Sitting at work for too long is now regarded as a bad thing, bad for blood pressure, heart, limbs and overall wellbeing. Standing up for hours on end has problems too and unless you have a lectern or high desk you will not be able sensibly to use your computer or keyboard.
The Gesture chair, launched globally by Steelcase at the end of last year, needs neither vertical nor horizontal assistance but responds to a basically pessimistic study of people’s appalling workplace postures when using new technologies.
The company observed 2,000 people in 11 countries, using different technologies in various environments and identified nine new postures that cause pain, discomfort and long-term injuries.
“We love our technology – it’s become a ubiquitous extension of ourselves,” says James Ludwig, Steelcase vice-president of global design. Yet, “The way technology impacts our bodies as we work has been largely ignored." Ouch.The postures are not supported by chairs that have helped people to hold a position in front of the computer all day. They do not suit today’s workers as they use their mobile devices.
We have the Draw, drawing in small mobile devices and causing arm and shoulder fatigue. Smart Lean has users losing back support as they try to preserve their smart phone privacy. Cocoon has us with knees raised and clutching the small device, reducing circulation and potentially leading to deep vein thrombosis. With the Trance, users lean toward the screen making the neck support a greater weight, causing fatigue and pain.
To combat these, the three resulting interfaces – core, upper limb and seat – encourage movement as the Gesture’s interconnected parts help “you be where you need to be”, said Carol Stuart Buttle, principal at Stuart-Buttle Ergonomics.
This includes levering people closer to a work surface to avoid hunching over a screen; supporting the lower back as you recline to scroll on a tablet screen; and adjusting to avoid perching on the edge of the chair.
Chair arms move in and out allowing unimpeded use of a keyboard – or resting at the end of a big day. Gesture chairs are available in Australia through Steelcase Australia.
Deborah Singerman is a Sydney-based journalist and editor, specialising in architecture and design, including city, community, society, economy, sustainability and culture.