“Sitting is the new smoking.”
We’ve all heard it again and again. The mantra that had trend-setting offices all over adopting standing desks, workplace sensors, and walking meetings.
But not everyone can stand all day. Not everyone can stand for even a short period of time, for that matter, and get any work done.
Not to mention the fact that standing for extended lengths of time isn’t great for you, either. In an NPR interview, health researcher Jos Vereek discussed how there’s actually very little evidence to suggest that standing is healthier than sitting.
“The idea you should be standing four hours a day? There’s no real evidence for that,” he said. “I would say that there’s evidence that standing can be bad for your health.” (He cited a 12-year Denmark study that found that workers standing or walking for at least 75 per cent of their workday were at a higher hospitalization risk for varicose veins.)
To be clear, it’s not that sitting isn’t unhealthy. It’s just that standing might not be the only answer.
Here’s another possible solution: healthy sitting.
Healthy sitting, a.k.a. active sitting, is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: using state-of-the-art seats that offer increased ergonomic alignment and support, while encouraging additional movement throughout the day.
Here are three office chairs to bring healthy sitting into your workplace.
The hyper-adjustable office chair
This one is an active chair in disguise. At first glance, Flip Flap looks like a fairly traditional office chair (albeit a gorgeously designed one). But it is actually specially designed to support – and encourage – virtually any kind of movement an office worker might want to engage in while at their desk.
“Posture can take many forms. Sitting up straight, stretching the arms and back, leaning forward, leaning back, and twisting the body to look around,” says manufacturer Itoki. “The Flip Flap Chair naturally transforms to support the body continuously through these many changes in posture.”
The design, inspired by origami, has a lot of moving components, including side lumbar support cushions and a recline of up to 135 degrees – meaning you can take the chair to a near-horizontal position for a little mid-day “healthy sitting nap” (yes, we just coined a phrase).
The standing desk seat
For those workers that aren’t quite ready to give up on their standing desks, there’s the HiLo perch: “a seat that keeps you on your feet,” says manufacturer Knoll.
Essentially a portable adjustable bar stool in composite rubber and steel (with an aesthetic that looks like a cross between a pogo stick and a modern shovel), HiLo is meant to give fatigued workers a seat for standing desks, stand-up meetings, watercooler chats, et cetera.
“There has been this ongoing battle between whether it’s better to stand or sit,” says Bret Recor of Box Clever, the design firm behind this perch. “HiLo wins this battle.”
A quick note to skirt-wearers: when Box Clever was designing the stool, they reportedly got Scottish kilts to wear while testing their prototypes, to ensure that they were comfortable for all users.
The “chair” for standing workers
This one isn’t quite a chair, but it is pretty amazing: the Chairless Chair for Noonee is specially designed for manufacturing companies, “where workers are required to stand for long periods of time and traditional sitting methods are not suitable, representing and obstacles in the work area,” says Sapetti, the design consultancy behind the project.
Essentially a leg brace attached to a shoe connector and belt (an optional vest completes the system), the Chairless Chair lets users walk (relatively) unencumbered when not in use. But if a user sits, bends, squats, or crouches, they can lock the “chair” into any position, allowing them to work for an extended period of time without strain.