Ergonomic chairs made by the top-5 office furniture mega-corporations are almost universally revered. That reverence is legit — from a 2000s-era desktop computing perspective. From a generational, multi-device 2023 one, there’s still good value — for some. Let’s explore unique selling points (USPs): best ergo office chairs — from a modern, multi-device + esports optimization perspective.
Any chair with adjustable lumbar + arms and a reclining backrest provides the tools to support good posture. Regardless of how fancy the execution is, proper user habits are necessary to ensure good results. That means two things.
While sitting, you need to tuck your hips, plant your feet, support your arms, and support your lower back curve. That will ensure a healthy neutral posture — in any type of ergonomic chair.
Second, no matter how ‘perfect’ your sitting posture, sitting in any position for too long will overload muscles.
Thus frequent movement breaks are vital. To that end, high-end office chairs serve up fancy seat-tilting functions. However, these days, many more sensible movement-boosting options exist.
For example, instead of flopping around in a chair, stand up to stretch your legs. Alternatively, invest in a $20 yoga mat. Beyond frequent stretching breaks, healthy habits away from the computer also work wonders.
That includes include gym time, clean eating, and sound sleep — not fancy chair tilt functions. Learn more:
Healthy Deskworker Blueprint 2023
Formula: ergonomic chair + neutral posture habits + frequent breaks + gym exercise + clean eating + sound sleep = peak performance.
Back Support Ergo Tech Has Peaked
History shows that the definition of healthy sitting support evolves as technologies do. But all of the world’s ‘best’ ergonomic office chairs have support designs at least a decade old.
When the Aeron debuted in 1994, the concept of a healthy posture-supporting chair was revolutionary. Today, its ergonomic formula is ubiquitous. Any chair with adjustable lumbar + arms and a reclining backrest can provide what’s needed.
Regardless of the model, proper usage is necessary for the best results. Planted feet, supported arms, and a supported lumbar curve produces a neutral sitting posture in any type of ergonomic chair.
Relaxed, Post-Cubicle-Era Ergonomics
In the 29 years since the Herman Miller Aeron’s release, technology — and society — has rapidly evolved. Working from home is now quasi-ubiquitous. Meanwhile, the ergonomic focus at the institutional level has shifted beyond desktop computing.
Herman Miller’s Gaming Division General Manager John Cambell confirms this. Old, cubicle-era neutral postures with knees bent at 90° are out. Those using old-school office chairs will need ‘retraining’:
Given these realities, it’s worth taking a fresh look at the world’s ‘best’ ergonomic chairs. They qualify as such under the old, desktop computing cubicle-era paradigm. So how do hold up — by 2023 socio-technological standards?
Outdated Unique Selling Propositions
A unique selling proposition (USP) defines what makes a product stand out against the competition. Our 2023 seated comfort analysis shows physical, psychological, and user habits as the most influential factors.
With disciplined habits and frequent breaks, a cheap $200 ergonomic chair works just fine. So what’s the real incentive to spend over $800 on a chair?
Find below a summary of the outdated USPs used to hype ergonomic office chairs in 2023:
- Back support technologies have peaked: planted feet, tucked hips, and supported lumbar + arms at a 100° recline = neutral postures in any ergonomic chair.
- Premium chair mobile support is outdated: the Steelcase Gesture is specially designed for mobile computing – but only by 2013 standards.
- Synchronous tilt functionality is extraneous: pricey tilting functions pull you away from the keyboard; a swivel footrest does not. Besides, frequent walking breaks are better movement boosters than syntho-sync-tilt.
- Strict neutral postures are overkill? Herman Miller engineers and esports docs agree. Semi-neutral postures mixed with frequent breaks work well enough. Add gym time, sound sleep, and clean eating to supercharge.
All Ergo Chairs Provide Similar Back Support
Good back support is defined by numbers. A healthy standing and sitting posture produces a 0° neck tilt and a 25-45° lower back curve. Sitting unsupported for long periods flattens that curve.
Then, the upper back and neck tilt forward, curling the entire spine into a slouch. Ergonomic seating mitigates slouching via three adjustable features: lumbar, arms, and backrest.
Combined, these features support users into neutral sitting postures. However, any chair with these features — even a $200 one — provides the same neutral posture support! So why pay more?
After a thorough check of the top models, all provide solid (and predictable) neutral posture support. That’s not limited to only fancy office chairs.
For example, here’s me (experienced ergo chair user) in a $1300 Herman Miller Mirra 2 chair. Next to me is a first-time ergo chair user in a $500 DXRacer Craft chair.
Using proper technique (planted feet, tucked hips, supported lumbar), we both show off good-looking neutral sitting postures.
In fact, a broad comparison of neutral postures in elite gaming and office chairs reveals the facts. With proper usage, any fully-ergonomic chair can support good posture. Learn more:
All Provide OUTDATED Multi-Device Support
The Herman Miller Aeron debuted as the world’s first elite ergo chair in 1994 — the height of the desktop computing era. In 2008, Herman Miller released the Embody chair to support multi-device computing.
Soon after, Steelcase conducted a global study on emerging multi-device computing habits. In 2013, the Steelcase Gesture emerged as a result of that research.
Circa 2023, the Embody’s design is 15 years old; the Gesture’s is 10 years old. On the mobile front, neither supports long periods of multi-device computing.
Updated Mobile Support Standards
In late 2021, the Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics 5th edition unveiled new institutional ergonomic priorities.
While good back support remains a priority for desktop computing, multi-device computing support now takes precedence. However, by modern standards, none of the elite chairs fully support mobile computing!
The Gesture comes closest, with arms that adjust a massive 11.5″ above the seat (impressive on paper). In practice, it only supports short periods of mobile computing — after ten minutes or so, neck and shoulder tension is likely.
Bottom line: none of the best Steelcase, Herman Miller, or Haworth ergonomic chairs support long periods of mobile computing. Whichever you buy, you’ll need to add a height-adjustable sit-stand desk for full multi-device compliance.
Sync-Tilt Selling Point Is OUTDATED
Many high-end ergonomic chairs include synchronous tilt as a luxury extra. This tilts the seat in proportion to the backrest as the user reclines. The point is to provide a burst of movement between computing sessions.
By modern standards, sync-tilt isn’t the jaw-dropper it once was. There are two reasons:
Even Cheap Chairs Have Sync Tilt These Days
A decade ago, this was a cutting-edge feature. But these days, even budget models like the $220.37 Staples Hyken include robust sync-tilt functionality.
In fact, four out of the five top-rated office chairs priced under $350 include synchronous tilt.
Sync tilt = Disruptive, Inefficient Movement
Synchronous tilt is an extraneous feature designed only for relaxing. To engage it, you need to push yourself away from your mouse and keyboard.
There are two problems with this concept. First, it’s inefficient to waste time flopping around in a chair.
Instead, you can get a better movement boost by simply walking around for a few minutes. Another potent trick is to add a cheap yoga mat to your setup.
Second, if you want to boost movement while you sit, footrests work better than pricey, complex sync tilting seats.
Using a footrest beats sync-tilt for one simple reason. It lets you work your calves and feet without disengaging from your keyboard. In contrast, you need to disengage from the keyboard and lean back to engage a chair’s sync tilt. Facts:
- Walking > Sync Tilt: if you need a break, stand up and walk around. That works better than flopping around in a synthetic seat tilt.
- Footrests Work Better: if you want to move without disengaging from your work, use a footrest.
Generational: Relaxed > Forced Postures
In late 2022, two of the world’s top-5 office furniture corporations released full-back gaming chairs. First, Respawn (part of the HNI Corporation) dropped the Respawn Flexx Faze Clan Edition.
A few days later, Herman Miller released its latest seating ‘revolution’: the Vantum Gaming Chair. Both feature full-back designs that support relaxed, semi-slouchy postures.
Herman Miller’s Gaming Division GM Jon Campbell justified this radical shift as generational(1). Modern “gamers require versatility:
In this interview(1), he adds that existing Herman Miller users are (suddenly) using their chairs improperly! “Herman Miller has been training people to sit in a 90 posture for quite some time. So now, we’re trying to go back and retrain people.”
This leaves hard-core office chair fans with a conundrum. Do they hold on to outdated cubicle-era standards?
Or will they give in to the dark side, abandon strict postures, and join the slouchy gaming chair revolution?
2023 Elite Chair Appeal = Psychological
Any ergonomic chair with adjustable lumbar + arms and a reclining backrest can support neutral postures. Proper usage — not luxury features — yields optimal results.
Regardless of chair, usage is the same. Tuck your hips, plant your feet, and sit upright with a supported lumbar curve. For extra bracing to hold your torso upright, press your forearms into the armrests.
So what’s the point of spending $1500 on a chair when a $300 one does a similar job? Facts:
- Predictable back support concepts: all models (except for the Embody) provide a similar level of back support using the same neutral support concepts.
- Mediocre mobile support: no model is fully mobile-compliant. For proper multi-device support, you’ll need to stack a sit-to-stand desk with any chair you choose.
- Overhyped sync tilt: boosting movement by paying extra for fancy sync tilt will let you flop around like a moron. Instead, invest $100 in a yoga mat + footrest. Then, make sure to take frequent breaks.
Given these facts, why do so many hype pricey office chairs as amazing, magical works of wonder? The answer is psychological.
Psychological Perception + Aesthetic Appeal
The comfort of a chair includes both objective (neutral posture support) and subjective (reported feelings) factors. Psychologically attractive furniture is often perceived as more physically comfortable.
This is why every product put out by the world’s top-5 ergonomic office furniture brands enjoys almost universal reverence. Buying a chair from any of these mega-corps comes with massive expectations.
Buyers expect perfection out of the box. That means a world-class build, medical-grade back support, and designs fit for the fanciest Fortune 100 offices.
True Value: Best Ergo Chairs Over $1000
For most of 2022, ChairsFX spent its editorial time documenting shifting ergonomic trends.
To validate those, I’ve been using a full Secretlab kit for multi-device purposes (I’m 5’9″ / 177 cm):
- Chair: Titan Evo 2022 Cookies & Cream Softweave (medium size)
- Desk: Magnus Pro Sit-Stand (I sit with planted feet using a 29.5″ (75 cm) desktop height)
While using the kit, I’ve been applying the cookie-cutter esports performance model:
- Frequent breaks to stand up and move.
- Resistance and cardio training at the gym 4 x per week.
- Clean eating and stable sleep habits.
In 2023, I started shopping around for a seating upgrade. What ergonomic office chair would improve my current setup?
After a fresh hands-on look at the top models, I found most offered excellent but predictable neutral posture support.
Only a pair of Herman Miller chairs stood out. The Embody justifies its $1700+ price tag with a revolutionary system that supports the upper spine. It works well — and there’s nothing else like it on the market.
The Aeron’s back support is more predictable: adjustable lumbar + arms and reclining backrest = neutral postures. However, its mesh upholstery is truly world-class. That helps to justify its price tag.
Everything else is just a neutral support rehash. That includes the Haworth Fern, Steelcase Gesture, Steelcase Leap, and more. Check out an honest, hands-on (non-hype) review of all top models:
Hands-On Review: Best High-End Ergo Office Chairs
- Herman Miller Press Release. ‘Herman Miller and Logitech G Introduce Vantum, a Modern Gaming Chair’, October 6, 2022. Vantum Gaming Chair Press Release, (accessed Oct. 7, 2022)
- “Pentiment & Herman Miller Gaming.” YouTube, uploaded by Larry Hryb, Xbox’s Major Nelson, Jan. 26, 2023, https://youtu.be/vbU-YhxkeU8?t=3046.