You’ve all read the headlines: sitting is the cancer of this millennium. With instant messages, texting and emails, not to mention the usual work-related tasks, all typically accomplished while sitting, a desk job takes on ominous overtones. Previously, space age looking chairs were touted to be ergonomically corrective, thereby alleviating the paradox of having to sit all day at the office with human nature’s propensity to be in constant movement. Today, the trend is to get people up, about and moving.
“No American medical association has ever endorsed a chair,” says Robert Wall, managing director of The JEB Group. “Sitting is not good for you, and we try to encourage our staff to get up and talk to people instead of emailing or instant messaging.” He demonstrates Capisco, a pared down chair by Oslo-based HAG that was designed to mimic an equestrian riding saddle. “Like riding a horse, it takes time to become familiar with this particular chair,” says Wall. “It’s like going to the gym—it’s hard work and uncomfortable, but you know it’s good for you. Capisco chair lets you get up and sit down easily to allow for movement, and is height adjustable. We are seeing a lot more chairs with a higher seat, or with a base that can go up to 720 mm allowing them to be paired with an 1100 mm standing bench height.”
With its greater China head office and showroom in Quarry Bay, The JEB Group consists of JEB, a commercial partitioning system of products and services; BW, a distributor of predominantly European office furnishings; Infinity, an interior finishing products and services arm; and JEB Custom Projects for bespoke industrial solutions. Wall has been with JEB since the early 90s, and has pretty much seen it all when it comes to furnishings.
“Some manufacturers produce families of chairs, for people looking for a common design language for meeting rooms, executive offices and lounge areas,” notes Wall. “Others are about iconic chairs that may change colour or upholstery, but there is just one version—like the Eames Lounge and Ottoman.”
As personal work spaces become smaller due to shrinking technology, private offices are becoming obsolete in less conservative industries. Some have non-dedicated spaces, for staff who spend most of their time on the road. To meet these needs, BW offers semi-enclosures that push the boundaries of the chair, such as Vitra’s Alcove. Its upholstered high back and side has a degree of sound absorption, allowing for quiet work or private calls.
“I think the biggest change to the office in recent years is that staff experience comes more into play,” Wall notes. “Café culture is seeping into the office, and we are seeing more sofas and casual café chairs used for meetings. In our office, we put worksurfaces on top of filing cabinets, for people to meet informally or spread out a drawing in the middle of the office. We have music in the background and a funky design. We provide great coffee. People like coming to this work environment.”