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Partner Feature - Steelcase

Steelcase, the global leader in office furniture and partners of the CSP in the UK, have been researching the way new mobile technologies impact our bodies and the way we work. Here, we look at their findings.

Technology is the single greatest force driving the changes in the way we work, live and behave.

The multiple devices we deploy throughout our work day allow us to flow between tasks, fluidly and frequently.

But while our technologies have continued to advance, no one has designed for the impact of these technologies on the human body, or for the physiology of how work happens today.

Steelcase looked at research this phenomenon on a global scale.

They observed 2,000 workers in 11 countries around the world – Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Russia, the UK and the US.

Their findings, known as the Posture Study, identified nine new postures resulting from the way we use new technologies.

These postures are becoming the norm and the impacts they are having on our bodies must be addressed .

Much of today’s seating was designed to support the very traditional one-task, one-technology, one-posture experience.

With today’s multiple devices, our body is forced to respond to these small technologies, leaving much of the body unsupported.

As a result of these findings, Steelcase have designed a new kind of task chair – Gesture – that will help keep the body supported through a wide range of motions. It will be available in the UK this autumn.

Steelcase is an approved partner of the CSP in recognition of their ergonomic design capabilities within the UK.  See

Are you sitting comfortably?

The Draw
This is a posture born of using tablets. The technology allows people to pull back from their desks while they use it.

They recline, signalling they’re contemplating or absorbing information and draw the device closer to their body to maintain an optimal focal length.

People will bring their elbows close to the body to stabilise their arms, which can become fatigued if holding the device for longer periods of time without arm support.

Also, if their chair does not offer persistent lumbar support in a reclined posture they will experience back pain.

The multi-device
People do not use just one technology throughout the day.

They blend devices to perform their work effectively.

One hand holding a phone to the ear, the other tasking on a laptop.

The result is a forward lean that is a symbol of concentration and an orientation to the smaller screen of a laptop.

This posture is typically caused by sitting too far away from work.

Chairs that are not (or cannot be) adjusted properly exacerbate the issue because they collide with the worksurface, don’t offer adequate arm support, or do not allow reclining while maintaining sight lines to computer screen.

The Text
Texting is a frequent activity for many workers throughout the day. Workers bring arms in close as keying and gesturing are performed.

Because putting a smartphone on a worksurface makes it harder to use, the device is entirely supported by the user’s hands and arms.

If smartphones are used in longer durations without arm support users will experience shoulder strain.

Also, if the device is not elevated to a natural sight line neck pain is inevitable.

The cocoon
Small, mobile technology allows people to remain productive while they recline, bring up their feet to a sitting height, and draw their smartphone or tablet close to them. The result is a cocoon.

The bend in the knee can reduce circulation in the legs, the neck is angled down to view technology, and the lower back is typically not supported.

The cumulative effects of this posture are discomfort for a majority of people.

The swipe
This posture results when a tablet device is used on a worksurface in ‘surfing mode’, in which people operate the device with one hand, typically with swiping gestures.

Because the tablet is on a worksurface, a person must keep their head a certain distance above the device in order to see it, and position their head to look down at it, hovering over the screen and leaning forward.

This can cause pain in the back, neck and shoulders.

The smart lean
When receiving private information on smartphones, rather than leaving a meeting or seeking privacy people choose to lean to the side to shield their content from others.

This is typically a temporary posture and used for glancing at incoming texts or e-mails.

The trance
When deep in our ‘zone’, people tend to ignore their posture and focus only on the task at hand.

People lean toward the screen, straining their necks forward, and as they become fatigued they will rest their head on one hand, to stabilise it and take pressure off their back/shoulders.

As they lean forward, many people will unconsciously place their feet on the chair base to relieve pressure on their thighs.

Reclining while remaining oriented to work can greatly reduce the negative impacts of this posture.

Properly placed armrest will alleviate the strain on the shoulders, arms, and wrists.

The take it in
In many cases technology is getting smaller. However technology is also getting bigger (such as high resolution desktops).

Bigger displays allow people to view digital information at a distance without eye strain. In this posture people recline to view content on the large display and/or sit back to contemplate.

This posture is about ‘taking in’ information rather than generating it. This posture is a healthy way to sit if the chair offers lumbar support in a reclined posture.

The strunch
The ‘strunch’ (stretched-out hunch) is a very common posture with laptops.

As people become fatigued, they gradually push their laptop further from the edge of the worksurface, which causes them to reach for everything.

Since the back and neck cannot sustain the reach and hunch posture for a long time the person begins to prop themselves up with their non-tasking arm.

Over time, this posture puts people at risk of back, arm, wrist, neck, and shoulder injury.

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