Today, most of us have to work at least partially at the computer, in a sitting position. Our spines, adapted for thousands of years to much greater physical activity, cannot withstand this unfavorable change. 80% of professionally active people have back problems or suffer from temporary pains. For this reason, emphasis on the ergonomics of the workplace and physical hygiene is of key importance, and the office chair is its basic tool.
A modern workstation in an office space consists of a desk, swivel chair, desktop computer or laptop, accessories such as a monitor, keyboard, mouse. It is recommended to equip the desk with an arm regulating the position of the monitor. An additional convenience, significantly increasing the comfort of work, is an electric height adjustable desk top. By adjusting the height of the furniture to your own needs, you will be able to work comfortably – both in a sitting and standing position. Even a half-hour break from sitting during the working day will have a positive effect on our spine, blood flow in the arteries, and thus – tissue oxygenation. We will feel better: able to achieve our goals and free from health problems.
Such a workstation is ideal, but the employer’s or investor’s budget is not always prepared for such an expense. Therefore, when completing the office equipment, it is worth focusing on the employee chair as the main and most important element of the workplace. A good, ergonomic working chair that meets modern standards is an absolute necessity for people who spend long hours at their desks. The specificity of work in the 21st century, closely related to electronic devices, forces us to spend more and more hours in front of our computer monitors, most often in a sitting position. Meanwhile, until relatively recently (at least from an evolutionary point of view), that is in the nineteenth century, the work of most people was based on the strength of their own muscles. We were much more physically active than today. However, the development of technology, especially in the last two decades, has accelerated remarkably, forcing people to change many behaviors. The human spine could not keep up with this dizzying pace – hence the numerous health problems associated with prolonged immobility and incorrect posture. In order to stay healthy, people must be active. It seems obvious, but too often, in the multitude of matters and daily duties, we push this need to the background. This disturbing conclusion is a necessary starting point in the design of ergonomic chairs, as confirmed by the world leader in the office furniture market – Herman Miller.
CHAIRS LIKE PEOPLE
The Herman Miller concern pays great attention to the ergonomics of the furniture it produces. The appearance of each new seat in the offer is preceded by many years of research – hence only 7 and as many as 7 models of work chairs in the catalog of this brand. Herman Miller and 40 other industry partners took part in the CAESAR (Civilian American and European Surface Anthropometry Resource) study, the first large-scale 3D anthropometric analysis of civilians in the United States, the Netherlands and Italy. Prior to this study, the anthropometric data were based on a fairly homogeneous test group and related to linear measurements (length and circumference). The CAESAR diagnosis, due to the measurement techniques used and the large population of the studied individuals, brought more comprehensive and realistic results. Thanks to CAESAR data, Herman Miller gained significant knowledge about the dimensions and proportions of the human body, including the spine, which directly translated into chairs designed by the company. One example of applying this knowledge in practice is the Mirra 2 model.
We know that the human spine is dynamic and divided into four sections that need different support in a sitting position.
In the thoracic spine there is a slight convex curve, and the cervical and lumbar spine curves inward, creating a characteristic ‘S’ shape, typical of a healthy back. A good work chair should help to maintain this shape in a sitting position so that the spine is relaxed and pain-free. Based on the research, Herman Miller argues that this position of the pelvis determines the shape of the lumbar section, which in turn affects the correct shape of the entire spine. Hence, in the Mirra 2 seat, through appropriate profiling and selection of material (a type of woven mesh) with different tension in individual zones, the correct sitting position is supported.
Movement is our natural state, even when sitting. On average, we move 53 times per hour. Almost 28% of these movements involve torso bends and twists. Most of the work chairs have a backrest that is too rigid to meet the mobility needs of a seated person. Herman Miller dealt with this problem by designing the dynamic backrest called the Butterfly Back. Thanks to the use of perforations with variable cross-sections, allowing greater or lesser bending of the backrest, the seated person gains support for their spine, tailored to the specific requirements of individual sections. Both the shape and construction of the Butterfly Back are conducive to moving while sitting. The flexibility of the spine varies in its individual parts – the Mirra 2 backrest is also constructed in the same way. Additionally, the chair has adjustable lumbar support that takes into account the differences in height and sex of different users, and a permanent element supporting the sacro-pelvic area, PostureFit, located at the base of the backrest.
HEALTHY BACK = BETTER LIFE
When designing the Mirra 2 chair, Herman Miller took into account the entire spine of a seated person, starting from the natural flexibility in the upper back, through the mobility of the lumbar spine, to ensuring stability in the pelvic area. All this is intended to serve one purpose – to maintain the correct posture while sitting and allow mobility for the user.
Due to the correct position, our spine will be properly nourished, non-squeezed vertebrae will allow the free flow of physiological fluids and prevent dehydration of the intervertebral spaces. The health of the spine is not only related to well-being at work. It also concerns the quality of the entire life of employees: no obstacles preventing them from living actively, pursuing their passions, practicing sports. These are strong and clear arguments to consciously invest in high-quality work chairs, such as the Mirra 2 and other Herman Miller models, as the most important part of a modern workplace.