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Sunday, 17 March 2013 22:00

Sit Smart: Steelcase’s new chair designed for modern worker habits

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Steelcase’s new Gesture chair offers customers a solution designed to accomodate how most modern office workers interact with one another and mobile technology. The chair was also the first true globally designed product in Steelcase’s portfolio. Steelcase’s new Gesture chair offers customers a solution designed to accomodate how most modern office workers interact with one another and mobile technology. The chair was also the first true globally designed product in Steelcase’s portfolio. COURTESY PHOTO

People sit still all day at their desks with their backs straight, feet flat on the floor, forearms parallel to the ground and reaching straight toward the keyboard, and the computer screen 18 to 22 inches from their eyes.

That ideal posture may work ergonomically, but it’s simply not the way people do their jobs in the real world — at least not in today’s connected world. Today, where office workers spend more time than ever untethered from their workstations and using a smartphone or tablet that’s connected to a wireless network, often while leaning back in their chairs or hunched forward.

“What that means is that our posture is not static. It’s changing constantly,” said Tim Elms, global market leader for the new Gesture office chair from Steelcase Inc. that’s designed to accommodate how people use mobile technology that populates the modern workplace.

“We don’t hold poses. People need to be accommodated as they are going to move,” he said.

Steelcase bills Gesture as its new high-end flagship office chair that is far more conducive to how people work today. Lumbar support is constant, whether you are hunched forward or leaning far back in the seat, and the tension and lift controls are fluid and easy to work.

Armrests are mounted on the back of the chair and extend forward, rather than from the side of the seat, to allow users greater movement and the flexibility to pivot their legs and sit sideways to address someone next to them without repositioning the whole chair. The arm rests also adjust easily to support your arms when you’re hunched forward while using your smartphone or typing on your iPad.

The fundamental premise behind Gesture’s design is “to make sitting easier for the way people are working today,” Elms said. Most office seating solutions on the market today — such as Steelcase’s high-end Leap chair that debuted in 1998 and the Think chair that came out in 2004 — were designed and introduced well before the quick emergence of smartphones and tablets in the last half decade, he said.

“While our technologies have continued to advance, no one has ever designed for the impact of these technologies on the human body,” Elms said.

The design behind Gesture required a change in thinking for office seating and ergonomics. For years, the thinking has been to better support people in an ergonomically-friendly position.

Gesture completely dismisses that view.

Steelcase’s research, which consisted of observing the work habits of more than 2,000 people in 11 countries, shows that office workers doing their jobs with mobile technology and devices tend to sit in numerous postures and positions, Elms said. The job for Gesture’s design team was to produce a chair that readily accommodates all of them, he said.

“It’s a reality of business and it changed our thinking. We had to rethink a high-performing chair,” Elms said. “It’s truly about accommodating the range of user. It goes back to keeping people comfortable in the range of positions, not just the prescribed position.”

In developing Gesture, Steelcase also seeks to accommodate people in any office setting. That range goes from individual work stations where people tend to adjust their chair to their exact liking, to team spaces and conference rooms where seating is used by people of all shapes and sizes throughout the day, from petite to not-so-petite.

Gesture allows each of them to adjust the chair quickly to remain comfortable during those long, drawn-out conference calls.

“It’s truly about accommodating the range of users,” Elms said.

Steelcase plans to debut Gesture in June in Chicago at NeoCon and begin production in the fall at facilities in the U.S., Asia and Europe.

Designing Gesture also brought about a change in the traditional research-and-development process for Steelcase. The company historically has developed and introduced new products for the North American market, then adapted them for foreign markets in Europe and Asia where cultural and regulatory standards can differ greatly.

In Gesture, Steelcase used a team of designers based around the world, resulting in a final product that is immediately ready for each global market, Elms said.

“It’s probably the first example of working truly globally from concept to completion for a project,” he said. “It really changed our thinking.”

Gesture will sell for a price similar to Leap, which is listed on the website at $889 for a model with fabric-covered seating. A leather-clad version of Leap lists for $1,339 on

Read 5668 times Last modified on Monday, 18 March 2013 08:36

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