Flex Time

Adaptable office chair supports the way we work today

Working long hours no longer means sitting in the same position all day. Flexibility, it seems, is a good strategy given the fact that being chained to a desk for hours on end isn’t good for our health or well being.

Inspired by the fluid movement of the human body, the Gesture chair by Steelcase was intended to support our interactions with modern technology while helping us achieve healthy postures as we use our devices. 

“We’re constantly looking for changes in behavior in the workplace, which has changed drastically in recent years,” says Bruce Smith, director of global design for the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company. 

Through the years, he says, there has been a leap from pen and ink to typewriters, to tabletop computers and laptops and now, tablets and smartphones. Gesture supports the body in a range of postures, especially when using technology. For example, the chair features arms that move in a complete 360-degree motion, similar to the human arm. They adjust close to the body, which allows a person to operate a handheld device at face level, thus eliminating neck strain.

With advances in technology came the need for a high-performance task chair that was superior, says Smith. 

“We wanted to make it relevant to the workplace. The way the arms move and the ease of adjustment make it absolutely unique.”


Support for today’s postures

The company’s global posture study of more than 2,000 people at work in 11 countries identified nine postures not supported by available seating. Workers were uncomfortable, in pain and possibly doing long-term harm to their bodies. 

The study revealed how the human body interacts with technologies and how it responds as workers shift from one device to another.

“People make shifts as often as every three seconds from one activity to another,” Smith says. “One might involve taking pressure off a leg or switching from a laptop to a cellphone. Their position is not static; it’s dynamic.” 


Innovation takes a front seat

Ease of use was essential to the product’s design. “It’s about finding the right balance between a high-performance task chair that’s non-prescriptive and being able to adopt any position you want,” says Smith. 

In addition, Gesture is sustainable with no harmful chemicals and a significant amount of recycled and recyclable content. Other bonuses? The chair has a smaller footprint and can be disassembled. 

The range of options suits different users, some of whom may be sharing a workspace. 

“You can make the chair really small and you can also expand it,” says Smith. 

All of the controls have the same texture and they’re located in one place, which makes them easy to find. 

As Smith reminds us, designers never stop designing, which can lead to bonus features. “We’re so thrilled about the headrest version because headrests are usually an afterthought, but this one was conceived of and designed early on in the process,” he says. “It looks great and the performance is astounding. It is definitely the most comfortable chair. We are excited and proud of it.” 


Stand by me

Technology has also had an effect on our desks. 

“For the most part, people are getting away from executive desks and choosing slimmer and sleeker models with modular components,” says Matt Blaesser, operations manager for All Star Interiors in Southfield, Mich. One unique style his firm carries, a motorized height-adjustable desk from Intelligent Office Furniture, is especially flexible and completely customizable. 

The fairly new release has been well received so far. 

“There’s a huge push right now to get out of your chair,” says Blaesser. Though standard desk height is 29 or 30 inches, this model can lower to 26 inches, rise to 46 inches and anywhere in between, so users can choose to sit, stand or do both. 

“It’s definitely attractive to our customers,” he says. “There’s the danger of sitting too much; that’s an unhealthy lifestyle.” 

But when it’s time to be seated again, the Gesture chair will help guide you to the right position for the task at hand.