, minus the synchro-tilt. Expect 4D armrests, advanced reclining modes, multifunction tilt, and adaptive mesh upholstery. ($359 to $799)
- PC gaming chairs: you get a tall padded backrest and thick padded seat. Attached to the backrest, a lumbar and headrest pillow help to keep the spine in alignment. As such, these are the only ergonomic chairs offering full-body protection. These models support good posture at your knees, hips, back, shoulders, head, and arms. ($120 to $550)
- Ergonomic office chairs (new): the office chair industry is transitioning towards ergonomic designs. The first batch of models has arrived. These come with 1D armrests and adjustable lumbar support. Some models (but not all) also include a reclining backrest.