The Changing Workplace

Task chairs are linear, unidirectional and constraining. They have been designed to facilitate a singular relationship with the computer. We have a mechanistic relationship with the chair and the task at hand. Most chairs place the body in a default, neutral position. Sitting is seen as an instruction, head down, back straight, now get to work.

The relationship we have with the computer and the screen has changed. Computers are now tools for collaboration and our work is now more open, more collaborative. We lean into create and recline to be entertained. With this in mind, there is now no fixed sightline or correct posture. Instead we need to cater to many tasks, many modes and many postures.

The nature of work is changing. Work is less sedentary; it is more fluid, more interactive. We are moving continuously. We move from task to task, from mode to mode. We need work environments that support this level of flexibility and foster office-wide interaction. People need chairs that support them in all the different positions they subconsciously adopt.

What determines the shape of a chair? This was the ultimate question, to extend enquiry beyond seating to include sitting. The chairs we sit in shape us, they are built in our image. But what if a chair was designed with what we do in mind. Shaped by human behaviour and how we communicate with each other.

When we communicate, we use words, tone and voice and we use our bodies. Over 70% of communication is determined by non-verbal clues. We gesture to communicate and to express what mode we're in. We widened our view to examine the interaction we have within the workplace. We recorded and interviewed a range of people in different workplaces. Often there was a difference between what people say they do and what they actually do.

We found that people commonly assume ergonomically correct postures when asked how they sit at work, however when observed throughout a full working day, a significant portion of their time was spent in postures outside the accepted norm.

When people sit, they sit in almost every possible way you can imagine. They sit upright and erect, they slouch, they cross their legs, they lean back, they side saddle and they straddle chairs. Many of those postures could be classified as unconventional. If we were going to create a chair that supported these natural postures, we needed to capture them and reset the bar for 'ergonomically correct'.

We found common and unconventional postures that are not supported by most task chairs. This prompted us to widen our search space, firstly to record and classify these postures and secondly to develop better ways of supporting them.

The Shape of Sitting

 

Our research, observations and experimentation has resulted in some key design principles that drove the design behind the Be series of chairs:

1.

Multi Everything | Sitting is an activity with many modes, many postures and many outcomes. We didn't want to specify those outcomes, we wanted to accommodated them. We wanted to design a chair that can adapt seamlessly, without you having to move out of the seat.

2.

Movement | We don't sit still at work, so a chair should move with us. Not only should the chair allow us to sit the way we want to sit but it should also allow us to move the way we want to move. The body is deaisnd to move and is at its most effective when it is in motion. A chair should be dynamic.

3.

Support | All design activities have to deal with paradoxes, conundrums and conflicting requirements. This chair, while being flexible and adaptive, needs to have a skeleton - a frame that is robust and dependable, yet can articulate and work with the body to provide the correct support when needed.

4.

Comfort | Comfort satisfies the mind as well as the body. The concept of comfort has two main features: it has both a physiological component as well as a psychological component. The appearance of a chair should set up the expectations of comfort even before you sit down.

5.

Intuition | The ambition was to design a chair to fit the sitter, rather than the other way around. The chair should not require a set of instructions to operate but should be thoughtful in the way that you relate to it. The controls should be instinctive and work across all cultures and language. A chair that follows your lead.

6.

Sustainability | Sustainability is reflected in the Be series through unique design, material selection and manufacturing processes. All chairs are efficient both materially and mechanically, achieving high performance levels whilst minimising material types and part count.

The Be series contains no polyvinyl chloride and has a high percentage of recycled content (46% for a Be chair with an aluminium base). Each chair is independently certified to meet the stringent requirements of Environmental Choice New Zealand, Good Environmental Choice Australia and GreenGuard.

Design Principles