Sit on it and spin around

Above: The Steelcase Leap chair. Photo courtesy Steelcase.

BitDepth#1080 for February 14, 2017

My adventures with chairs go back three decades to my doctor’s warning – after suffering excruciating back pain –  that I had two compressed vertebrae in my lower spine.

I could either be more careful about the furniture I graced with my buttocks or I could look forward to more, literally eye opening, experiences lying on a bare, cold tiled floor while my nerves stopped spasming and my spinal column slowly relaxed.

During my time in corporate life, I’ve had more than a few challenges making my need for a support chair clear. Most times, such requests were dismissed as a scheme to get an “executive” chair for my lowly self.

I once bought a basic support chair for myself at one new job after something suitable couldn’t be found in inventory and invited the company to take ownership of it.

In a T&T with a functioning OSH Act, I hope that things have changed on that front for my gainfully employed colleagues.

To date, my best old chair was a huge executive monstrosity I bought from the Dollar Rescue pawnshop three decades ago that I had reupholstered with spinal support padding customized for the arc of my back.

I’ve still got that chair and while neither the shop or the upholsterer exist anymore, it still feels like home when I sit on it.

Unfortunately it isn’t adjustable at all, being an old school moulded semi-cup design and I’ve needed more adjustable support than that for the home office I now spend a large percentage of my life in.

When people ask me about the best accessory for a computer, my first recommendation is an excellent monitor.

It’s what you’ll be actually looking at for hours on end and buying a cheap monitor is like buying a Lamborghini and putting in plastic sheeting for a windshield. The machine will be blisteringly fast, but the day to day experience will be horrid.

Asked the same question about an office, I ask first about the desk (many are too low, too unstable or too shallow) then advise a good support chair.

To achieve seated bliss, your chair should place your back and upper legs in a block form “L” shape and while seated, your knees and lower legs from the knee down should reach the floor comfortably without needing to bend.

My chair for the last four years has been a Herman Miller Aeron, an excellent chair, but one that’s apparently unsupported in T&T today.

I couldn’t find anyone who could address slippage in the clutch and adjustment mechanisms of the chair and having it abruptly give way when I leaned back was a torturous experience.

So I turned to the other chair manufacturer to stand up to my online scrutiny, Steelcase, represented locally by Total Office.

The Steelcase Gesture is part of a new generation of seating systems that acknowledge the different ways that we compute. Photo courtesy Steelcase.

I auditioned the Gesture, Leap and Leap+ in the company’s offices at the Fernandez Business Centre then field tested the Gesture and Leap+ at my office for two weeks each.

The Gesture is a surprisingly flexible system that’s capable of supporting a diverse range of seating styles, most of them very personal and corporately unorthodox.

People who spend time working on a tablet or smartphone and prefer to recline dramatically or twist for comfort will find the Gesture a blessing.

The Leap Plus is the big and tall version of the Leap chair, with a larger seat and taller height riser. Both chairs are based on a standard Steelcase chair design, with common controls for back support, chair arm height and arm pad positioning.

They also share a a seat pad that’s too thin for my taste, though to be fair I didn’t care for the padding in either my old Dollar Rescue resurrection or the mesh of the Aeron and commissioned my own custom seat pads for both.

How impressed am I with the Leap Plus? Well after two weeks I was sure this was my new chair, so a custom version of the chair has been configured and is on its way to leave a smoking crater in my bank account.

A good office chair should be a lifetime investment for a person working extensively with computers at a desk and your budget for one should reflect that, particularly if you happen to be a contract employee gainfully unemployed with only yourself for tech support and OSH guidance.