Office Chairs Buying Guide

Comfortable, economical, and stylish office seating for any budget and workspace depends on individual needs and preferences. Typical office chairs are set on a 5-prong star-shaped base with casters for mobility. The seat will often swivel, a full 360-degrees, and integrated features provide customized feel for all-day support and comfort. Back support is generally included with attached backrest, and optional armrests offer fixed or adjustable support for resting forearms. Office chairs may be referred to as task chairs, executive chairs, manager’s chairs, or computer chairs, among other common, and less common, nomenclature. Drafting chairs and drafting stools usually include a footring, attached above the base for support while engaged in leaning postures during work and projects.

Sizing

Standard: Standard sized office chairs will provide a set height-range, usually adjustable with the touch of an under-seat lever. The standard height-range will comfortable fit standard office furniture, including desks and conference tables. Compact office chairs will have low-back or mid-back sizing, and optional armrests in many cases. The smaller overall sizing easily suits home office, school office, dorm room, or cubicle furnishing while ensuring consistent quality support.

Big & Tall: Big & Tall or oversized office chairs provide generous seat and backrest sizing, often with thicker cushioning and stronger weight capacity for heavy-duty performance. These larger office chairs can easily support average users but offer the enhanced sizing for Big & Tall seating needs or improved comfort with a roomy or spacious seat design.

Big and Tall Chair vs. Standard Task Chair
Big & Tall Chair vs. Standard Task Chair

Weight Capacity

Our office chair collection includes standard weight capacity of up to 250-pounds and heavy-duty weight capacity up to 500-pounds, as well as variable weight capacities in between. While the standard 250-pound weight capacity chairs will suffice for the average user, stronger support generally ensures longer lasting performance. Big & Tall users will benefit from the stronger weight capacity office chairs, especially those seeking comfort through all-day or all-night seated tasks. The heavier duty chairs with weight capacity up to 500-pounds also tend to be generously sizes, with oversized seat and backrest to accommodate Big & Tall or average users alike.

Base Support

The 5-prong bases of our mobile office chairs stabilize the seat and accommodate comfort-enhancing adjustable settings in balanced style. The 25”-wide and 27”-wide base sizing often matches or exceeds the seat-width for improved stabilization. The upper chair portions fit the base securely while offering full 360-degree rotation or swivel motion to support fast-paced movement and busy environments.

Bases are usually comprised of nylon or a lightweight resin for durability that stands up to frequent contact with shoes and office furniture. Steel or cast aluminum office chair bases provide the strength and durability of metal with polished, chrome, or painted finish for added flare. Glass-reinforced resin comprises the 5-prong star base of some of our premium office chairs for lasting fiberglass strength. We also offer several base designs with hardwood construction or durable construction enhanced with wood caps or wood accents. Office chairs with wood base or wood base accents usually have matching armrests or matching armrest detailing for coordinated style. Wood components are finished with hand-rubbed wood stain or premium wood veneers for outstanding quality and appearance.

5-Prong Base Support
5-Prong Base Support

Casters & Glides

Casters:The star-shaped base design of our office chair collections is fitted with casters for mobile seat convenience. Casters are usually hooded, to prevent clothing or other objects from getting caught when the caster or wheel is in motion. The dual-wheel or double-wheel design of most office chair casters provides enhanced support and many chairs offer a choice between carpet casters and hardfloor casters. Carpet casters are strong, carpet-friendly for carpeted office settings, ensuring premium mobile performance despite the resistance added by rugs or carpeting. Hard-floor casters are designed softer, to reduce accidental marks on hard floors and prevent damage to linoleum, tile, wood, or other hard floor finish.

Several of our premium office collections include matching guest chairs with 4-leg frame, sled-base frame, or cantilever base. These are fixed or stationary seating options for waiting area, office, reception area, or other guest seating needs. The guest chairs from these collections will coordinate naturally with the office chairs, conference room chairs, or executive chairs for a complete office furnishing solution.

Glides: Some chair styles offer the option to swap casters for stationary floor glides, allowing semi-fixed non-mobile seating in a floor-safe style without risk of marking, marring, or damage to flooring or carpets.

chair caster
Caster
Floor Glide
Floor Glide

Armrests

Armrest Adjustments: Most office chairs may be assembled without the armrests, if desired, and some are offered as standard armless chairs with armrests as an option. Armrests come in several styles, with variations seen between collections. T-arms have a T-shape and attach at the sides of the seat for armrest use. The T-Arms are usually adjustable to position the armrest at a comfortable height for the given user. Loop arms have a loop shape, which is sometimes rounder or squarer depending on the style of the chair collection. Loop arms are generally fixed, offering no adjustments. Adjustable armrests will adjust in height, and many also offer adjustable width.

Armrest Upholstery: Armrests may come in padded or upholstered styles to enhance comfortable use and coordinate with the chair for which they are designed. Upholstered armrests typically have padded armrest caps (the top) with fabric, vinyl, leather, or synthetic upholstery, matching the upholstery of the seat and backrest.

Pivot Arms: Pivot arms attach to the sides of the backrest, created a suspended appearance. The pivot arms, also called flip-up arms or lift-up arms, rotate upward to a vertical position, until parallel with the backrest making it easier to get into and out of the chair.

Chair with Pivot Arm
Pivot Arm

Headrest

Several high-back office chairs offer attached or optional headrest. The headrest may be adjustable, and most are cushioned for a pillow-like support feature. The headrest is generally attached at or along the upper edge of the backrest and the high-back chair design positions the headrest for contact with the back of the neck and head of average users. Big & Tall chair options may be preferable for taller users looking for correct positioning of the back, head, and spine support features.

Backrest Height

The backrest of standard office chairs is usually mid-back or high-back, with high-back office chairs often called Executive Chairs. The low-back office chairs have a backrest positioned for lower-back contact and support below the shoulders, neck, and head. Mid-back office chairs are taller than the low-back chairs, with the backrest usually below the shoulders. High-back office chairs extend to support the neck, and often the head, with a built-in headrest attached to many styles.

chair with headrest
Headrest

Adjustable Features

Pneumatic Lift: The base of most office chairs is fitted with a pneumatic lift mechanism, sometimes called a gas lift mechanism or device. Activated with the touch of an under-seat lever, the mechanism allows near-instant height adjustments, positioning the seat for improved comfortable use with relieved pressure on the legs. If the seat is positioned too high for the user, the front of the seat will push on the backs of the legs with pressure that can affect circulation, leading to discomfort and work-related aches, pains, and fatigue.

Waterfall Edge: The waterfall-edge design of our premium office chair collections also reduces the pressure on legs for enhanced use. With a curved front seat edge, creating the waterfall-style effect, the chairs are cushioned and shaped for maximum comfortable use.

Tilt Controls: Tilt controls include knee-tilt on many office chair styles, which allows the seat and backrest to tilt without removing the feet from the floor, thereby ensuring proper posture support for active work performance. Most chairs that offer tilt controls include adjustable tilt tension, to enhance or lessen resistance for improved tilt motion. Locking tilt positioning is also offered on most office chairs, allowing the seat and backrest to lock into a tilted position for comfortable support without the need to engage legs and torso to maintain positioning. The locking tilt feature may be limited on some styles, where locking is offered in preset positions only. Locking tilt with infinite lock positions is also available on many chair styles, allowing a completely customized chair configuration for every user.  Synchro-tilt and 2-to-1 synchro-tilt enable tilting of the seat and backrest in such a way that feet maintain contact with the floor for spine support. The synchronized tilt motion enhances reclined or relaxed positions for comfort and relief from extended work seating.

Seat Adjustments: Sliding seat option on several ergonomic chair designs allows adjustable seat depth to relieve some pressure from legs, enhancing use for shorter statures.

Backrest Adjustments: Backrest adjustments include options for tilting and angling the backrest to increase contact with spine for proper support.  Ratchet-adjustment for backrest on some office chairs provides improved precision in adjustments, positioning the backrest to offer better, personalized contact with spine for natural posture support and overall comfortable feel.

Multifunction chairs offer one or more adjustable levers, positioned for easy-reach underneath the seat, to accommodate frequent adjustments and customizing to enhance use in busy office and workspaces. These multifunction office chairs generally offer swivel seat with adjustable height, tilt with adjustable tension and tilt lock options, adjustable backrest, and often an optional or standard seat slider mechanism to enhance personalization.

Lumbar Support

Built-in lumbar support indicates added padding or cushioning in the lower region of the backrest to improve contact along the spine while accommodating the natural curve of the back. Adjustable lumbar sections may include inflatable lumbar region, allowing the lumbar cushion to fill with air for added size, curve, and firm support.

The curved or contoured shaping of the majority of our office chair collections offers lumbar-focused support, increased lumbar contact, and many of the ergonomic styles provide adjustable lumbar cushion or adjustable lumbar support. Proper lumbar support and back or spine contact, especially with extended sitting, can reduce aches and pains associated with office work and reduce work-related fatigue for more alert, focused, and enjoyable productivity.

chair with lumbar support
Lumbar Support

Cushioning

Chairs with impact-resistant shell components have molded plastic or polypropylene shell coverings over the back of the backrest and/or bottom of the seat, reducing damage from the frequent bumps and impact in bustling office spaces. Several office chair styles are composed of all polypropylene or plastic, without upholstery or padding, offering a rugged seat design in a variety of colors.

Thick foam cushions range in thickness and composition, with high-density foam, memory foam, molded foam, or Dacron filling, depending on the chair collection. Molded foam cushions offer contoured shaping for a natural fit and feel. High-density foam offers firmer support, but will usually develop dents or sunken regions from frequent use over time. Memory foam offers support that conforms to the shapes of individual users then returns to its original shape when not in use. Dacron filling is a polyester or fiberfill stuffing, similar to the padding used in some quilting, but generally thicker and often wrapped around or supported by a foam cushion center.

Upholstery Options

Office chairs are upholstered in a variety of materials including genuine leather, synthetic leathers, vinyl, and fabrics.

Eco-Leather: Made up with 20% of recycled leather, eco-leather is developed when a mix of scrap leather materials are glued together using resin and catalyzers. The end product has a polished look and does not have a need for additional finishing.

Leather: Genuine leather will be all leather upholstery or leather upholstery with matching vinyl applied to regions of the chair that are considered noncontact areas. Top grain leather is the tougher part of the leather hide and generally the toughest or strongest for upholstering furniture.

Synthetic Leather: Synthetic leather, faux leather, and leather-like upholstery may be vinyl with a leather-like feel or an enhanced leather product such as eco-leather or bonded leather. LeatherPlus is leather that has been infused with polyurethane to enhance the strength, durability and softness. CaressoftPlus offers a high-quality leather-like appearance and feel with a breathable material design making a stylish and affordable office chair. Eco-leather is a generic term that encompasses synthetic non-leather products as well as some bonded leather products. Bonded leather generally refers to a synthetic material made with vinyl or polyurethane combines with leather and other materials to create an upholstery resembling leather without the cost of genuine leather. Some bonded leather products utilize the leftover pieces of leather from larger products for a waste-free upholstered design.

Vinyl: Vinyl upholstery may have a leather-like look and feel, as in synthetic and faux leathers, or a traditional vinyl feel. The vinyl upholstery is often available in a variety of colors, and the easy-clean surface of the vinyl makes upkeep simple for lasting appearance. Antimicrobial vinyl and antibacterial vinyl upholstery options for several office chairs reduce the spread of germs for healthier work environments.

Fabric: Fabric upholstery may be stain-resistant, fire-retardant, and come in a choice of colors, patterns, and styles. Commercial grade fabric upholstery offers rugged durability for reduced wear with frequent or constant use. Crepe fabrics often present a pebble-like textured appearance and come in variegated or marbled colors with coordinating colors scattered with the main color. Crepe fabric upholstery may be wool, rayon, cotton, or manmade synthetic fabric and usually made in a woven style.

Microfiber: Microfiber upholstery is a synthetic fabric, sometimes with a suede-like look and feel. Microfiber is common in athletic wear for its moisture-wicking abilities, and also in cleaning products such as the brushless “mops” in many carwash facilities, and the cleaning cloths for CDs, DVDs, and camera lens. Microfiber may be woven or smooth, and generally offers a lint-free surface that endures frequent use with consistent quality appearance.

Mesh: Mesh chairs generally have a sheer mesh backrest panel, supported by a durable frame. The frame is sometimes padded for comfort or composed of finished metal for a sleek design. The backrest is contoured and the mesh is taut for firm support that lasts. The seat in mesh back chairs is usually upholstered, often with mesh fabric for a breathable design. Some mesh-back chairs offer alternatives for the seat upholstery, including colors and fabric or other upholstery options.

Designer Details: Decorative detailing and comfort features include pillow-top or pillow-tufted upholstery, which offers a pillow-like addition to the cushioned seat and backrest for added plushness. Button tufting adds classic flare to the traditional office chair styles, and several have brass nail-head trim along the seat and/or armrests for antique appearance on a budget. Topstitching adds tailored detail to several leather and faux leather chair styles, with matching stitches to blend with the upholstery. The two-tone stitched chair has decorative contrastive detail. Stitching can also reinforce upholstery strength, as in the triple-stitched upholstery on several chair styles, which reduces rips and holes in upholstery be reinforcing seams.