There seems to be a trend of making offices fun and quirky, colorful and relaxed, especially in the big corporations where most of the work is highly creative and intellectually challenging in nature. I understand the theory behind this – you want your employees to feel relaxed, to be comfortable and happy, so they can work at 100% and then have sufficient rest so they can go back to work at 100%. You want to spark their imagination and stimulate their mind, to provide them with a stress and care free environment so that they can be focused on what they do best without worrying about all the little things. This is a pretty good strategy. There is however one aspect of this strategy that seems to be contra productive, even harmful to both company and employee – and that is the urge to replace perfectly functional office furniture with “cool” furniture.
Proper business etiquette
When you go into an office to have a meeting with a company executive you expect to be greeted in a very formal office decorated with some elegance elegant office furniture, but ultimately simple and professional. This enables you to focus on the task at hand and show to the other person that this isn’t anything personal. You are there conducting business on behalf of a company and you need to represent that company in the best light. Even when working at the desk for long hours, the need for a certain level of formality between colleagues is necessary, especially in workplaces where there is a well-defined hierarchy. Asking a friend to do something is one thing, telling an employee to do something is a whole other thing. There is a need for ergonomic office chairs in the workplace, but there is no need for extreme levels of informality. The “cool” workplace, with its unconventional office furniture, outlandish décor and childish color themes promotes a bad work ethic.
When I hear the word bean bag the seventies immediately come to mind. I picture a bunch of young, energetic people with long hair, drunk and high, sitting down at a low table in their friend’s attic, their bell-bottoms rustling on the beanbags as they laugh together. The word does not however inspire a feeling of respect and dignity, nor does it evoke a sense of seriousness and urgency that you would hope to find in a business environment. Furthermore a beanbag provides very poor lumbar support, has to be constantly readjusted and requires additional impractical office furniture, like low office tables. It is simply not fit for either performing day to day tasks at the workstation or having a meeting at the boardroom table.
Skipping the obvious objection that an exercise ball belongs in a gym and not an office, there is something to be said of its supposed ergonomic qualities. The theory behind it is that while sitting on one of these giant balls the core and leg muscles keep working to stabilize you and the back is constantly micro-calibrating the upright posture. So you are in effect working your muscles and keeping a good posture while working at the computer. The regular office chair doesn’t make you work as hard to keep upright. There is only one problem with this approach, but it is a big one. Have you ever tried to type and focus on your work while balancing on a giant ball? It tends to be a little distracting. Even worse, after spending a few hours balancing your posture, the muscles involved will get tired and you will start slouching and fidgeting around. Just thing about it, how long do those exercises involving these balls last? I’ve seen the workout DVD’s and spent some time at the gym with qualified instructors, and I can tell you that you will be lucky if you spend half an hour on one of these things before your abdominal and lover back start to get sore. A ergonomic office chair doesn’t make you work hard, that’s true; what it does do is provide support for your back and help you rest while sitting at your computer desk.
A simple truth about the human body
The one simple truth is that staying too long in one position, be it sitting, standing, crouching or lying down, is bad for you. No matter how weird looking or comfortable the chair is, you will have to get up every hour and take a few minutes to walk around the room and stretch a little if you wish to avoid developing health problems. Don’t move for too long and your muscles start to atrophy and you can develop all sorts of problems like high blood pressure obesity and heart disease.
The modern office chair is a staple of a healthy and professional work environment. It is comfortable for the people that sit in them for a good part of eight hours, and the more expensive models put some class and dignity in the executive area. So just get a good ergonomic office chair that will keep you comfortable and provide support while you rest in it and remember to get up and stretch every now and then.