Look around the office and you may see anomalies like yoga balls and treadmill desks (CED's Hal Thomas has got us experimenting with yoga balls). More common are standing workstations, where people can freely choose between working in a seated or a standing position. All of these options are part of a larger trend that considers it unhealthy to sit for long hours.
A recent study published in the journal Diabetologica shows that more movement and less sitting over the course of the work day is better in preventing Type 2 Diabetes than a once per day session of vigorous exercise. A study in March 2012 showed that people who sat for 11 hours per day or more were 40 percent more likely to die from any cause. A study in 2011 from the American Cancer Society - certainly not a fringe group of researchers - resulted in CNN claiming "sitting too much will probably shorten your life."
We're not trying to scare you, here.
Many companies - tech and life science companies, especially - have implemented alternative options. CED Member GlaxoSmithKline replaced all of the desks at it's Philadelphia, PA, office with standing or walking desks.
Here's the point, says CED Member Liz Swirsky, of Herman Miller: Our bodies aren’t designed to stay in one position for long periods of time.
Swirsky believes that the freedom to move is vitally important.
According to Swirsky, this means having an ergonomic chair, which is a chair that supports your body and encourages a variety of postures throughout the day. In such a chair, "you are able to sit up, sit back, and recline; shift and stretch," says Swirsky. "The more you move, the more your body will thank you later."
I took the bait - mostly because my current chair often leaves me feeling physically unwell at the end of the day - and asked Swirsky a few questions about ergonomic chairs. Here's our conversation:
CED: What's an ergonomic chair? How do I know it'll be a good option and keep me healthy in the workplace?
Swirsky: The ergonomic chair that suits you best can be hard to pinpoint. It’s much like choosing a new pair of shoes—style is important, but fit and comfort are vital.
CED: So, what's a great chair going to feel like?
Swirsky: It feels like "Wow!" You'll like how it looks, the design of the chair, and it will be comfortable to sit and work in.
CED: I'll know that immediately?
Swirsky: I said earlier that it's hard to pinpoint - which is why our company - Herman Miller - offers a "Try-A-Chair" program, which gives anyone in a small business the option to try a chair for up to two weeks.
CED: Okay, sure, that makes sense. How do I know if I'm qualified for the "Try-A-Chair" program?
Swirsky: Do you sit when you work?
CED: How would someone test a chair?
Swirsky: They'd call or email me, and a few days later, I'll drop a chair off in their office!