What Is a Task Chair? - Viewing the Herman Miller Sayl Chair

What Is a Task Chair and Why Should You Get One?

The office environment is changing rapidly. In the past decade alone, workplace trends have gone from separate cubicles to open floor plans to remote and hybrid workflows. Keeping up is essential, and task chairs are the ideal option for the job.

If office chairs are the bureaucratic corporation, task chairs are the agile startup, getting things done in half the time. Task chairs provide an ergonomic foundation for all of your daily tasks, helping you switch from position to position while maintaining proper support and keeping you comfy throughout the day.

What is a task chair exactly, and how does it pack such a punch? In this article, we’ll break down these ergonomic seats and talk about why they’re so beneficial in today’s ever-changing work environment.

What Is a Task Chair?

A task chair is an office chair with a small footprint and several ergonomic upgrades.

To better understand what that means, we should also deconstruct the standard office chair. At its core, an office chair is just a workplace-oriented seat with a backrest — one that swivels, rolls, and (sometimes) comes with adjustable height. While many ergonomic office chairs offer several more features, that’s the only qualifying criteria, meaning mass-produced, low-end budget seats are still considered office chairs.

But it takes much more than a 5-star base and a few wheels to qualify as a task chair. A proper task chair supports nearly every work environment, providing an ergonomic foundation for productivity, posture, and easy collaboration.

Let’s dive deeper into the makeup of this unique office furniture by looking at task chairs’ most common elements.

Task Chair Essentials

Here’s a look at some of the defining elements of a modern task chair. 

1. Ergonomic & Adjustable

Task Chair Adjustment Mechanisms

Task chairs wear their ergonomic capabilities with pride, offering a buffet of adaptability mechanisms that adjust to every situation. Some of the most common adjustments offered by task chairs include:

  • Swiveling bases
  • Height and depth-adjustable seats
  • Reclining, tilting, and height-adjustable backrests
  • Height- and width-adjustable arms
  • Adjustable lumbar supports

These are just a sampling of adjustment mechanisms, and many task chairs go far beyond the standard fare to offer comprehensive support in every position.

2. Small & Easily Maneuverable

Task chairs are known for their mid-back designs and compact footprints. For the most part, popular task chairs max out around two to two-and-a-half feet in diameter. 

In terms of maneuverability, most manufacturers equip their task chairs with easy-glide mechanisms that adjust with a simple press of a button or pull of a lever. Physically moving task chairs around the office is also easy thanks to their caster wheels that roll smoothly atop hard surfaces.

3. Properly Supportive

All task chairs come with contoured backrests that prop up your lumbar region for perfect posture and back support throughout the workday. Their supportive design doesn’t just keep you upright and alert, but it also helps to eliminate back pain and reduce fatigue.

Since task chairs generally feature several more adjustment mechanisms than your typical office chair, they also retain their support in nearly every position.

4. Comfortable for Day-Long Use

While work chairs emphasize proper support over comfort, the best task chairs strike a perfect balance. They provide a reasonably cozy, day-long sitting experience that hits the sweet spot between relaxation and overextension.

Regarding comfort-oriented features, most task chairs incorporate breathable mesh or fabric-wrapped cushions, as well as waterfall seats that dip forward towards the front edge. These components help bolster your lower body and reduce pressure on your tailbone and legs. At the same time, most of a task chair’s contact points feature plush padding or tapered edges for well-rounded accommodation.

5. Minimal

Unlike their high back executive chair counterparts, task chairs perfectly embody the minimalist concept, providing all the essential features in an understated form factor. 

Most task chairs also come in one or two colors and lack the gaudy, over-the-top aesthetics many executive office chairs and computer chairs are known for.

Which Situations Is a Task Chair Best For?

Home Office Environment

Since task chairs often feature a low-profile design, they fit nicely into most home offices and corporate spaces, adjusting to the environment as needed.

Where Task Chairs Thrive

Task chairs are ideal for users who wear many hats. If you tend to move around the office, going from keyboard work to writing in a notebook or preparing documents, task chairs make excellent multipurpose desk chairs, keeping you covered with properly adjustable and supportive components.

Task chairs also excel in open floor plans. Their smaller frames and smooth-gliding wheels roll easily around the office, encouraging collaboration and creativity that you won’t get with more stationary models.

Consider Looking Elsewhere

If you’re in an office where you don’t move around as much, or if you’re looking for full-body support with a headrest, a task chair’s mid-back design may lack the features you seek.

They’re also not nearly as ideal for lounging, as they’re designed to keep you upright and alert across your various tasks. If you’re looking for something more leisurely, a gaming chair is probably the best option.

Task Chairs vs. Office Chairs – Key Differences

What is the difference between a task chair and an office chair?

“A task chair is always an office chair, but an office chair isn’t necessarily a task chair.”

A task chair will perform better in most (but not all) work environments. They tend to feature all the entry-level features of modern office chairs, but incorporate more adaptable designs that help you move from task to task with relative ease.

The following table shows some of the most common differences between task chairs vs. other types of office chairs. 

Task Chairs Office Chairs
Primary PurposeOffice workOffice work
Height Adjustability3” or more0” – 5” and higher
Ergonomic AdaptabilityHighLow – High
ComfortMediumLow – High
Posture SupportHighLow – High
BackrestMid-backLow-back – Executive

Benefits of Task Chairs

Task chairs offer dozens of benefits, though these vary depending on the model you choose and your particular body type. That said, you’ll find that the following benefits are fairly universal among all models:

  • Improve posture and health. Task chairs support you in every position, emphasizing correct posture that optimally aligns your vertebrae. Many task chairs even come with flexible components that promote circulation as you move from task to task.
  • Encourage collaboration. If you’re working in an office space with other people, task chairs are an excellent way to collaborate. Their petite frames and smooth-rolling casters move between workstations like ninjas, making it easy to cooperate face-to-face.
  • Boost productivity. While it may seem like marketing hyperbole, respectable studies show that task chairs genuinely improve performance and boost productivity. By helping you remain upright and alert throughout the day, these work chairs keep you engaged in your tasks for hours at a time.
  • Enhance an office’s visual appeal. Task chairs’ understated designs fit into most workspaces, enhancing the overall décor without sacrificing on support. 

How To Choose an Ergonomic Task Chair

Woman Showing Off a Task Chair

With so many options out there, choosing the right ergonomic task chair for your home or corporate office can feel like a workday in itself.

Fortunately, you can do a few things to narrow down the list of suitable options. Here are some critical criteria to keep an eye on:

  • Craftsmanship
  • Component quality
  • Material type (mesh or fabric)
  • Armrest adjustability
  • Degree of seat height, seat depth, and overall tilt
  • Price

I always recommend starting with a reputable brand that consistently outputs high-quality furniture with excellent warranties. Brands like Steelcase, Herman Miller (the Aeron in particular), and all33 are excellent options with top-tier lineups of premium task chairs.

While more adaptability is generally a good thing, even entry-level task chairs offer a great deal of versatility, and you can usually get away with a middling level of ergonomic adjustability. Doing so doesn’t just lower the overall price, but it can make the chair easier to use with less to worry about. 

Just keep an eye on overall quality, and think carefully about what specifics you want in your chair (for instance, fabric upholstery vs. a mesh office chair). It’s the small things that make a big difference, and you shouldn’t sacrifice anything when choosing a product as important as a task chair. You’ll be spending a lot of time together, after all.

If you feel stuck in your current chair and want help finding something better, check out our list of best ergonomic task chairs.

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