Task Chairs vs Ergonomic Office Chairs: What’s The Difference?

Huge differences ahead.


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Last updated: April 22nd, 2024

task chair vs ergonomic office chair

Last updated: April 22nd, 2024

Reading Time: 4 minutes

You’re looking for a new office chair. Suddenly, you realise that this is more difficult than you imagined. Manufacturers use obscure (and often overlapping) terms like “task chair” and “office chair”. Surely all office chairs are task chairs – because you’ll use them to perform tasks.


Not entirely.

Compared with ergonomic office chairs, which I will discuss in a moment, task chairs are more minimalist and less focused on long-term user comfort. They are typically cheaper, less bulky and offer fewer adjustments.

What Are The Main Features Of A Task Chair?

Above: Mid-range task chairs with fixed lumbar support, height-adjustable armrests, and a basic centre-tilt recline mechanism. These chairs cost about $250-$350 each.

Most task chairs that you’ll see on sale in Australia feature:

  • Adjustable Height. A pneumatic height adjustment that allows you to find a comfortable seating position, regardless of your height. If you’re taller than 180 cm or shorter than 160 cm, double-check that the chair’s adjustment range is sufficient to keep you in an ergonomic position.
  • Swivel Base. Almost all modern task chairs swivel 360 degrees around their base. This feature enables you to change your direction without twisting your torso.
  • Recline/Tilt. Task chairs recline, but they’re not designed for reclining. In other words, they’ll allow you to lean back, but their tilt mechanisms are not conducive to long stretches of rocking.
  • Height-Adjustable Armrests. Most task chairs offer height adjustment on their armrests to help keep your shoulders in the correct position and your arms relaxed.

Expert Tip.

Task chairs are considerably cheaper. Base models retail for as little as $50 at Officeworks and Ikea. The most expensive task chairs, like the Steelcase Series 1, cost about $700.

What Features Do Task Chairs Lack?

Above: Mid-range ergonomic office chairs with adjustable lumbar support, headrests and 3D armrests. The tilt mechanism appears to be centre-tilt (although it’s hard to see). Ergonomic chairs like these cost about $450-$750 each.

Task chairs typically aim to keep you upright and typing.

While there are always exceptions, most task chairs (especially the cheaper ones) will compromise on:

  • Lumbar Support. Fully adjustable bi-directional lumbar support is typically found on ergonomic office chairs only. Task chairs either omit it or offer a simple, fixed C-shaped curve in their backrest that provides additional support to your lumbar spine.
  • Seat Depth. This is an excellent feature for people I referred to earlier (unusually tall or short), as it allows them to fine-tune the pressure underneath their thighs. People with regularly-sized bodies don’t need it.
  • 3D/4D Armrests. Highly adjustable armrests with width, depth and pivot adjustments are typically found on more expensive ergonomic office chairs only.

Expert Tip.

Extra features mean extra cost. Entry-level ergonomic office chairs, like the Sihoo M57, cost about $350. Meanwhile, the most expensive examples, like the Herman Miller Embody, will cost you upwards of $3,000.

Do Task Chairs Have Wheels?

Above: Designer task chairs tend to prioritise form over function. They typically omit wheels, adjustable armrests and lumbar support.

Yes, mostly. I recommend you always opt for a task chair with wheel castors as they allow you to grab something outside your reach without standing up and repositioning yourself.

This becomes particularly important if your WFH setup is larger (lucky you!) or features a corner desk.

Not all task chair castors are designed to play nicely with carpeted floors.

I learned this the hard way, after realising that I caused some damage to mine.

Expert Tip.

If you’re not sure how to avoid the same fate, read my guide to protecting your carpet from office chair damage.

Do Task Chairs Have Armrests?

No. Cheaper chair models often omit armrests to save costs.

By the way, you should never buy an office chair without armrests.

These provide a resting spot for your elbows, removing strain from your neck muscles and keeping your forearms in an ergonomic position parallel to your desktop.

Ideally, avoid office chairs with fixed armrests, too – unless you can test them in the shop before purchase. They need to suit your body type and limb length to be effective.

Expert Tip.

The downside of armrests is that they sometimes prevent your chair from tucking under your desk. If you have space constraints, a task chair with foldable armrests, like the Kedrom KD9060 is a good option.

What’s Best: A Task Chair Or An Ergonomic Office Chair?

Task chairs are best for people who tend to sit upright, typing or talking, for 2-4 hours daily.

Ergonomic office chairs, meanwhile, are best for people who work 6-10 hours per day, and spend their days switching between typing, meetings and watching videos.

I definitely belong in the latter camp, which is why I prefer ergonomic office chairs like the ErgoTune Supreme and Steelcase Leap.


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