Though complete data isn’t available yet, it’s likely there are more people working from home right now than ever before. And with the millions-strong tide of new WFH warriors has come a learning curve — how to sit properly.
Google searches for “desk chair,” “office chair” and other permutations of the chair you sit in while working have gone through the roof since WFH mania has taken hold. Companies like Design Within Reach, Herman Miller, Steelcase and Humanscale are all running sales on desk chairs and other work from home essentials, most reporting large upticks in inquiries and sales in the seating category.
Dr. Brock Walker, former chiropractor, ergonomics specialist and President of Human Innovation Designs, diagnosed back, neck, shoulder and eye pain related to sitting improperly, bad posture or working in a poorly designed seat for decades. “People would come into my office and say, ‘Please look at my back, something’s wrong.’ And then we would do things to fix their chairs and their back pain would go away, and then their neck pain would go away and so on. I could tell almost instantly if someone’s issues were from sitting in the wrong kind of seat,” Walker said.
Seated in his Embody chair in his Michigan office, Walker uses the classic La-Z-Boy recliner. “You lay in it, and you’re like, ‘Dude, where do I get one of these?’ Fifteen minutes later you’re going, ‘How the hell do I get out of this thing?’ You can see how after hours of sitting in something like this there may be problems,” he said.
Walker explains it this way: imagine if your head were replaced by a 10-pound bowling ball. How would your body hold that bowling ball up? If you lean backward, hunch over or slouch, you’re asking your muscles and soft tissue to hold up the bowling ball all day. You do that for a few days and you’ve got a recipe for a lot of pain.
“Guess what? Your head weighs somewhere between eight and twelve pounds, and once you start all that slouching, you’re going to have decreased blood flow, you’re going to have decreased respiration, you’re going to have muscle strain, you’re going to have different parts of the body get strained,” Walker said.
Weeks into the work from home revolution, makers of good-for-you desk chairs say new customers are coming in droves.
Leena Jain, CMO at office ergonomics designer Humanscale, says investments in task chairs are up considerably. Jain’s company, which employs 60 certified ergonomists, will even provide feedback on your WFH setup through ergoIQ LIVE, a service that connects you with trained specialists that offer solutions to improve your workspace’s body friendliness. “People are quickly realizing just how vital some of these tools are to stay productive and comfortable each day,” Jain, whose home office is outfitted with her company’s Diffrient World chair, said.
David Kahl, founder and CEO of ergonomic-obsessed workspace brand Fully, says the company is handling four to five times as many inquiries than normal. “It’s been great to observe that our customers really seem to understand the value of a complete, healthy workspace,” said Kahl, whose home office is equipped with a Capisco chair.
“Modern office environments are designed to optimize employee productivity (proper desk height, ergonomic seating, lighting, etc.), and as many individuals have faced a shift in work protocol in the past weeks, they are finding that their homes aren’t properly equipped to handle a sustained work from home routine. We’ve all taken work home, but suddenly when work is home, home may feel unresolved for work,” a spokesperson for Design Within Reach said in an email. The site is seeing a broad increase in interest for task seating, with Herman Miller’s Aeron and Embody chairs seeing the biggest bumps.
Whilst luxury goods companies assist governments in the procurement of masks, whiskey makers reconfigure stills to meet demand for sanitizer and Dyson deploys ventilators to thousands of hospitals, one couldn’t be blamed for failing to consider ergonomics. Since coronavirus made landfall in the U.S., tens of millions of lives have been upended and, relative to issues of life and death, improving one’s work from home setup may seem trivial. And yet, across the internet, there has never been more interest in sitting correctly. And there has never been a better time to do so.
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