Banking

Apparently my office chair was designed by NASA


A few weeks ago the folks here at TechRepublic were told we were getting new office chairs. The chairs arrived, but before we were allowed to have them we were required to attend a short seminar on how to operate them.  Apparently, an office full of programmers, engineers, writers, and editors could not be trusted with the deeply complex world of ergonomics. So we all signed up for a five-minute training demo led by an attractive woman contracted by the chair company. One just has to wonder why. I'm thinking there were one of two reasons behind the formality of the training:

  1. It's just something for this young woman to do until Vanna White dies and another career opportunity opens up.
  2. There was some kind of geeky insurance rider that required extra instruction lest an overly eager "sitting person" [party of the first part] blow out a sacral nerve in an exuberant burst of seat-height adjustment.

And after all that? The chairs just seem kind of average. With the build-up, I was expecting voice control ("More lumbar support, Hal") or something to do with biorhythms. But no, click, you're taller, clack, you're shorter.

Am I clearly naïve or have there been documented cases of ergonomic chair abuse that I'm not privy to?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

6 comments
jake
jake

If NASA had designed them, they would have cost about $250,000 each, and wouldn't be adjustable.

royhayward
royhayward

OK, if there is some legal reason for having a compulsory sitting instruction then that is just one more for how lawyers are taking over every aspect of our lives. But I suspect that either the chair company, TR management, or both were sold some line about how having everyone attend an instructional setting would reduce the collective time spent fiddling with the adjustment arms and levers. I do know that some chairs have a counter intuitive set of features. But I come from a long line of engineers (mechanical mostly, I am the dark sheep) and so I have never been challenged figuring these things out. I have, however, witnessed otherwise intelligent people struggle with rudimentary controls of chairs and other simple equipment. But I can't see that having a mandatory training where most people will be bored and a few (the ones that will be asking questions later) will only attend in body while their mind is attached to their blackberry, will really save time. Why don't they just produce a quick page with a picture of the chair and arrows pointing to the levers and stick it to the chair.

DadsPad
DadsPad

Sounds like a normal chair with a lot of adjustments. But am curious. :)

JamesRL
JamesRL

Then it is poorly designed... I got one of those fancy Aeron $1500 chairs at my last employer. No one had to teach me how to use it, and frankly you should be embarassed to ask. I can see a manual for someone having an issue, but please. Maybe it should be a test for thinning thr herd. BTW at my new job my old inherited chair broke and I, being a frugal guy, bought a $200 chair that has mesh like the Aeron. Danged if I can tell the difference. James

Wayne M.
Wayne M.

I guess I've had too many experiences with chairs containing a half dozen knobs where 3 - 5 people spent a half hour figuring out how to adjust the height. Of course, however, the training or group experimentation session would have been unnecessary if the chair company simply labeled the knobs to describe their purposes.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

Witness Captn Kirk's chair and other captain's chairs on board the Enterprise. What would happen if he didn't take the training course? ("What's this button?" - loud bang, ship lurches forward, phasers fire, shields snap on :) I remember some chair and you hit the lever and it drops a bunch. Don't want people doing this and hurting themselves. A five minute seminar is a good idea. We are not born with instinctive knowledge how to run certain gadgets.

Editor's Picks