Stool vs Chair: Which is Better for Work?

A stool is a single seat on legs or a pedestal and without arms or a back while a chair is a seat, especially for a single person, usually with four legs and support for the back and the arms. These definitions, however, only give half the story since there are many similarities and differences between a stool and a chair that require in-depth analysis. 

Stools usually have from 3 to 5 legs and lack a backrest although there are some with backrests and even armrests. While most people think of stools as secondary to chairs, they can replace chairs in the office, kitchen or even business outlets such as restaurants quite effectively. You can find many types of stools including ergonomic and saddle stools. 

On the other hand, chairs have been the obvious decision when it comes to sitting in all places especially in the office. While you can find the best chairs on the market for just about any purpose, chairs have their downsides especially when used for a long time. Some of these downsides can be overcome with stools and vice versa. 

Stool or Chair: Comparison Table

The main points of comparison of the two pieces of furniture are as follows:

 Stool Chair 
DefinitionA single seat with or without armrests and a backrest and on a base of 3 to 5 legs. A single piece of furniture with a raised surface for sitting and with a back and armrest for one person. 
ArmrestNo armrests. Can have armrests.
BackrestCan have a backrest. Usually has a backrest. 
Number of legsUsually 4. Between 3 and 5. 
Height Can be of any height. Height also adjustable. Can be of any height. Height also adjustable.
MaterialsWood, metal, plastic and others. Wood, metal, plastic and others.
Floor space Minimal Average 
Purpose Sitting, stepping on. Sitting  
ExamplesBar stool, ergonomic stool, step stool, saddle stool, parsons stool and others. Reclining chair, dining chair, ergonomic chair, arm chair and others. 

These differences can be broken down as follows:

1. Definition 

By definition, a stool is a single seat on a pedestal or 3 to 5 legs with optional armrests and backrests. On the other hand, a chair is a single seat with four legs and with arms and a backrest. Chairs and stools serve similar purposes although some are more suited to some tasks than others. 

2. Armrests

While optional, most chairs will come with armrests in different shapes and sizes. These armrests help the user rest their arms and reduce tension on the shoulders as they work. For stools, it’s highly unlikely that they come with armrests. In fact, armrests on stools would be more of a hindrance than an added advantage. 

3. Backrests

Together with armrests, backrests are probably the most unique dividing factor between stools and chairs. While all chairs have a backrest of some sort, a majority of stools don’t have any backrest at all. Some stools have lumbar support especially the ergonomic stools. 

4. Footrests 

Both chairs and stools have footrests especially if they’re taller than the average stool or chair. The footrest allows the user to rest their feet on them rather than having to dangle them from the seat of the stool or chair. 

5. Number of legs

Another unique aspect between chairs and stools is the number of legs. The standard chair has four legs one from each of the four corners of the seat. On the other hand, stools have between 3 to 5 legs or even more. 

Modern stools and chairs can both have a set of wheels instead of actual legs with a majority having 4 or 5 wheels (casters) which allow you roll around and swivel in all directions. 

6. Height

The height of a stool or chair depends on its purpose. Most stools and chairs will have a fixed height suited to the height of the table they’re meant for. However, modern stools and chairs are getting a pneumatic cylinder which aids in the adjustment of height and also allows for swiveling in either direction. This means that one can buy a stool/chair and adjust its height to suit any purpose they deem fit. 

7. Materials

Stools and chairs were traditionally made of wood as were all types of furniture. However, other materials such as metal and plastic are increasingly finding their use in making stools and chairs and other types of furniture as well. Better yet, these materials are being combined on a single piece of furniture to save on costs and still attain a high-quality product. 

8. Floor space

Stools, being smaller in size and usually without a backrest or armrests, will take less floor space than chairs. Stools can even be slotted under the table when not in use unlike chairs whose backrest can be a hinderance. While both can be stackable, a stack of 10 stools is often smaller than a stack of 10 chairs. 

9. Purpose

Stools and chairs can be used interchangeably with one another for different purposes. However, each of them is suited to different purposes more than the other. For example, stools are better for short term uses such as in bars or art studios. Chairs, on the other hand, are better at long term sitting such as at desks or other areas. 

For décor, the two can be used with different results. If you’re going for an industrial or minimalist design, stools will bring that out than chairs. However, chairs will bring out a more executive look for your space. 

10. Examples 

Examples of common types of stools are bar stool, ergonomic stool, step stool, saddle stool and others. Common types of chairs include reclining chair, dining chair, ergonomic chair, arm chair and others. 


If you aim to have a stool at your workstation, you’re better off getting either an ergonomic stool or a saddle stool as they’re packed with features that make them comfortable for long hours of use. Other special purpose stools can also be used with great results. The pros and cons of these special purpose stools are as follows:


  • Make it hard to slouch and hurt the back. 
  • Provide a curve to the lumbar that’s similar to standing upright. 
  • They help burn more calories than typical office chairs. 
  • Use up less space than chairs hence can be used in places with limited space. 
  • Allow easy movement while seated. 
  • Keep the user alert and relaxed. 


  • Require some balancing which can be tough to sustain for long. 
  • The lack of armrests, backrests and head support makes them less comfortable than chairs. 
  • Can become uncomfortable when used for long hours. 

The best use for stools would be sitting with your legs apart and feet flat on the ground or rested on a foot rest for the high stools. Your back needs to be perpendicular to the ground. 

Avoid the use of stools for long periods of time if you’re intoxicated, clumsy or out of shape. Men are also to avoid saddle stools as they exert pressure on the perineum which can lead to sexual issues. 


Chairs come packed with lots of features some of which lack in stools. For this reason, chairs can be used for longer periods of time without fatigue. The best chairs to get for your office work are the ergonomic and task chairs as they have the features to keep you comfortable for long hours. Their pros and cons are as follows:


  • Provide support for the head, lumbar and arms. 
  • Exert less pressure on the spine than active seats such as stools. 
  • Many adjustments to suit your body. 
  • Comfortable and easy to use. 


  • Higher chances of slouching due to the high level of comfort. 
  • Burns less calories than stools and other active chairs. 
  • Higher chances of developing diseases such as metabolic syndrome. 

The best way to use a chair is to sit with your feet flat and the thighs parallel to the floor. The back should ideally be reclined 135° backwards. Make it a habit to get up from the chair and walk about at least once for every hour of sitting. 

Stool vs Chair: Which is the Better Option?

When choosing between the two, make the decision based on the above analysis with aspects such as the comfort level, how long you intend to use the stool or chair, armrests, the floor space available and others. Choose a stool if you’re not going to be siting for too long or your work entails moving about a lot such as in an art studio and office as well. If you’ll be sitting for long hours on end, you’re better off with a chair given the many features it comes with. Whatever piece you settle on, always keep a healthy work routine by taking the needed steps such as standing at least once every hour. 


  • Is it better to sit on a stool or chair?

If you’re seating for long hours on end, a chair is better than a stool. However, if you will be fidgeting around a lot, a stool is better than a chair. 

  • What is the difference between a stool and a chair?

A stool differs from a chair by its lack of a backrest and armrest which chairs often have. Another difference between a stool and chair is that chairs typically have 4 legs while stools can have anything from 3 to 5 legs. 

  • Is it good to sit on a stool?

Yes. It’s good to sit on a stool as long as you have the right posture and do so for short periods of time. 

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