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Hello, I'm Duncan MacIntyre welcome to my website Blog, I've been involved with quality business seating for over 30 years now - it's a market I'm passionate about.

The aim of the Blog is to keep you up to date with new developments in the office seating market, useful hints and tips as well as health issues like back pain and RSI (repetitive stress injury). We all seem to spend more and more time sitting at PCs and laptops so this is an important matter.

Your comments are welcome as your individual experiences may very well be beneficial to other visitors to the Blog.

How Office Chair Seat Height Causes Problems For Some Office Workers: A Resizing Moment

It’s easy to think that anyone should be able to adjust their office chair seat height to suit their needs. After all that’s what the gas lift is for isn't it? So why could it be a problem for certain people?

For the majority of office workers it won’t cause a problem. That’s because they fall into the category chair manufacturers call ‘average built.’ Broadly speaking this is anyone between say 5 feet 6 inches and 6 feet tall.

As this height range covers the majority of people working in offices it’s only natural that chair makers design their seats to fit them.

What happens when you're not average built?
Depending on how far you fall outside the average will dictate how big a problem this is.

To be properly comfortable in you seat you need to have your feet resting squarely on the floor. Not only that you need to have your legs set at an open angle. The old recommendation of sitting at 90° isn't a good idea and probably never was.

You should aim to sit in a more open posture with the angle between body and thighs at 110° or more.

For two categories of people this may not be possible without a radical change to their seat.

Let’s move on to the first group this affects.

How short people struggle with seat height
The big problem for people under about 5 feet 5 inches in height is they often find their seat doesn't go low enough and they are unable to rest their feet squarely on the floor. This puts pressure on thighs and the undersides of their legs become painful after sitting for a short while.

And at the other end of the spectrum, there’s a different issue.

The problem tall people face with the height of their seat
Tall people have no trouble resting their feet on the floor. The snag is in the angle of their legs. They end up like a partly opened penknife with knees and thighs angled up in the air. The tight angle they find themselves sitting at quickly becomes uncomfortable.

So what's the answer to these difficulties?
The easiest way of fixing these issues is to change the gas lift for one more closely matched to your height.

Good manufacturers offer alternative gas lifts allowing the chair to go lower or higher than standard.

Here’s a quick tip
Standing up measure from the floor to the middle of your knee. Note down this dimension and make sure any replacement gas lift adjusts an inch or so either side of this measurement. Provided you find a match simply changing the chair’s pneumatic lift will fix things.

Another idea for short built people is to use an adjustable footrest.

Further information
Here’s where you can find articles and ideas related to this problem.

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New Knoll Inc Report Shows Generation Y Vulnerable To Ergonomic Injury

A new report from Knoll Inc – New Workplace Ergonomics Research, Emerging Risks And Solutions reveals that even Generation Y workers are susceptible to ergonomic injury.

When you consider that a Generation Y worker is probably 30 years old or under that’s a pretty worrying thought.

And yet it’s perhaps not so surprising. Two previous studies also by Knoll found this generation spends some 7.5 hours a day using electronic devices. Such extensive use of these devices must impinge on individuals health in the longer term, whatever their age.

A separate university study of students found that by 2008 over 50% of surveyed participants encountered pain they felt was the result of computer use. The study concluded that many showed the potential to enter the workplace with an existing upper body injury.

The proliferation of larger and frequently multiple monitor use was highlighted as a worrying trend in terms of user health.

Combating the problems
The report highlights the need for properly set up work areas. In the case of multiple monitors the use of monitor arms will make a big difference in the ability to fine tune screen positions for individual user comfort.

Seating needs to be designed to support user’s posture changes. And standing to work for part of the day helps because it places a lot less strain on the spine.

Training in how to work more healthily will help to make staff more aware of the issues and how to tackle them.

It’s also recommended organizations should have areas where more casual lounge style furniture is available.

More information
Here’s where you can find Knoll’s latest Generation Y report. And here’s where you can find other interesting research articles and reports from Knoll Inc.

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Are You Suffering Back Pain From Your Office Chair? 3 Quick Tips

Most back pain from office chairs is down to one of the following three reasons.

  1. Poor quality seating
  2. Bad posture when sitting
  3. Lack of movement when working

In this 3 part article we’re going to look into each in detail and consider how best to tackle them and improve your working comfort.

Let’s start with the first of them.

Poor quality seating
Cheap seating is a major contributor to back related pain in the office. The reason this happens is principally down to the use of poor quality materials which aren't designed for long term use. A classic example of this is low quality seat foam which goes hard and flat in a matter of months.

Another problem is missing features making it impossible for users to fine tune adjustments to their needs.

So much for the seat, what about the way we sit?

Bad posture when sitting
This is something that you can take action on, although if you have a really bad chair it may limit your success.

Slouching when you're sitting is a real killer for your back. As you back rounds it puts pressure on your muscle and spine resulting in pain.

It’s a good idea to place your body well back as you sit down so the chair’s back is in contact with and supporting your back. If there is a lumbar support make sure it’s well positioned for lower back comfort.

Craning your neck forwards is a very bad habit that is all too easy to get into. Over time it will cause a lot of neck and shoulder discomfort. The key to avoiding this is to make sure your screen can be read comfortably when you are sitting in a relaxed upright position.

Other sources of back pain come from incorrect seat depth for your legs and also the amount of pressure required to recline comfortably. On many chairs both seat depth and recline tension are fixed and so the only solution will be a new chair.

And the final problem can often be solved by a change of habit.

Lack of movement when working
Far too many people remain seated all day, apart from taking a lunch break.

recline

Woman Reclining In Generation Chair

Although better quality chairs are designed to help you move as you work, even the best of them won’t do your exercise for you.

No matter what seat you have getting out of it regularly and having a stretch or taking a short walk is vital. We aren't designed to be fixed in one posture for hours at a time. You should aim to get up out of your chair every 30 minutes or so and do some simple stretches and maybe walk around the office.

working

Man Working In Leap Chair

Sitting at 90 degrees used to be common advice for office workers. Nowadays a more open sitting angle is recommended. Research by Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen Scotland found that an angle of 135 degrees body to thigh seating position reduced the strain on the spine and its ligaments.

While this is good advice, it’s simply not possible with most office chairs. Even if you recline in them to work they tip your legs upwards making it very difficult to remain in contact with your work.

Happily, some modern chairs like the Knoll Generation and Steelcase Leap will allow the user to work in this more open angled position.

In conclusion
Back pain in the office is usually caused by one of these 3 reasons:

  • Poor quality seating
  • Bad posture when sitting
  • Lack of movement when working

With a little awareness it’s usually fairly easy to spot the problem and take action to sort things out.

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Varier Announces The Addition Of A Padded Backrest For Its Balans Kneeling Chair

back pad

Balans Chair With Padded Back

Varier's famous Balans kneeling chair has been available for some time with a sculptured wood backrest option. In normal use there isn't a need for a back support when working in the seat.

However where it very handy is it allows users to lean back and relax when taking a break from working.

The slender shaped wood rest gives great support to the spine. Now to make it more comfortable a padded upholstered cushion has been added providing a softer support when reclining.

And the good news is that it is possible to fit it to an existing Balans wood backrest. This is possible because it comes made up as a sleeve which can be conveniently slid over the backrest.

The backrest pad will be available early March and will cost $85.

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How To Fix That Sinking Office Chair: The Chair Saver Kit

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Have you ever had one of those office chairs where the gas lift just keeps sinking? As fast as you adjust it, once you put your weight on the seat you start to fall down and before you know it the seat is at its lowest setting.

It usually happens for a couple of reasons. First, sometimes the lever controlling the gas lift gets out of alignment and ends up pressing the release on the gas lift. And second the gas lift is faulty and can no longer hold its adjusted height.

Either way the result is the same, a chair you can’t work in – until now that is.

Introducing the chair saver kit
This clever gizmo allows a simple and permanent fix to your problem.

fix faulty gas lift

Here's what You Get In The Saver Kit. In the kit you will find four 1” and one 1/2” spacers made in a strong high quality plastic.

To work out how many spacers you need, drop the chair seat to its lowest level, chances are that's where it’s at anyway. Then standing in front of the chair measure the distance from the top of the seat to the middle of your knee.

Next pull the seat back up and with the gas lift exposed snap on the required number of spacers to match as closely as you can the dimension you noted earlier. That's it, now when you sit down the chair will only sink until it reaches the spacers which then hold the seat at your correct sitting height.

Where you chair’s pneumatic lift has plastic covers around it just pull them down first to expose the cylinder so you can fit the spacers.

And that really is all there is to fixing your chair’s faulty gas lift. It’s recommended for anyone over 250lbs to wrap several tight layers of duct tape around the spacers following fitting. This eliminates the possibility of them sliding over each other.

Demonstration video showing how to install it

Overall opinion on this device
This is a very simple way of fixing an office chair that won’t stay up. Once in position the durable plastic rings should last for many years. The only real downside is if you share the chair with others whose working height isn't the same as yours. Also, if your chair has an extended gas lift with more than 4.5 inches of height adjustment you might need two kits.

The ideal solution is to replace the gas strut, however old struts can be very difficult to shift when they been in use for any length of time. All in all the Chair Saver Kit makes a neat and easy fix for chairs that won’t stay up.

Further information
Here’s where you can find more about the chair saver cure for fixing a sinking office chair. And if your chair really is worn out, click here for some ideas on good replacements.

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How Active Sitting Helps Undo The Harmful Effect Of Passive Office Chairs

When you spend all day in an office chair you will likely find that as the day wears on you find aches and pains starting to set in. And there's a good reason why this tends to happen. It all has to do with the design of many office seats which discourage active sitting. In fact most chairs do the opposite.

The negative effects of passive sitting
So what do we mean by passive sitting? When you sit in the average office chair it just isn't designed to encourage sufficient movement. The area which is affected most is the connection between your lower back and the tops of your legs.

It's a bit like a hinge. When you stand up back and legs open up like the hinge and as you sit down the hinge closes up again. It doesn't close up fully of course, instead what happens is you just end up being locked in the same position for hours and that's not good.

Think of it like the rare occasions when you need to turn of the water supply into your house. It can be very difficult as everything has seized up through lack of use. Of course we all know it's a good idea to periodically turn the supply on and off to keep it moving freely. And yet we never do it because we don't give it a thought, until it's a problem.

Not all office chairs are tarred with the same brush and some of the better quality seating from companies like HÅG, Steelcase and Herman Miller do encourage movement around the hinge area. Even so, they don't always provide as much movement as we need, sometimes a different approach is needed.

How can you achieve active sitting?
As explained above the fault with many chairs is the lack of body movement provided around the lower back and upper leg area. In the past this right angled way of sitting was considered to be the way to sit.

However what happens is that it places a lot of restriction on the use of the muscles in the abdominal region and over time they lose their tone and start causing problems.

Some enlightened manufacturers produce specialist seats which encourage a more active approach to sitting. First these seats place your legs at a much more open angle around 110° rather than the restrictive 90° so prevalent with office chairs. And then they take things a stage further by making it easy to move those core muscle through promoting active sitting.

A good example of such a seat is the Swopper stool from Aeris.

swopper in grey

Swopper Active Seat

Initially it looks like a stool with a spring around the center support, however it's only when you sit in it you discover what makes it different and why it keeps you body healthy and on the move. As you sit on it the seat pad angles forwards and you use your feet to control the seat.

The overall effect of this is the connection between your lower back and the tops of your legs becomes far more active. As you go about your work the Swopper keeps things moving and so your muscles get used, keeping healthy and active.

Other seats which work in a similar way include the Move stool by Varier and the Muvman which we looked at in a recent post.

Of course the downside is that you have to replace your existing chair, at least until now.

Enter the Human Tool Balance seat
This clever seat acts as an adapter to convert your passive seat into an active one, here's how it does it.

human tool balance

Human Tool Balance Seat

It has a saddle shaped upholstered seat which is mounted on a large plastic ball. All you need to do is to place it on your existing chair and sit on it. Because of the design the saddle shape of the seat straight away sets your legs at a healthy open angle.

Then as you work and move it lets you move, front to back as well as side to side. Consequently the whole of your lower body is far more active, leaving little chance that those core muscles will seize up any more.

And it works with other seats too, even easy chairs and sofas. For these types of seats which often have spongy cushions it comes with a round wooden board which you place on the seat first to stop the ball sinking into the upholstery.

The other great thing is the cost, it's about $160 which is certainly a lot less than buying a full new active seat.

Summary
Let's quickly summarize what we've covered here:

  • Passive sitting isn't good as your core muscles weaken thorough lack of use
  • Some better quality chairs do encourage more active movement
  • Specialist seats will help you to enjoy active sitting
  • The Human Tool seat lets you easily convert passive seats to active ones

Further reading
Here's where you can find more about the Swopper, Move, Muvman and Human Tool seats. They will help stop your body resembling that seized up water inlet supply.

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Muvman The Healthy Alternative Seat For Office Workers

The Muvman seat is totally unlike any conventional office chair, however don’t let its quirky looks put you off.

It’s more than capable of replacing the sorts of chair we’re used to and providing a lot more versatile experience at the same time.

How so?

What is so different about sitting in a Muvman?
Well for a start it has no wheels and you might think this will restrict you.

Muvman in green

Muvman

In reality because of the way it’s designed it let’s you move with far more flexibility than your average task chair.

Not only can you move forwards and backwards easily, moving from side to side is a breeze too. So, instead of having to wheel to another part of your workstation, all you do is lean and you will get there with ease.

And with all the extra movement you gain you're actually keeping your body much better toned, especially in your leg and back muscles.

This seat has no arms either. This isn't a disadvantage as it lets you get in close to your desk and use your worktop to support your arms.

What else is it good for?
Because the seat can be raised a lot higher than a typical desk chair it’s perfect for working at any raised work surface.

different sitting positions

How Muvman Supports You

The most obvious use is with a height adjustable desk where it’s the perfect choice of seat.

And for anyone who has a standing desk where the height is fixed, being able to take the weight of your legs now and then is a great benefit.

Despite all the publicity about using a standing desk, standing all day to work can get just as tiring as sitting all day. Muvman gives you the best of both worlds.

The go anywhere task chair
You probably spend most of your time working at your desk and Muvman is great for that. However, because it weighs so little (under 20 pounds) and adjusts down to 20 inches it’s very portable.

So, when you need to go and talk to a colleague why not stick it under your arm and use it while you chat? And what about meetings and training sessions? You’ll certainly appreciate its comfort if things drag on as they often do. When you're taking a quick break and want to catch up with your phone messages once again this versatile chair will support as you text.

Home office workers will find loads of extra uses for this seat as well as just in the office. You can use it for watching movies, preparing food or even doing the ironing.

Further information
All in all the Muvman make for an incredibly versatile seat, here’s where you can find out more about this fun alternative seat.

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Aeris Launches Its 3Dee Chair At Orgatec 2012

Germany's Aeris, the makers of the Swopper stool recently launched its new 3Dee chair at Orgatec 2012, Europe's largest furniture exhibition.

3Dee Chair Rear View

It is based on the same technology as the Swopper stool and like the stool allows sitting in 3 dimensions, hence the name 3Dee. Although the Swopper is available with a back option it didn't really convert it into an office chair, it was still a stool with a back fitted to it.

With 3Dee Aeris has taken the principles of Swopper technology and used them to produce an office chair. So the chair base is the more conventional 5 star wheeled base. And the seat and back also now look similar in concept to those found on office task chairs.

It's in use where you will notice the difference. The spring action built into the gas lift allows the chair far greater lateral movement than ordinary office seats. Users are able to lean to each side and the seat and back follow them.

All this makes for a very healthy way of working as body and muscles are kept far more active than they would be if sitting in a desk chair.

Availability
You will have to wait some time to get hold of a 3Dee as most of next year's production has already been spoken for with the orders already in the pipeline.

For more on the 3Dee visit the Aeris site.

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Has The Office Chair Been Reinvented? Introducing The Freedman Chair

Freedman Chair

Just when you might have thought that everything about office chairs has already been discovered, prepare for a surprise because something really unique in office seating has recently appeared.

And it's called the Freedman chair, named after it's UK based inventor Simon Freedman.

It would be easy to think of it as is simply another funky design.

However as an Osteopath for the past 20 years who could doubt Simon's qualifications to know what is needed in an office chair?

And at The British Invention Show it won International Award of the Year 2011.

So it looks like others feel he's on to something.

Why did he feel the need to invent a new chair?

How did the Freedman chair come into being?
As an Osteopath it's hardly surprising that Simon sees more than his fair share of people with back problems. Many of them spend long hours each day in the office sitting. He was convinced that what they were sitting on was a significant part of their problem.

It wasn't just down to them having a poor chair, he felt it went further than this. It was the way their body was positioned when sitting.

Simon felt he could do better and so began the seed of an idea that ultimately became the Freedman chair.

What makes the Freedman chair different to other office chairs?
Nearly everything is different. First it doesn't have a gas lift height adjuster, it does of course adjust in height using a method common in office seats from a long time ago. It uses a screw mechanism so you spin the chair around to change the height. It may be old fashioned nonetheless it's effective.

Second, it is made almost entirely from aluminum so there is no seat padding, upholstery or hard plastics. This all helps to keep the overall chair weight down to an incredibly low 5kgs about a quarter of the weight of the usual office chair.

Third, there is no conventional chair back. Instead it has 6 back balls designed to keep the user's trunk moving and maintaining blood circulation and a healthy body.

Fourth, it's carefully shaped seat pan is split into two pads. It's designed to make it easy for users to sit on their sit bones. By doing so it places the whole body in a natural posture making sure muscles aren't overworked and function as nature intended.

It also places the body at what Simon refers to as the Golden Angle, a downward angle of 27° and by doing so holds your natural lumbar shape correctly.

Forward tilting seats can often be difficult to use as it's easy to slide forwards in them. The seat pads of the Freedman chair are drilled with a pattern of holes to increase grip to get round this problem.

It all sounds great, are there any disadvantages?

What does it cost?
Currently orders are being taken for the chair to enable the initial batch of seats to be made. And at £1500 ($2400) it certainly isn't cheap, however developing a new product like this from scratch always costs a lot of money. Simon has been working on it for over 8 years developing prototypes and fine tuning the design. It's probably fair to say that if the product takes off and volumes increase it would be possible to reduce unit costs. Right now it's a bespoke product and so this is reflected in the price.

Even so anyone with a chronic back problem will likely be able to justify spending this kind of money to get relief.

Further information
Here's where you can find out more about the Freedman chair and how it's design will help you to sit more comfortably.

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How Do The Herman Miller Sayl And It’s Aeron Chair Compare?

With all the thousands of different office chairs on the market today things can get confusing for people. Even a single manufacturer like Herman Miller has dozens of different seating products. Today we're going to consider just two of them the relatively new Sayl chair and the long established Aeron made famous during the dot com boom.

Let's begin by taking a quick look at some of the key points of the two chairs.

Aeron

Aeron Loaded Chair

First launched in 1994, initially the market was a little unsure about the Aeron. Nonetheless Miller decided to stick with it and it proved to be a wise decision as it has gone on to to sell more than a million of them worldwide.

It's probably responsible for the launch of more competing products as chair makers scrambled to launch their mesh versions of its pellicle upholstery. The chair has a huge range of adjustments, so if you like tweaking with levers you can fine tune everything to your heart's content.

Instantly recognizable, it's a solid built workhorse of a chair.

So, what about the Sayl?

Sayl
Sayl is a relative newcomer appearing only in the past couple of years.

Sayl Chair With Arms

It has capitalized on the benefit of new materials making good use of specialist plastics and polymers. Its open mesh back with its Y shaped central back support gives it a striking appearance helping it stand out from the crowd.

With advances in modern materials it has meant the Sayl is a much lighter chair than the Aeron with plastics replacing metal. And also simpler to adjust thanks to components like the open polymer mesh back which doesn't need a separate lumbar support.

In terms of quality both seats carry Herman Miller's 12 year 24/7 warranty, so clearly each is man enough to perform in any office environment for many years.

Which should you choose?
Both chairs have their advantages and disadvantages.

If status is important to you then perhaps the Aeron has the edge. Although with that said the Sayl is also a highly distinctive looking chair.

If you're looking for good all round air circulation to combat sweating in your office chair the Aeron is the better bet as both seat and back are mesh. On the Sayl the back is open of course, however the seat is padded and finished in fabric.

For those who like a softer sit the Sayl with its padded seat will make more sense. And of course where you budget is tight the Sayl will definitely appeal as it costs 36.5% less than the Aeron.

Further information
So there you have a quick look at how the two chairs compare. To find out more about each here's where you can read full reviews of the Sayl and Aeron chairs.

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