Office chairs are an indispensable part of every office. But with so many different shapes, styles and varieties available, it can be tricky to know where to start.
If you’re on the lookout for some new office chairs for your organisation, this guide is a great place to start. Below we’ve listed every kind of chair you’ll see in the modern workplace, including their benefits and intended use. It should help you to easily decide what you need for your office.
Types of Office Chair and Their Benefits
Here is our exhaustive list of office chairs. If you wish to read more about any of them, click the link to be taken to that section of this guide.
- Operator Chairs
- Executive Chairs
- 24 Hour Chairs
- Fabric Chairs
- Leather Chairs
- Mesh Chairs
- Vinyl Chairs
- Draughtsman Chairs
- Meeting Chairs
- Visitor Chairs
- Conference Chairs
- Writing Tablet Chairs
- Industrial Chairs
- Folding Chairs
- Stacking Chairs
- Banquet Chairs
Also often referred to as ergonomic chairs, operator chairs are what most employees sit on at their desk. Designed for long spells of sitting down, operator chairs come with all the features you’d expect of an ergonomic office chair. Expect built-in lumbar support, adjustable height, armrests, and a five-star wheelbase.
If you need some new office seating for employees at their desk, operator chairs are your go-to.
- Comfortable for long periods
- Lots of ergonomic features
- Good value
Best for: Protecting employees from back and neck problems when sitting for long periods
As the name suggests, executive chairs are a premium choice of office chair. Often coming in stylish materials such as leather, executive chairs tend to be used in executive offices. Their sophisticated design will feature a high back and heavily padded seats and armrests.
- Grand, imposing appearance
- Lots of extra padding
- Still an ergonomic choice
Best for: Company executives who want a chair that has style and substance
24 Hour Chairs
If you have staff who work long hours or are anticipating an all-nighter, they’re going to need a 24 hour chair. These office chairs are designed for extensive daily use, featuring robust frames and well-built mechanisms.
A 24 hour chair comes with all the standard ergonomic features: adjustable height, armrests and lumbar support, but they will all be built to a more rigorous standard.
- Built to withstand intensive use
- Lots of ergonomic features
- Can last for many years
Best for: Locations where 24 hour use is likely, such as hospitals or call centres
There are several different materials to choose from when selecting an office chair. The most common is fabric. Comfortable, versatile and providing good value for money, fabric is the go-to material for most office chairs. Fabric can be used across many different types of office chair, but you’ll most often find it in operator and other ergonomically minded products.
- A very comfortable material
- Provides value for money
Best for: High quality, comfortable chairs that are more cost-effective than other materials
For a classier, more polished office chair, leather is a more appropriate material. Often used in executive chairs, choosing a leather office chair will see the price rise when compared to fabric or mesh.
Leather office chairs are extremely comfortable, often coming with extra padding that adds to the premium feel. Despite their comfort, they aren’t ideal for warm temperatures, as the material will heat up and cause discomfort for the user.
- Premium look and feel
- Easier to clean than other materials
Best for: People who want to spend a bit more on a luxurious ergonomic chair
More than any other material, mesh adds to the ergonomics of an office chair. Built to provide breathability, mesh chairs are great for adding comfort to working environments susceptible to warm temperatures. For people who struggle in the heat of summer, the net-like mesh office chair is a must.
- Breathable material adds comfort
- Used in the most ergonomic designs
Best for: People who work in hot offices or struggle during the summer months
The final in a trio of the most popular office chair materials is vinyl. Made from plastic, vinyl office chairs are a robust seating solution that won’t cost as much as leather. Vinyl chairs may not be as comfortable as fabric or leather, but they are easier to clean and maintain. As with fabric and leather, vinyl is an option available for many different types of office chair.
- Cheap to buy material
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Available across ergonomic chairs
Best for: Cheap office chairs that can be cleaned and maintained with ease
Draughtsman chairs are characterised by the extra height they can bring to the user. The adjustable height we all expect from office chairs is expanded in draughtsman chairs, making them ideal for workers who use unusually high desks, such as in laboratories or in manufacturing.
Aside from that, draughtsman chairs can also come with all the ergonomic features you’d expect from an office chair.
- Extra adjustable height
- Perfect for high desks
- Comes with all the usual ergonomic features
Best for: Workers who have an unusually high desk
Meeting chairs serve a very different purpose to the many types of office chair in this list. Meeting chairs are intended for short stints of comfortable sitting. You’ll usually find plenty of padding and fabric to keep you, your colleagues or clients comfortable during meetings.
As external visitors use them, meeting chairs can represent your business and the people who work there. As a result, they often have stylish and professional designs.
- Plush padding for added comfort
- Stackable for easy storage
- Stylish and sleek designs
Best for: Your business meeting rooms for impressing visitors and clients
Similar to meeting chairs, visitor chairs differ slightly on their intended setting. While meeting chairs tend to be more impressive, high-quality chairs for hour long meetings or more, visitor chairs are more likely to be found in informal areas.
Found in reception areas or waiting rooms, visitor chairs are lightweight, low-cost office chairs for sitting on in brief stints. Often made of lightweight materials, they are great for moving around an office if you find yourself needing a chair elsewhere.
- Wide range of styles and materials
- Lightweight for easy manoeuvrability
- Cheap to buy
Best for: When you need a versatile, cheap chair for many different scenarios
Conferences require a unique type of chair that’s comfortable, stylish and easy to store. Conference chairs achieve this by appearing as stylish designs with comfortable fabric seating and, crucially, the ability to stack.
Packing up after a conference and clearing the room are made easy with conference chairs. They can be stacked on top of one another and pushed into storage ready for their next use.
- Stylish designs fit for impressive conferences
- Comfortable fabric seating
- Stackable for easy clean up and storage
Best for: Conferences that need comfortable, smart seating without compromising practicality
Writing Tablet Chairs
Writing tablet chairs are intended for very specific environments, often where education is involved. They are unique office chairs in that they provide a small flat surface attached to the armrest, ideal for resting paper or a notepad.
You’ll usually find writing tablet chairs in training rooms or lecture halls, bringing convenience to spaces where a desk or table would take up too much room.
- Includes a small platform on which to write
- Space-saving alternative to desks and tables
- Perfect for temporary use in lecture halls and training rooms
Best for: Educational environments like lecture halls or training rooms
Industrial chairs will look and feel almost identical to every other kind of office chair, but they are built with robust materials for harsher working environments. Construction and laboratories are two examples of workplaces where furniture may come under impact or increased strain. In these environments, industrial chairs are required to reduce the need to regularly replace furniture.
Despite the use of robust materials, industrial chairs still work to bring a level of comfort to the user over a prolonged period.
- Built with robust materials
- Practical in harsh working environments
- Still comes with ergonomic features
Best for: Workplaces where chairs may come under increased strain or round the clock use, such as construction sites
Folding chairs are categorised by how easy they are to fold and store. You won’t find these practical seats at the desks of employees, but they are a useful, versatile option when you need somewhere temporary to sit.
Folding chairs are lightweight and can be stored together using carts, making it easy to set up and put away many at one time. For that reason, they’re ideal for large temporary meeting rooms or event spaces.
- Can be set up and taken down in seconds
- Lightweight for maneuvrability
- Cheap to buy in bulk
Best for: Event spaces or other places where lots of temporary seating is required
Stacking chairs are an alternative to folding chairs for those looking for seating for lots of people for a brief period.
They differ from folding chairs in how they are stored. Stacking chairs can be stacked on top of one another into piles before being pushed into storage. They are generally heavier than folding chairs, but this is often due to having extra padding and more robustly built chair legs.
- Can be stacked for easy storage
- More comfortable than folding chairs
- Robust material for longevity
Best for: Event spaces or conferences that want more style and comfort than a folding chair
Banquet chairs are very similar in the design and look to that of stacking chairs. They have the same stacking capabilities and come within stylish metal frames with fabric cushioning. The premium design of these chairs is intended for use in banquet rooms or at formal occasions like wedding receptions, large dinners or awards ceremonies.
- Premium design and build
- Stackable for easy storage
- Intended for formal events
Best for: Stylish events such as wedding receptions and awards ceremonies
Office stools are a great way to fill up space where people may be standing or sitting simultaneously. Designed more for style than comfort, stools are perfectly suited to bar areas or break out rooms within an office space.
If users are likely to be using them longer than just a few minutes, some office stools come with footrests for added comfort.
- Stylish design for contemporary use
- Range of colours and materials
- Perfect for bars, cafes, or canteens
Best for: Use away from desks and workspaces, like break out areas or bars
Other Types of Office Seating
These are the main types of seating you’ll find in modern workplaces and public spaces today, but there are some other alternative seating options on the market.
There are three significant types:
- Exercise balls
- Kneeling chairs
- Saddle chairs
Exercise balls, kneeling chairs and saddle chairs are oddly designed seating options for improving posture and lowering back pain. See our guides on exercise balls and kneeling chairs for more information on how they work, but in short, they are only designed for brief stints and should never be an employee’s primary seating.
For long periods of sitting down, always choose an ergonomically designed office chair.
What to Look for in an Office Chair
Before you decide what sort of seating you need, consider the following questions.
- Where will the seat be located?
- Will it be used constantly or on a temporary basis?
- What formality are the circumstances with which it will be used?
- What is my budget?
- How long will users typically use it in one sitting?
- How many do I need?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you should be able to narrow down the available options and select the best chair that fits your budget.
There you have it – every type of office chair. For the best value on every type of chair discussed in this guide, head to the Furniture At Work site.
Exercise Balls vs Office Desk Chairs
A Comprehensive Guide to Ergonomic Chairs: Features, Importance and What to Look For