I have a problem. Over the years, I’ve spent hundreds of hours trying to find the best thing for everything I buy. With everything going on and having to work from home, it’s only gotten worse. I’ve had to find the best desk, the best chair, the best everything all in the hopes of boosting my productivity, promoting good ergonomics, and maintaining my sanity at home.
This will be part 1 of my work from home (WFH) setup experience, which focuses on my desk and chair. Do note that I’m a huge fan of Wirecutter, so you’ll see many overlaps with their top picks here. I’ll link to their reviews for things they’ve recommended.
Where possible, I link directly to the manufacturer’s home page for any items I mention. I do not have any affiliate or referral relationships with any websites or products mentioned below. These are solely my opinions for what’s been working well for me.
With that aside, let’s get started!
An obvious starting point for any WFH setup. For me, a standing desk, more importantly a height-adjustable desk, is the center of my workspace.
The adjustability lets me lower and raise the desk to maintain a relaxed 90° elbow while both sitting and standing. The programmable controls let me configure my desired sitting and standing heights. When I’m not using my desk, I can even tuck my chair under the desk to save some space. This is a big plus given that my wfh setup is in the same room as my bed. Silicon Valley.
Here’s my configuration, which goes for $664.
- 60x30” desktop
- Larger desk space than the default 48x30” desktop
- Legs support up to 350lbs
- Extended range desk frame
- More height adjustability for lowering the desk
- Programmable memory handset
- Consistent height settings, no holding up/down
- Formerly a Wirecutter top pick
- Currently the less expensive, runner-up pick
Two years ago, I managed to find one in great condition on craigslist from a defunct startup incubator for around $250. I’ve had nothing less than a perfect experience with it and would gladly pay full price — it simply just works.
I’m the kind of person who, before even sitting on a new chair, researches all of the various ways to adjust and personalize it. Once I’ve adjusted it, I continue adjusting it on a regular basis in tiny increments until it feels just right.
When choosing a chair, the bare minimum must include a comfortable seat, adjustable lumbar support, maneuverable armrests, and configurable reclining features. After that, I look for breathability, durability, and warranty. Why breathability? Well, when you’re sitting on it for hours on end, it starts to get a bit toasty.
I’ve sat on
Over the years, at home or at work, I’ve tried and owned a number of office chairs. Here are my favorites:
- Herman Miller Aeron
- Wirecutter: runner-up pick, starts at $995
- Used at an internship for 1 year
- Now using at home as of 6/21/2020, purchased new using company wfh money
- Breathable mesh seat/back
- Adjustable lumbar support
- Forward tilt support
- Iconic design
- 12-year warranty
- Very popular: easy to find used, holds a resale value
- Very expensive
- Mesh seat is stiffer than the foam seats like in the below chairs
- No customizable fabric colors: just black or white
- Less adjustable arms versus the Steelcase Gesture
- Herman Miller Sayl
- Wirecutter: also great pick, starts at $545
- Used at home for 2 years, purchased new
- Donated to my younger brother when I moved away
- Breathable back
- Least expensive, recommended Herman Miller
- Customizable fabric and frame colors
- 12-year warranty
- Seat is not as breathable as Aeron
- Stiffer back especially at top near the frame
- Steelcase Gesture
- Steelcase Think
- Starts at $613
- Used at home for the past 3 years
- Purchased used at local office furniture liquidator for $200
- Breathable back
- Popular, easy to find used
- 12-year warranty
- Seat is not very breathable
- Back frame rubs against my shoulder blades
Admittedly, these are all very expensive office chairs. Unless you’re at a desk for prolonged periods of time everyday, it might not be worth it. But if you are, then it’s like investing in a daytime equivalent of a comfy, supportive bed where you spend those 8 hours awake.
I never understood the benefit of these chairs until I started developing lower back and wrist pains. Once I did though, I could never go back. Gone were the days of armrests falling apart under my elbow, seat cushions turning into stone, and slowly sinking when height adjustment breaks down after a year or two.
My favorite is the Herman Miller Aeron
It checks all of the basics with its iconic breathable seat/back, adjustable arms, and tilt-limitable reclining. It can even be configured with an oddly delightful forward tilt support. Imagine leaning forward, eyes glued to the screen, mind on overdrive trying to pinpoint the root cause of an issue, all while your chair gently nudges you ahead as if to say you can do it, I believe in you.
If that wasn’t enough, it even comes with a 12-year warranty. They’ll send a local, certified technician to your home to repair any problems at no cost within the U.S. and Canada. Do note that warranty is non-transferable, so buying used will not provide these same guarantees. Thankfully though, they’ve been known to last well beyond their 12-year expected lifetimes, so you’ll likely be okay.
Although it’s been several years since I’ve sat in an Aeron, it’s by far been my most memorable seating experience. And since I’d last sat on one, it was remastered in 2016 — the first update since its release in 1994.
If you’re looking to buy one, start with the size guide where you can choose the appropriate size: A, B, or C. Most people fall within size B, though it’s good to check. Next, determine which add-ons you want. Wirecutter recommends:
- Back support: adjustable PostureFit SL
- Tilt: standard
- Arms: height-adjustable arms
- Armpad: standard
- Caster: hard-floor or carpet casters with quiet-roll technology
That configuration comes to $1214 before tax. If you’re interested in the forward tilt support mentioned above, you’ll want to upgrade the Tilt option from Standard to Tilt Limiter and Seat Angle for an additional $100. However, the most important and immediately noticeable add-on is the upgraded adjustable back support. Don’t cheap out on it, your lower back will thank you.
As of 6/15/2020, I’m still waiting for my Aeron to arrive from Herman Miller. Until then, my Think will make do despite its uncomfortable attempts to support my upper back. I’ll update this post once I get my hands on it.
6/30/2020 update: I’ve received my chair and here’s my first week with it.