How To Make Your Office Chair More Comfortable

If you spend any significant part of your day at a desk, you’ll know how important your chair comfort is for those long work days.

Being uncomfortable in your office chair can make you very inefficient and even lead to long-term issues. It’s best to listen to your body and take action if you notice discomfort while seated in your chair. 

This is especially true if you are using something like a dining chair when working from home. We have an entire article on why you shouldn’t use a dining chair at your desk.

New chairs can be expensive (looking at you Herman Miller!), so we’re going to show you how you can make your current desk chair more comfortable and ergonomic.

How To Make Your Old Office Chair More Comfortable

Make Your Home Or Work Office Chair More Comfortable

Upgrading an older office or desk chair can save you some serious cash and even give you a more customizable setup. 

First, Upgrade Your Seat Cushion

The part of your chair that sees the most persistent force and degradation is the seat cushion. No matter what type of foam you have in your chair, they all compress after years of cyclic loading and fatigue. 

As the cushion gets stiffer and stiffer, you’ll start to feel like you’re sitting on a rock. There is an easy way to tell when you need to replace or supplement your chair cushion.

If you feel pressure directed to your sit bones when you sit down, the foam has probably been compressed too much. When you feel your sit bones right away, it means your cushion is not distributing your body weight effectively. 

Above is a great image from Herman Miller’s website illustrating proper pressure distribution vs. inadequate pressure distribution. I can feel my sit bones looking at the poor pressure distribution image on the right. 

This is why you should consider adding a new seat cushion to your chair. The easiest way to do this is to simply purchase one and slap it on your chair. 

Here are some popular seat cushions that you can add to your office chair: 

Cooling Gel Seat Cushion

This gel seat cushion is designed to relieve pain and discomfort, with a double-layer gel cushion and a size of 18 x 17 x 1.45 inches. It's highly breathable and heat-dissipating, with a honeycomb design, and is difficult to deform. It's suitable for use in various settings, including office, home, travel, car seats, and wheelchairs.

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TushGuard Office Chair Seat Cushion

This office chair seat cushion is made of 100% pure memory foam with an ergonomic "U" shaped hollow design for superior comfort. It is machine washable and has a non-slip rubber bottom and a built-in handle for easy transport.

Check Price on Amazon

As you browse chair cushions, keep in mind that these will add height to your chair. If you have a height-adjustable chair, then you should be able to adapt easily.

Contoured cushions have a unique shape to match the average human body with the goal of better pressure distribution. If you are particularly smaller or larger, these contoured cushions may not be a perfect fit.

Add Lumbar Support (Lower Back Support)

Another common issue with office chairs is the lack of lumbar support. The Lumbar is the lower part of your spine, and your chair’s backrest has the task of supporting it. 

Even the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has regulations regarding workstation chairs requiring lumbar support. In the previous link, they specifically mention that the backrest “should conform to the natural curvature of your spine, and provide adequate lumbar support.”

If you don’t feel your chair supporting your lower back, it’s time to get a lumbar support add-on for your chair. 

There are two main styles you should consider. One is a mesh design that allows more breathability and the other is closer to a pillow which can be more supportive, but not as breathable.

These add-ons typically come with straps so they can be secured to your chair at the appropriate height.

Lastly, Add a Footrest

With an upgraded seat cushion and a fresh lumbar support pillow, we are almost done with a fully ergonomic chair setup. 

There is one last item that can be added to improve your sitting experience. This one mostly applies to those whose feet do not sit flat on the floor when your chair is at an ergonomic height relative to your desk.

If your desk is too high, you will have to increase the height of your chair. This could result in your feet no longer touching the floor.

This was the case for me when I was using my ALEX drawer desk. If this describes you, consider investing in a footrest that elevates your feet. 

With a footrest, you don’t have to balance your feet on the legs of your chair, and you can finally rest your feet flat, no matter what height you are.

Ergonomic Adjustable Foot Rest

These ergonomic footrests help enhance circulation and blood flow, reduce pain and tension with built-in massage and tilting features, correct poor posture, and boost motivation and productivity by providing optimal comfort and support.

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You don’t need anything super fancy here. You won’t even see it! 

CushZone Under Desk Foot Rest

This CushZone footrest provides a comfortable sitting position, it elevates your legs which can improve blood circulation in the legs. It features an adjustable height, high-quality foam, and a non-slip and machine-washable cover.

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Consider Other Possible Sources Of Discomfort

Chair Age & Quality Over Time

Many budget chair manufacturers don’t put a ton of engineering time into designing and manufacturing chairs. They simply put something together that works at the time of testing and sell it at an attractive price point for the masses. 

While they might feel fine the first time you use them, the real question is will they feel fine the 100th or 500th time you use them? That’s pretty much only 1-2 years of using a chair. 

These mainstream budget chairs often degrade quickly. They are not always made with high-quality materials that last.

I purchased a 10-year-old Herman Miller Sayl on Facebook Marketplace, and even after 10 years of use, the chair still has no serious signs of wear and tear. Not all chairs can say the same.

herman miller Sayl with black seat cover

The main reason we recommended accessories to add to your chair is to combat the natural degradation of old office chairs.

If the lumbar support starts wearing away, you can buy a fresh lumbar support. If the bottom cushion starts flattening, you can supplement it with one of the cushions we recommend. 

Another common degradation issue with old office chairs is that the gas cylinder fails and your chair starts sinking as you sit in it.

Ergonomic Chair Features

There are a ton of chair features that are specifically designed to enhance ergonomics. Here is a quick summary of what all these features are and their purpose.

If you are missing any one of these features, you may be missing out on some ergonomic benefits. These are in addition to a base and a back with lumbar support that we already talked about. 

High-Quality Casters

Casters are the wheels at the bottom of your chair. They don’t seem like they have a high ergonomic value, but they actually do. 

The casters allow you to move in your chair, and thus position yourself naturally in relation to your desk. Being too far or too close to your desk is uncomfortable, and the wheels pretty much give you infinite position control. 

You can imagine a chair with fixed legs being a bit annoying to try and place in the perfect position. You have to lift your weight and scoot the chair.

This is an annoying process where you are very likely to settle for a subpar location on a daily basis. Also, once you stand up, your fixed-leg chair loses that position and you are back to square one. Casters make life much easier and more comfortable. 

(If you use a chair mat, check out our article on the best chair mat alternatives you should use instead. Chair mats have too many downsides for most.)

Chair Swivel Feature

The swivel is separate from the casters and gives you the ability to rotate in your chair. The swivel ensures that we can easily spin around as needed.

If your chair does not swivel, you face resistance to rotating which leads to discomfort if done constantly. 

If you have a wide desk or an l shaped desk, you probably need to turn in your chair more than most people. Even those with small desks need to rotate in their chairs. The swivel allows the chair to naturally rotate with you. 

If you have to fight a fixed chair for rotation, you are stressing your body unnecessarily. Done constantly over time can be annoying and unhealthy. Swivels are not talked about as much as they deserve to be with regard to ergonomics! 

Five Leg Design

bottom half of chair with wheels and gas cylinder

Most chairs with casters have five legs and thus five casters. Having 5 legs is actually very important. In the OSHA workplace regulation, they actually require five-legged chairs. 

This is due to the fact that four or fewer legs in a chair don’t have the right amount of stability and are much more prone to tipping. 

That weightless feeling you get when you are about to tip over in a chair is the worst! Five-legged chairs reduce the chances of that happening significantly. 

Adjustable Armrests

Another underrated ergonomic feature is adjustable armrests. The adjustability is key. Fixed armrests can actually do more harm than good. 

We all come in different shapes and sizes, so a good chair should have adjustable armrests to account for these differences. 

Armrests that are too high can result in unnecessarily raising your shoulders. Too low and you will just find yourself leaning on one side or another.

graphic of person sitting at desk with proper ergonomics

Armrests should be able to be positioned at just the right height where they naturally support your elbows and forearms in a neutral posture. That’s why height adjustment is important. 

Width adjustment can also make a huge difference in comfort. The main risk is having armrests that are too wide. Too close can be awkward too. 

Wide armrests force your elbows to reach out for stability. That is a reaching stress that is completely unneeded and can cause strain when done for too long. 

Smooth Tilting

Most chairs have a tilting mechanism so you can lean back whenever you want. What separates an okay chair from a great chair is how natural the movement is.

If you have to add considerable force to get your chair to lean back, that won’t be good for you in the long term. Leaning back should smoothly allow the chair to lean back with you. Anything forced just goes back to adding undue stress to your body.  

Desk Setup Ergonomics

Your chair is only one part of your entire desk setup. Other important factors you should consider when optimizing for comfort are the following:

alex drawer desk setup without computer tower on desk

Desk Height

Your desk should be at a height where your elbows are level with the top of the table. More or less, this is the optimal position with respect to your tabletop. 

Here’s how you can find the correct desk height.

Monitor Height

Your monitor height dictates where your head is pointing. If your monitor is too low, you will always be slouching. If your monitor is high, you will get neck strain very quickly. 

We have a dedicated article on dialing in monitor height.

When your eyes are looking straight ahead, you want them to point between the center of your monitor and the top edge of the monitor. This gives you a decent range to work with. Test out different heights within this range and find out what works best for you.  

I have my monitor set up so my eye level is a few inches below the top of my monitor. 

Feet Position

Lastly, once you have your chair, desk, and monitor all set up to the correct heights, ensure that your feet are flat on the floor. If they are not flat on the floor, you should look into a footrest to raise them. 

This is yet another OSHA requirement that results in a more comfortable workplace. We have a dedicated article on keeping your feet comfortable when sitting at your desk.


The last item on this list is simply your own posture when sitting. Everything we talked about this far will naturally set you up for decent posture, but it only gets you part way there. 

You still have to focus on limiting your slouching and maintaining a good upright position to take advantage of all our ergonomic enhancers. 

Check out this link from Mayo Clinic which is a nice guide on office ergonomics. 

How To Be Comfortable Sitting In An Office Chair All Day

Now that we have our chair, posture, and ergonomics all checked out, let’s talk about even more ways you can be comfortable sitting at your desk all day long.

Take Breaks From Sitting

Taking breaks from sitting can make a huge difference in your chair sitting “endurance”. This is similar to the fact that you can go workout or go hiking for much longer if you take little breaks more often. 

Taking a break to drink some water, walk to the restroom, or grab a snack all count as little breaks that help. They break you away from your static sitting position and act as a tiny reset button. 

Consider Standing Desks

If taking breaks often is not realistic for you, perhaps a standing desk would be more appropriate. 

Standing desks can remove you from the seated position, but keep your work going. They come in a huge range of costs from hand-cranked desks to programmable height versions.

minimal desk setup flexispot E7 standing desk

People who use standing desks don’t use them all day long. I personally typically alternate from sitting and standing at different parts of the day. 

If I use my standing desk in the first half of the day, I sit down for the second half.

Before You Go

Quick note, if you have a Herman Miller Sayl, check out this fantastic aftermarket accessory. And calling all tall people, we put together a guide to tall office chairs just for you!

If you’re in the market for a new chair with a strong emphasis on comfort, I highly recommend Steelcase as a brand. They are held as highly as Herman Miller for iconic ergonomic chairs.

We just compared Steelcase’s two budget-level chairs, the Series 1 and the Series 2. These take the world-class ergonomics and make them a tad more affordable.

Photo of author


I'm a big time workspace enthusiast who is constantly experimenting with my setup. Sharing along the way to help people make their own desk setups more functional and inviting, whether it be for productivity or play!

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