The Best Ergonomic Office Chair In Australia For All-Day Comfort [2022]

Create a beautiful and comfortable WFH office.

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best ergonomic chair australia
Steven McConnell
26 min read

May 18, 2022

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Looking for the best ergonomic office chair in Australia? You’ve probably realised that long sitting sessions in an ill-fitting, cheap office chair with poor seat depth, incorrect seat height, and unbreathable materials lead to unnecessary discomfort, tiredness, and poor productivity.

The Herman Miller Aeron has been my home office chair for the past five years. It’s done a great job of providing comfortable seating for 8-9 hours per day, surviving multiple house moves and yet presenting zero issues.

But it’s time for a change. I like, but don’t love, the Aeron – for reasons that I’ll discuss later.

Being the kind of guy who likes to go down deep rabbit holes, I did a tonne of research to find 6 of the best ergonomic chairs in Australia, learning everything there is to learn about office chairs in the process. I’m sharing my discoveries with you here today.

The 6 Best Ergonomic Office Chairs In Australia Are:

  1. Desky Pro+ – Best overall.
  2. Humanscale Liberty – Best automatic office chair.
  3. Elite X-Ergo – Best all-mesh office chair.
  4. Herman Miller Cosm – Best if money is not an object.
  5. UpDown Bandit – Best if you’re on a budget.
  6. Steelcase Leap V2 – Best for people with sensitive bodies.

To help me separate important features from marketing fiction, I’ve also enlisted the help of Australia’s leading musculoskeletal physiotherapist, Antony Lo.

Known as The Physio Detective for his deep understanding of the human body, he offered invaluable advice that I’ll share below.

1. Desky Pro+ Ergonomic Chair

Overall best ergonomic office chair.

Shown in photo: profile view of the Desky Pro+ in white. Design-wise, it punches well above its price point.

The Desky Pro+ has taken the #1 spot in my review of Australia’s best ergonomic office chairs for 2022 – because it offers solid ergonomic chops in a stylish design without breaking the bank.

It’s the best ergonomic chair you can buy for your home office if your budget is around the $700 mark.

Pros.

The Desky Pro+ fits like a second skin because of its power to adjust seat height, synchro tilt, back angle, backrest tilt, tilt lock, as well as arm height.

Its fully adjustable armrests swivel and adjust for depth, while its headrest comfortably cradles your head when you recline.

The chair’s synchro-tilt mechanism is a very welcome sight at this price point, ensuring optimum ergonomics as you switch between computing and reclining tasks (my full guide to chair mechanisms is below).

Shown in photo: industrial-chic meets sweeping curves meets utilitarian minimalism. Some design cues remind me of the interior in the new Land Rover Defender.

Until recently, synchro-tilt technology has only been featured on ultra-expensive $2,000+ office chairs but, in recent years, found its way into the sub $1,000 segment. It represents a huge step up from cheap centre- and knee-tilt mechanisms.

  • You won’t see any buttons on the Desky Pro+, and very few levers.

This is because the chair’s backrest, armrest and headrest are locked in place using a clever system of notches, removing the need for unsightly controls and giving the chair a clean, modern look.

The five-prong base, made of diecast aluminium alloy, offers a rock-solid foundation and is 100% recyclable.

Important!

In the unlikely event that you’re not happy with Desky Pro+’s seating position, the chair is covered by a pretty good return policy. Send the chair back in its original condition within 7 days of taking delivery, and you’ll get a full refund. But you will need to cover the postage.

Shown in photo: the Desky Pro+ features a buttonless design with armrests that adjust for height and swivel angle.

I like Desky Pro+‘s hybrid construction, with mesh on the backrest and fabric on the seat pad. This is a smart design choice, as it gives you the best of both worlds when it comes to ventilation and comfort.

Expert Tip.

While mesh is universally loved for its breeziness on the back, it polarises people when used on the seat. You will either love it or hate it, and if you’re not used to sitting on mesh, I suggest you opt for the familiar comfort of a fabric seat pad.

Speaking of the seat pad, I love the curved waterfall contouring on its front, which relieves pressure on the back of your thighs and improves blood circulation to your lower limbs.

Cons.

I’m a very tall (6″5 / 200cm) guy, and with the seat height ranging between 40 to 48cm, the Desky Pro+ leaves me sitting a little too low for my liking.

For context, most office chairs top out about 5 centimetres higher, at around 53cm.

Shown in photo: deciding between black and white versions of the Desky Pro+ is hard, as they both look good. Personally, I prefer white.

If you’re less than 190cm in height, it’s not a problem that you’ll need to think about. It’s strictly a tall person problem, which will affect about 15% of the population.

My other complaint is that the Desky Pro+‘s seat depth doesn’t adjust manually.

This is a “nice to have” rather than a “must-have” feature, and you’ll find that even the most expensive chairs often skip it altogether. The good news is that the Desky Pro+ will adjust seat depth for you automatically as you recline.

Overall.

The Desky Pro+ adds a fully ergonomic experience to your home office space without breaking the bank.

It gives you essential features that you need to ensure that your posture remains ergonomic, but doesn’t force you to pay for mechanisms that you won’t use and doesn’t tell pretentious brand stories.

Looks-wise, it’s very attractive, and from certain angles (mainly the profile and the rear), it echoes the Herman Miller Aeron design. The designers were more than a little bit influenced by the well-known classic.

If you’re less than 190cm tall, this is the best office chair on the market today.

✔ Airy mesh back keeps you cool

✔ Excellent build quality

✔ 10-year warranty

✔ 7-day returns

✘ Won’t accommodate super-tall people

Price.

The Desky Pro+ currently retails for $699. The price includes the base, seat, adjustable headrest and adjustable arms and a choice of either black or white colour. Learn more here.

Specifications.

➤ Load Capacity: 115kg

➤ Height Range: 40-48cm

➤ Mechanism: Synchro-Tilt

➤ Lumbar Support: Adjustable Height & Depth

➤ Warranty: 10 years

2. Humanscale Liberty

Best automatically adjustable office chair.

Shown in photo: the Humanscale Liberty is one of the most gorgeous minimalist chairs around. This example features a black base and oxygen inhale seat.

Designed by Niels Diffrient, the Humanscale Liberty is a very stylish, minimalist mesh office chair with clean lines, a comfortable seating position and only three points of manual adjustment – seat height, seat depth and armrest height.

It takes care of all other adjustments automatically, using a weight-sensing cantilever system.

Pros.

An office chair does not become as popular as the Humanscale Liberty without having rock-solid build quality. Unlike most office chairs, the Liberty is made in the USA using injection-moulded plastic and high-grade aluminium.

This resuls in a lightweight, but durable chair with impeccable fit and finish.

Shown in photo: the Liberty does not have any unsightly levers and doesn’t look like an ergonomic chair.

The Humanscale Liberty is very pretty without being ostentatious. While the Desky Pro+ is bold and almost futuristic looking, and the Liberty is elegantly understated.

It’s also quite compact. If your home office does not have enough room for a bulky ergonomic office chair, the Liberty is a great choice.

Important!

As a fully automatic chair, the Liberty supports you without you having to think about it. You just sit and start working, and the chair calibrates itself into the most ergonomically sound position for you. No need to pull knobs or pull levers.

That being said, you do have direct control over seat height, armrest height and seat pan depth.

The fabric seat pan is very comfortable, while the mesh is satisfyingly soft, yet durable enough to withstand daily use.

I love that the Humanscale Liberty arrives at your door almost fully assembled. You just have to put the top portion of the chair onto the base, and you’re good to go.

What if you don’t like it?

If you purchase it through my recommended Humanscale retailer, JasonL, you are able to return the Liberty within 14 days and get a refund, less the cost of shipping.

Cons.

The recline motion of the Liberty is smooth and ergonomic, but it feels quite different to that of the Desky Pro+ and ultra-high-end chairs like Herman Miller Cosm.

Shown in photo: the Humanscale Liberty features hybrid mesh/fabric construction, with the former used on the back and the latter on the seat.

While those chairs allow you to lean back and down in a rocking motion, the Humanscale Liberty pushes your hips slightly up as you recline.

Although this sounds odd, this is actually a smart feature, as it keeps your hips open while you recline, and keeps your body in a good position throughout the entire range of the recline.

It means you can continue to comfortably perform computing tasks from extreme recline positions, but you lose the ability to rock back and forth in that classic managerial way, like you can on chairs with synchro-tilt or weight-sensitive mechanisms.

  • If you’re not into rocking and kicking back in your chair, and use your workspace primarily for computing tasks, this is a moot point.
  • If you are famous for your rocking, kicking back and relaxing in your chair, you should choose the Desky Pro+ or the Herman Miller Cosm.

Shown in photo: the Liberty looks particularly good in casual WFH setups.

Another reason to look at alternatives is if you’re the type of person who really likes to fine-tune the settings on your chair yourself.

While the Liberty’s automatic mechanism works very well in helping you find the optimal position and keep you there, it can’t, for example, lock off at a specific point.

My final, although minor, gripe is with the armrests that adjust in one dimension only – height.

Swivel, width and depth adjustments are not available. This is not something that bothers me a lot, but if you tend to type or mouse from unusual positions, this is something to consider.

Overall.

The Humanscale Liberty is a symbol of high-end office seating and pushes the boundaries of minimalism.

Using an intelligent counter-balance mechanism, it removes pre-set manual adjustment limits, thus encouraging movement and promoting comfort.

If you don’t have time (or the interest) to fiddle with tilt locks and lumbar units, or are intimidated by appearance or functionality or high-end ergonomic office chairs, the Liberty chair is for you.

It represents excellent value for money because my next automatic ergonomic chair – the Herman Miller Cosm – is exactly twice as expensive.

✔ Elegant design

✔ Not bulky

✔ Automatic adjustments

✔ 14-day returns

✔ Easy to assemble

✘ Armrests adjust in one dimension

Price.

You can buy the Humanscale Liberty from one of Australia’s largest furniture retailers, JasonL, for about $1100. Delivery is a bit extra. Learn more here.

Specifications:

➤ Load Capacity: 181kg

➤ Height Range: 42-53cm

➤ Mechanism: Weight Sensitive

➤ Lumbar Support: Automatic

➤ Warranty: 5 years

3. Elite Furniture X-Ergo

Best mesh ergonomic office chair.

Shown in photo: the X-Ergo looks like a high-end ergonomic office chair. Here it’s shown without a headrest.

The Elite X-Ergo is a premium all-mesh office chair without an eye-watering price. In terms of features and cost, it’s very similar to my overall winner of the best home office chair in Australia award, the Desky Pro+.

  • The most important difference between the two ergonomic office chairs is X-Ergo’s 100% mesh material construction.
  • While the Desky Pro+ nestles your rear end into a fabric cushion, the Ergohuman suspends it mid-air using high-quality, breathable mesh fabric.
  • Both chairs, however, use mesh material on their backrests.

Like gendered pronouns and carnivore diets, all-mesh office chairs tend to polarise people. If you’ve used one before and liked the feeling of being weightless, this ergonomic office chair should be your pick.

Shown in photo: the seat back is made from two separate pieces of mesh, and will flex with your body.

If you’ve never sat in an all-mesh chair, there’s about a 20% chance that you won’t enjoy it at all, so there’s a bit of a risk involved with purchasing one online, sight unseen.

Luckily, when you purchase the Elite X-Ergo using the links on this page, you get 7-day returns, provided you return the chair in as-new condition, cover the cost of shipping and pay a 25% restocking fee.

Pros.

As a fully adjustable synchro-tilt chair with a waterfall seat design, the Elite X-Ergo is hard to beat on ergonomic features. Full adjustment is available for any chair part, in any dimension.

X-ergo’s construction quality is excellent, while its seat back is one of the best in the business.

Split into two separate sections, it moves with your body by flexing on one of its five hardpoints.

The lumbar support is generous in range of adjustment, and the all-mesh design provides excellent ventilation and breathability. If you live anywhere north of Byron Bay and don’t like the idea of running aircon all day in summer, this highly adjustable chair should be very high on your list.

Cons.

The chair’s headrest isn’t that comfortable – because it’s not a headrest per see. Rather, it’s a neck roll designed to fit in the crutch of your neck.

The X-Ergo is an ergonomic chair, and it looks like one. Even though it’s modern and sleek, it simply looks like a piece of well-made ergonomic office furniture.

Important!

Tis is one of the main reasons I prefer the Desky Pro+, which has something decidedly Aeron-like about its appearance. It’s more of a statement piece rather than a utensil.

Another area where the X-Ergo loses to the Desky Pro+ is the warranty. Offering five years of cover versus Desky’s ten, X-Ergo has one of the shortest warranty periods in the industry.

Overall.

The X-Ergo is a well-made, fully adjustable ergonomic mesh office chair, with adjustable arms, great lumbar support and every adjustment you can poke a castor wheel at to make it supreme value for money.

If you love mesh office chairs, but your budget doesn’t stretch to the Herman Miller Cosm below, this is the best office chair for you.

✔ Fully adjustable

✔ Excellent build quality

✔ 7-day returns

✘ 100% mesh design isn’t for everyone

✘ Office-like aesthetic

Price.

The Elite X-Ergo currently sells from the manufacturer’s website for about $900. Learn more here.

Specifications:

➤ Load Capacity: 120kg

➤ Height Range: 42.5-53.5cm

➤ Mechanism: Synchro-Tilt

➤ Lumbar Support: Adjustable Height & Depth

➤ Warranty: 5 years

4. Herman Miller Cosm Mid-Back

Best premium ergonomic chair.

Shown in photo: the Cosm Mid-Back with fixed arms. Look at those curves! Even though the fixed arms look fantastic, I recommend that you opt for adjustable versions to ensure you can find the optimal position every time.

Gorgeous in its form and unsurpassed in function, the Cosm is one of the best-looking chairs on the market right now.

  • Herman Miller launched it in 2018, and since then, it’s become one of the most popular, most talked-about chairs on the market.
  • With an RRP of about $2,200, it’s also the best ergonomic chair you can buy – if money is not an object.

The Cosm is available in three different height configurations – high, medium and low back.

My personal favourite is the mid-back – because it’s big enough to cradle my back nicely while not detracting from the chair’s minimalist, elegant look.

Pros.

The Cosm is very pretty. Built with aesthetics in mind, it’s a piece of industrial art disguised as an office chair.

Shown in photo: the Cosm with Leaf arms. They’re very pretty but are the least ergonomic of the bunch.

You’ll want to draw attention to its stunning curves, which is why Herman Miller gives you the option to spec it in a number of colours that range from traditional grey (Graphite) to more adventurous hues that involve reds (Canyon), whites (Mineral) and blues (Nightfall).

But it’s not a pretty, stupid show pony.

  • The chair’s appearance is backed up by exceptional build quality.
  • Even though the Cosm is made mostly from plastics and some aluminium, it looks and feels decidedly high-end.

Herman Miller’s Autoharmonic tilt, which is the company’s marketing jargon for its weight-activated, 100% automatic lift and tilt mechanism, provides automatic control over the chair’s functions.

Shown in photo: the Cosm Mid-Back with adjustable arms. This is the best office chair in Australia – if your budget allows it.

You read that right. Fully automatic. The Cosm doesn’t allow you to adjust anything apart from your seating height.

Plot Twist.

I was very sceptical about it, because I’m used to controlling everything on my Aeron. How can I trust a chair to make all the adjustments for me, dammit?

Alas, magic is possible.

When I compare the Cosm with an Aeron back-to-back, the latter feels fiddly and never quite right.

In the Aeron, I keep turning knobs and levers to make the chair catch up with my body changes, while in the Cosm, I do what I want – and the chair responds. It flexes with my body, tilts when I want to recline, and keeps me vertical when I want to stay upright.

It’s as close to artificial intelligence as you’ll get to in an office chair.

Shown in photo: the Herman Miller Cosm Mid Back in red. Definitely for the ostentatious types.

Like all Herman Miller chairs, the Cosm is covered by a 12-year warranty on parts and labour.

Interestingly, you can use the chair 24 hours per day without voiding the warranty.

This is very valuable in the context of call centres, and less so in WFH applications, but it does give you some context around the durability of these chairs. You really are buying a chair that will last you for more than a decade.

Important!

The Cosm will arrive at your door pre-assembled, inside a big box. You won’t have to spend hours pouring over complicated manuals, screwing things together.

Cons.

The Cosm gives you three arm options: fixed, adjustable and leaf.

Stay away from the leaf arms. They offer you indirect control over your forearm placement by giving you the option to land your elbows on various parts of their angled mesh.

Shown in photo: the Herman Miller Cosm Mid-back in graphite, and with adjustable arms. I don’t mean to harp on, but if you’re OK with spending upwards of $2K, this is the best office chair in Australia.

This idea works well in theory, but in practice, it has a habit of making your skin feel raw and cutting off your circulation. Get the adjustable armrests for maximum comfort.

My other gripe is with Herman Miller’s supply chain. Unfortunately, the company doesn’t sell directly to consumers in Australia, instead opting to offer its office chairs via a variety of distributors.

This means you are at the mercy of the shipping and return policies of these retailers, and these vary wildly.

Some, like Living Edge, don’t offer returns for change of mind, while others, like Bad Backs, offer easy chair trials, but the process of organising one is clunky.

(Full list of Australian Herman Miller retailers is here).

Shown in photo: The Herman Miller Cosm with fixed arm rests in mineral finish. There’s something very nice about the sweep of those armrests.

This is in stark contrast to the company’s approach in the USA, where you can simply order a chair from the manufacturer’s website and return it within 30 days if you don’t like it.

Thumbs Down!

The prospect of buying a $2,000+ chair with a near-total lack of adjustments, sight unseen, without an option for risk-free return, will prove too risky for most people.

Until the company offers a more frictionless way to buy – and possibly return – its chairs in Australia, most people will buy the Cosm the traditional way – by walking into a showroom, touching, feeling and sitting.

Or they’ll put the idea in the “too hard” basket and opt for a Desky Pro+ or Ergohuman IOO instead, which do 80% of what the Cosm does for 30% of the price.

Shown in photo: in case you were curious, this is the full selection of sizes and colours for the Cosm.

Overall.

The Cosm looks, feels and functions like a high-end office chair from top to bottom.

With near-perfect build quality, top-notch ergonomics and stunning looks, the Cosm has the potential to be the best ergonomic office chair that you’ve ever owned, and will ever own.

It’s remarkably good at helping you switch between computing and pondering tasks just by adjusting your body position, without having to fiddle with knobs and levers.

Thumbs Up!

I particularly love the feeling of its recline motion. It provides you with a natural, smooth rocking motion instead of a nasty “rear somersault” feeling that you get on budget office chairs with centre-tilt mechanisms.

I was worried that the chair would not allow me to stay upright and force me to permanently work from a semi-inclined position, but I’m glad to say that this is not the case. If you want to stay upright, it will keep you there, and when you want to recline, it will do that too.

✔ Gorgeous Design

✔ Exceptional Build Quality

✘ You Will Probably Not Want To Buy It Online

Price.

Cosm‘s pricing puts it at the ultra-premium end of the market.

The mid-back version will set you back about $2,000 in Graphite. Low and high back options are about $300 on either side of that, and adventurous colour options add another few hundred bucks again. The louder the colour, the more pricey it is.

Specifications.

➤ Load Capacity: 159kg

➤ Height Range: 37.5-54.5cm

➤ Mechanism: Weight-Activated, Fully Automatic

➤ Lumbar Support: Fully Automatic

➤ Warranty: 12 years

5. UpDown Bandit Chair

Best budget office chair.

Shown in photo: the Bandit with optional arm rests. Hybrid construction gives you the breziness of mesh on your back and the comfort of fabric on your backside.

Finding the best cheap office chair doesn’t need to be an exercise in settling for less. If you’re on a budget, look for high-value features in low-priced products. The Bandit is one of those products.

Pros.

The Bandit features built-in lumbar support, adjustable tilt tension and angle, as well as height.

It’s a no-nonsense, very good office chair that doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. While it won’t win any industrial design awards, it’s surprisingly charismatic in appearance and will look great in your home office.

You get to control the most important adjustments, a centre tilt mechanism and optional armrests (which you should definitely get).

The back of the chair is made from mesh material, which keeps your back nice and cool when you sit for long periods of time, while the padded seat is extremely durable and will last for quite a few years.

The Bandit is a solid chair that’s backed by a lifetime warranty – the most generous among this bunch.

Cons.

Unfortunately, the armrests are optional (you should definitely get them) and aren’t adjustable, while the centre-tilt mechanism will lift your feet off the ground if you recline too far.

Thumbs Down!

Because of these shortcomings, I wouldn’t recommend this chair for people who spend a lot of time reclining, pondering or doing managerial type of work.

This is a task chair that’s ideal for people who do mostly computing tasks during their workday.

Overall.

The Bandit is one of the cheapest office chairs on the market, and represents great value for money.

What’s most impressed me about the Bandit chair is its focus on the most important features.

Its wide mesh back, tension adjustable tilting mechanism, automatic lumbar support and generous warranty make it the best value of the bunch. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a chair that offers that much for under $400.

✔ Value for money

✔ Plenty of adjustments

✔ Lifetime warranty

✘ Centre tilt mechanism

Price.

You can buy the Bandit from UpDown’s website with armrests included for $394. Delivery is a bit extra and will depend on your state of residence.

Specifications:

➤ Load Capacity: 110kg

➤ Height Range: 46-56cm

➤ Mechanism: Centre Tilt

➤ Lumbar Support: Fixed

➤ Warranty: Lifetime

6. Steelcase Leap V2

Most adjustable office chair.

Shown in photo: the Steelcase Leap V2 is known for its minimalist, but somewhat boring aesthetic.

Steelcase is a 105-year-old company with an unrelenting focus on building ergonomic chairs with a sustainable bent – and Leap V2 is its most popular model.

If you haven’t come across this weight-activated model while researching the best office chairs, you haven’t done your research properly.

Pros.

The Leap V2 will allow you to adjust everything. You can dial in the exact amount of back support by changing the Leap’s backrest tilt angle and tilt tension, the height of lumbar support, lower back firmness, seat angle, seat depth and seat height.

  • Adjusting lumbar support is simply a matter of rotating a satisfyingly chunky knob on the right side of the chair.
  • Height of lumbar support is also easily changed by sliding the control tabs up and down.

Once you’ve dialled in those basics, you can ensure that the 4-way padded armrests are perfect in terms of height, width, lateral angle and reach. Finally, use the 5-stop tilt limiter to fine-tune the recline distance.

Shown in photo: 4D adjustable armrests allow you to find the optimal position for your hands.

This immense adjustability is the biggest selling point of this high-quality chair.

If you’re the type of person who has an unusual body shape, or you always find most adjustable chairs uncomfortable, the Leap V2 is your saviour.

The Leap’s backrest is flexible and will mould to your body as you recline, tilt and stretch.

Meanwhile, the fabric cushion provides a soft, cradled feeling. It’s definitely softer than the feeling of mesh chairs and even softer than that of most fabric chairs.

Cons.

The tilting mechanism has quite a lot of friction in it, which makes it feel less natural than, that of the Desky Pro+, Ergohuman IOO and the Herman Miller Cosm.

It’s fair to say that the Leap V2 allows you to recline without encouraging it.

  • If you’re the kind of person who mostly does computing tasks and reclines only occasionally for meetings or “casual browsing” tasks, this is perfect.
  • If, however, you’re famous for your rocking, you’ll find the Leap too limiting.

The Leap’s foam padding can make your backside hot when the ambient temperature rises above 25°C.

This is an irrelevant point in the context of typical office setups, most of which have constant air-conditioning. But in the context of WFH, this is something that you should take into account, especially if you live in warmer parts of Australia.

Overall.

Steelcase is known for offering some of the best office chair build quality in the industry – and the Leap V2 doesn’t disappoint. While the chair is made from plastics, they’re of high quality, and your Leap will likely last you for 7+ years.

Because of its modular design, gaining an additional lifespan is just a matter of refurbishing it and replacing worn parts.

This is a chair for sensitive people who need full-body support due to their easily upset bodies.

Thumbs Up!

Its subtle appearance belies its very advanced chassis; the Leap’s development led to no less than 42 patents being submitted to the US Patent Office.

Looks-wise, it’s a chair. It will appeal to people who value intelligent engineering over loud aesthetics. Engineers, developers, doctors, researchers, writers – you know who you are.

Rather than adding visual interest to your room, or taking something away, it neutrally blends into the background, allowing the humans and the work itself to take centre stage.

✔ Incredible adjustability

✔ Proven track record

✘ Looks very “office-like”

✘ The cushion may be too warm in warmer climates

Price.

The Leap V2 is a premium, but not a luxury, chair. Expect to pay about $1300 plus delivery. Learn more here.

Specifications.

➤ Load Capacity: 157kg

➤ Height Range: 36-46cm

➤ Mechanism: Weight Activate

➤ Lumbar Support: Fully Adjustable

➤ Warranty: Lifetime on frame, 12 years on mechanical components

Notable Mention 1: Humanscale Freedom

Best executive ergonomic chair.

Designed by Niels Diffrient, the Freedom Chair takes the burden of adjustability off your hands.

Like Herman Miller’s Cosm, it dispenses with the need to twist knobs and pull levers. Instead, it uses an intelligent weight-sensing mechanism to take care of all recline and lilt functionality.

As a user, you only retain control over seat height and armrest height.

Made from leather with a foam core, the seat is very comfortable, fully ergonomic and intuitive to use.

Its bold, yet elegant aesthetic will appeal more to men than to women and will look great when paired with a premium hardwood or glass office desk.

At just over $2,000, the Humanscale Freedom isn’t an office that you buy on a whim. I recommend that you take the time to check it out in person prior to making the purchasing decision.

Notable Mention 2: Herman Miller Aeron

Best classic ergonomic chair.

What review of the best ergonomic office chairs is complete without the ubiquitous Aeron by Herman Miller?

Released in 1994, the Aeron became the essential signal of success in offices of investment bankers and technology executives.

As the world’s first successful mesh chair, it earned a permanent place in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In its Remastered form, it gains a slightly sleeker look and improved controls, but to be honest, it’s still the same chair.

The arm pads are some of the best, if not the best, in the business. They’re big, soft and, with 3-way adjustment, can be placed into just about any position you want.

Like the Classic version, the Remastered Aeron features a forward seat tilt, which is very useful for professionals who find themselves leaning forward (think doctor examining a patient), but then have to lean back (think doctor pondering a diagnosis).

One of the best things about ordering an Aeron is that it arrives fully assembled. There’s no need to mess around with manuals and screwdrivers; you simply open the box, roll it out and start using it.

Aeron’s adjustable lumbar support is one of the best you’ll ever come across, giving you precise control over its firmness and location.

Why, despite all these features, am I replacing my Aeron?

First, there’s something about the Aeron that makes you look like a wannabe Wolf of Wall Street who is still stuck in the 1990s.

While its design is still certainly striking, its curves do belong decidedly in the last century – especially when you put it next to a modern, gorgeous chair like the Cosm. I just moved into a new house, and I’d like to create a home office that feels more like an inviting coworking space than a boardroom at UBS.

But my biggest gripe with the Aeron is, surprisingly, its build quality.

Even though it feels solid and well-made, its parts have a lot of give. When the chair is locked off in the upright position, for example, I am able to rock back and forth in it by at least five centimetres, making metal-on-metal clunking sounds in the process.

In my books, “locked off” mean “nothing moves”.

What To Look For In An Ergonomic Office Chair.

According to Sydney-based musculoskeletal physiotherapist Antony Lo, a good ergonomic chair should give you a lot of adjustment options so that you can change your position regularly.

“If someone sat in neutral spine all day, I’d be just as concerned if they sat slouched all day”, he says.

In other words, your body needs to flex and move throughout the day, and your chair needs to enable this, rather than shoe-horning you into a single, ostensibly “optimal” position.

What Is Lumbar Support?

The term “lumbar” refers to the lower region of your back. It is curved and consists of five vertebrae (L1-L5) that are separated by intervertebral discs.

Lumbar support refers to the part of the office chair that helps you maintain this curvature of the spine, thus hypothetically removing excessive tension from the discs.

How Does Adjustable Lumbar Support Work?

When you sit in a chair for long periods of time, your intervertebral muscles fatigue, the lumbar area of your spine begins to curve unnaturally, and you begin to experience pain.

Adjustable lumbar support helps by creating a force that gently presses against your spine, thus preventing unnatural curvature from developing.

While this is technically true, Antony points out that adjustable lumbar support is not a magic bullet that will prevent or cure back pain.

In many cases, office chair manufacturers over-emphasise the importance of this feature. They fear-monger you into believing that it will prevent “poor spine health” and “ease back strain”, just so that they can sell you the cure in the form of their chair.

The most important factor in ensuring long-term sitting comfort, apart from shifting from a sitting to a standing position (check out my review of best standing desks), is an office chair that allows you to move freely, shifting your positions throughout the day.

Types Of Tilt Mechanisms On Office Chairs Explained.

As soon as you start your search for the perfect office chair, I’m sure you’ll come across terms like “swivel-tilt mechanism” and “knee-tilt mechanism”.

In short, choosing the right one is very important. The sophistication of the tilting mechanism is one of the biggest predictors of your comfort and the chair’s price.

Most people don’t realise that they use the humble office chair for two, very different tasks:

  • Computing. You’re sitting upright, almost forward, while you type.
  • Discussing. You’re reclining, either a little or a lot, while you participate in managerial situations, phone conversations, or thinking through ideas.

The transition between these two modes creates a number of ergonomic and engineering challenges. These are solved, with various degrees of success, by the chair’s tilt mechanism.

1. Centre Tilt Mechanism.

Also called the swivel tilt mechanism, this design locates the pivot point of your chair directly underneath the centre of the chair. Additionally, the angle between the seat pan and the backrest remains constant as you recline.

The key drawback of this setup is the rapid rise of the front of your seat.

As you lean back, your feet come up off the ground, which, apart from making you feel like a kid on a swing, is not ideal from an ergonomic point of view.

2. Knee Tilt Mechanism.

Knee tilt mechanisms represent an improvement on the swivel or centre tilt mechanisms that we’ve just discussed. The main difference is that the pivot point of the chair has been moved from the centre of the centreline to just behind your knees.

This has two benefits.

First, your feet do not raise off the ground as you recline, creating a much more natural experience. Second, because the bulk of your weight lives behind the pivot point, your experience of initiating the recline will feel smoother and more natural.

3. Multifunction Mechanism.

My least favourite of all, the multifunction mechanism, is the ultimate rubbish compromise. It functions in a way that’s very similar to centre-tilt, except it gives you the option to lock the tilt off in any position.

Additionally, it gives you the ability to tilt back the backrest, which means you can, theoretically, find the optimal recline angle.

The drawback is fiddliness. With a multifunction mechanism, reclining is at least a two-step process – possibly even three if you need to fine-tune.

4. Synchro-Tilt Mechanism.

This is a popular choice for many mid to high-end office chairs. The mechanism improves ergonomics by gearing down the rate of sean pan tilt. When you lean back in your chair, the seat pan will tilt one degree for every two degrees that you recline the backrest.

This minimisation of seat pan rise allows your feet to stay on the floor while you recline.

Previously, this mechanism was found only on ultra-expensive chairs like the Herman Miller, but over the years has trickled down into mid-range models.

5. Weight-Sensitive Mechanism.

Weight sensitive mechanisms emerged in response to complaints from people who work in open-plan offices without designated seating.

If you’ve ever worked in one of those environments, you’re familiar with a problem where you plonk yourself into a new chair, and then proceed to fiddle with controls for the next five minutes, as you attempt to reconfigure the chair away from the preferences of the last person, to yours.

With a near-absence of levers and knobs, a weight-sensitive mechanism takes this problem off your hands.

It reads inputs like your weight and direction of lean and translates them into outputs like the angle of tilt and seat pan depth.

This sounds like a recipe for disaster, but the systems work remarkably well – especially in high-end chairs like Humanscale Freedom and Herman Miller Cosm.

What Makes Make An Office Chair Ergonomic?

Not all ergonomic chairs are created equal. Some chairs are ergonomically superior to others. Here are 5 factors that matter, in their order of priority.

1. Adjustable Seat Height.

Enables you to keep your feet flat on the ground. It’s especially important to have a good range of seat height adjustment when buying a centre-tilt chair, to offset the drastic height changes that will happen when you tilt.

2. Comfort.

Stricly subjective in nature, comfort does not have any absolute measure. Choose a chair that you feel nice in.

3. Adjustable Backrest Angle.

Enables you to recline and relieve tension in your back and neck.

4. Seat Tilt And Forward Tilt.

The importance of these features will depend on the nature of your work. If you’re in the medical field, or type a lot, this is less important, as you’ll be spending most of your time in a fairly upright, or forward, position.

5. Adjustable Armrests.

Enable you to support your arms and shoulders while typing, keeping your forearms at about 90 degrees to the surface of your desk.

5. Depth Adjustment.

Enable you to have the right amount of leg support without cutting off your blood flow. A lot of office chairs have this fairly well dialled in for most regular-sized bodies, or adjust this automatically. If your office chair does have this feature, move it until you see between 5 and 10 centimetres between the edge of the seat and the back of your knees.

5 Common Mistakes People Make When Buying An Office Chair.

It’s easy to get caught up in the marketing mumbo-jumbo of office chair manufacturers. Use the tips below to separate useful advice from fiction.

1. Forgetting To Measure.

Ensure that the measurements stack up. Is there enough space around your desk for a sizeable chair? Think through the relative positioning of the chair, your desk and larger environments and ensure that no deal-breaking situations occur.

2. Obsessing With Padding.

Don’t be fooled by padding. An office chair isn’t a lazy boy. Oceans of soft foam padding are usually a sign of a cheaply made, unergonomic chair that will be uncomfortable to sit in for long periods of time.

According to Cornell University, a soft seat pad may feel comfortable at first, but as your body sinks into it, it will become progressively uncomfortable because:

  • blood circulation will lower
  • skin temperature will rise
  • compression under the thighs will increase.

3. Not Spending Enough.

It’s easy to baulk at the idea of paying $700 for an adjustable chair. But, as the old adage says, the poor man pays twice. A cheap chair will fall apart after a year or two, but an elite chair like a Herman Miller will last for 5+ years, and you’ll be able to sell it for more than 50% of its initial price.

4. Not Checking Returns Policies.

These enable you to buy risk-free and not get caught out. Buying a chair online is a bit risky, which is why most companies will take their chair back if you return it in as-new condition and cover shipping.

The 5 Price Points For Office Chairs.

Some office chairs are surprisingly cheap, others are eye-watering. Here are the main price tiers:

  1. $100-$300: cheap stuff (stay away)
  2. $300-$500: entry-level ergonomics
  3. $500-$800: the sweet spot
  4. $800-$1500 high-tech
  5. $1500+ luxury

Why do I recommend that you stay away from the cheap stuff? Well, consider that the cost of most ergonomic office chairs includes:

  • manufacturer’s margin
  • distributor’s margin
  • retailer’s margin
  • shipping from the manufacturer to distributor and retailer
  • shipping to your door (unless you buy it from a shop)
  • packaging

By the time you take all of those costs into account, you’re left with very little money for quality materials and R&D.

This is why I recommend that you avoid cheap office chairs.

Ergonomic Chairs vs Gaming Chairs.

Whatever you do, don’t buy a gaming chair. Apart from being the ugliest things ever, they’re expensive and often non-ergonomic.

Rather than enabling flexion and movement, they tend to cement your back into a fixed position.

How To Sit Correctly In Your Ergonomic Chair

Now that you know what an ergonomic chair is and what features to look for, it’s time to learn how to sit correctly in your new chair!

  • Adjust The Seat Height. You should be able to sit all the way back in your chair with your feet flat on the ground, and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. If you can’t, adjust the seat height until you can.
  • Adjust The Backrest. Ensure that it’s in line with your spine. You should be able to sit all the way back in your chair and have the backrest touch your lower back.
  • Adjust Tilt Angle & Tilt Tension. If your chair has these adjustments, use them to dial in the right amount of tilt. You’ll want a lot less of it when you’re computing and more when in discussions.
  • Adjust Lumbar Support. Use this adjustment to maintain the natural curvature of your spine. You may need to experiment with different positions to find the one that is most comfortable for you.
  • Adjust Arm Rests. Start by adjusting the height until you can rest your arms without having to unnaturally raise or drop your shoulders. Ideally, you want your armrests to be the at the same height as your desk. If your chair allows reach and width adjustment, tweak those until you’re most comfortable.

Once you have your chair adjusted correctly, it’s time to focus on your posture. Sit up straight with your shoulders back and down.

Keep your feet flat on the ground, and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.

– Steven

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