Tools & Technologies

By Rohan A. Shirwaiker

Perching might beat sitting or standing

The Locus Seat by Focal Upright relies on perching in a relaxed
upright position. By encouraging supported movement, it offers a
good balance between sitting and standing.There is a good chance that many readers of this magazine are sitting on some well-crafted comfortable office chairs as they peruse this article.

Thank Charles Darwin – yes, the same one who developed the science of evolution.

Office chairs have evolved from the armchair-on-wheels contrived by Darwin in the 1800s so he could bustle around the lab more efficiently.

Today, given that the average office workers spend more than half their workday sitting down, the focus is on engineering ergonomic workstations that offer optimal comfort and biomechanical advantage.

With increasing awareness about the health concerns associated with prolonged sitting, including higher risk of obesity, cardiovascular and low back pain disorders, standing workstations have become popular in recent years. Standing workstations can encourage movement and stimulate the cardiovascular system, improving cognition and awareness. However, there are concerns about fatigue in the lower extremities and compromised productivity due to dual-task cost.

Perching is a recent approach that offers a balance between sitting and standing. Enter the Locus Seat by Focal Upright. Rather than sitting, the user perches or leans into the seat. The unique design supports the body in a relaxed upright position with a hip-totorso angle of about 135 degrees, all while maintaining equilibrium between the back and core muscles.

Furthermore, the tilting seat pan and pivoting seat leg encourage dynamic movement of the body while allowing an easy transition from perching to standing. This is important, as previous studies have recommended moving during office work to improve circulation to reduce swelling in the lower extremities. The increased motion in the spine also allows for shifts in posture over time, mitigating muscle fatigue. To top it off, the Locus Seat possesses discreetly designed inline skate wheels that aid portability.

Darwin would be happy.

According to a recent study at the Ohio State University Spine Research Institute, perching workstations represent a reasonable trade-off between the costs and benefits of sitting and standing workstations. The article “Evaluating the Low Back Biomechanics of Three Different Office Workstations: Seated, Standing and Perching” in Applied Ergonomics found that when compared to both standing and sitting, perching on the Locus Seat resulted in the least spinal loading while offering similar comfort levels as prolonged sitting.

The Locus SeatThe researchers believe that the combination of postural support and freedom of movement may have contributed to these findings. Although this study was performed in a laboratory setting with younger subjects working on a low-cognitive intensive task of typing, the differences between the three modalities are notable enough to highlight the merits of posture-supported moderate dynamic perching workstations such as the Locus Seat.

The unique Locus Seat design with its pivoting feature promotes correct spinal alignment while encouraging users to move their body actively throughout the day.

The continual movement, in turn, exercises core muscles and muscles of the legs, improving blood circulation and reducing tissue fatigue.

Rohan A. Shirwaiker is an assistant professor in the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at North Carolina State University and a member of IISE’s Young Professionals group.