The key to an ergonomic chair comes down to adjustability, according to Dr. Alan Hedge, a professor in the Design and Environmental Analysis department at Cornell University. So if you have been shopping for a comfortable office rig, and are overwhelmed by the price tags, know that the best budget office chairs offer enough adjustability to be comfortable for you (or anyone else who sits in it) while costing less than $100 — there are even a few well-reviewed options for less than $50. Look for models that let you adjust the height, back, lumbar support, headrest, tilt, and seat location, but as a general rule of thumb, the more the chair adjusts, the better it will fit your body and the way you work. However, the more adjustability, the higher the price tends to be, too.
The best ergonomic office chairs, also give your back and butt a soft and roomy place to land and have a high back that you can lean into and that won't make you sweat (mesh is the most common here). It can be nice to have arm rests so your shoulders can relax rather than trying to type while holding your arms aloft, but arm rests sometimes get in the way, though — especially if they don't adjust, which is rare in anything but the most expensive chairs — so you might want to opt for a model with removable arm rests. A head rest is also nice.
I focused on chairs that have adjustable height and tilt. But it is possible to get some higher-end features like adjustable lumbar support or a head rest for a tiny fraction of the price of a high-end office chair.
1. The overall best
Not only does this mid-back chair clock in at less than $50, it looks good doing it. It's easy to adjust the height to suit you so your feet are on the floor with your knees at a 90-degree angle. The tilt tension adjusts so you can lean back to chat on the phone or sit up straight to pound out some work. The seat height is also adjustable and made with a cushioning sponge topped with breathable mesh. There is also lumbar support built right into the mesh back so you won't slouch your way toward back pain — or sweat while you work. The 360-degree swivel casters move easily. The arms are removable.
You'd think that all that adjustability and ease of use would be enough at this price, right? Nope! You also get color choice. This one comes in 10 colors including green, gray, blue, orange, pink, and white so you can match it not just to your body but also to your décor. More than 16,000 Amazon reviewers have given it a five-star rating, making it a very popular choice.
2. The runner-up
The price is a smidge higher on this Neo Chair but you might want to take a closer look if you like how it looks — and it comes in five additional colors for a little more. The fabric-covered seat with foam padding is super pretty and comfortable. This chair adjusts easily in height. And it lets you turn the tilt on or off. The height adjustment handle is both easy to reach and clearly marked so you won't have to fumble around for it. The tilt, too, is easily altered with a simple tightening of the tilt tension adjustment knob. The mesh back is not just pretty, it's a stretchy open weave that's cool and comfortable to sit in for long hours. According to reviewers, you can remove the arms.
With over 3,000 five-star reviews, this is a real contender. “This chair is really comfortable, it was easy to assemble, and it is not too heavy! The instructions are very thorough and easy to follow. This is only the second piece of furniture I ever assembled and it only took me like 30 minutes,” one customer raved.
3. A chair with a headrest & adjustable lumbar support
Get some high-end features for just a little bit more with this Smugdesk chair. If you like sleeping on a memory foam mattress, you are going to love sitting in a memory foam seat all day. The seat is also covered in a breathable mesh fabric, and when you lean back into the into the recline of up to 120 degrees as a mesh headrest cradles you.
The lumbar support is adjustable, which is rare in a chair in this price range. The headrest and seat height also adjust. The chair frame rotates on its base and the 360-degree rotating casters let you move around your work area easily. While the arms don’t move, the armrests are padded.
You get two color options. The standard black and a gorgeous pale gray that would look terrific in a modern space or even in the corner of the living room. “Probably took 30 min to put together. Seems sturdy. Has tilt functions. It is actually very comfortable and the back support band actually helps with support,” one customer wrote.
4. The best chair under $40
This inexpensive ergonomic desk chair isn't top of the line but it's good enough for a lot of people. In fact, it's quite comfortable, and it adjusts in height, has a mesh back, moves on 360-degree casters, and the seat is cushioned with a thick sponge. The chair also swivels on the base so you can work movement into your day. It even has a metal base and a seat that's covered in a breathable mesh.
Plus, there are many color options. It comes in eight colors that range from white to bright pink. So, if you don't love the idea of bringing the office look home, you can fit this into the look of your space.
This chair has almost 2,000 five-star reviews from Amazon shoppers. “Great chair for the money! After some time sitting in it and working.....I was wishing for more padding. However, the back gives me great support. It was very easy to put together and feels sturdy,” a customer raves.
Also great: A massaging chair for a little more than $100
How much better would your work day or gaming evening go if you were to spend it in this massaging high-back chair? With a racing car style and a built-in adjustable footrest, it’s a sleek option for your space that comes in three colors. Lean back into the adjustable back and head support. Even the armrests on this one are adjustable. All this, of course, after you use the gas-lift controls to get the the seat height just right.
That's a lot of ergonomics for a budget chair, which is why I've included it even though this creeps above my $100 limit. But that's not the only reason I think you'll want to consider this chair. What about break time? You know, when you want to relax at your desk without missing a call. Lean back into the tilt angle that's the most comfortable: It goes from 90 degrees to 135 degrees. Then, use the included remote control to start up the back massager that's built into the lumbar cushion. It’s powered by USB.
“I was looking for a comfortable chair that I could sit in for hours at a time,” one customer explained. “It arrived and assembly was super simple. Tools were included for assembly. I’m not super mechanical and the instructions were simple. An hour later I was sitting in my chair. It massages your lower back when you want it. One speed. It’s mobile with five wheels and the seat is comfortable and headrest is perfect. Glad I took a chance on this chair.”