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Office Chair Evolution: How it Goes to Ergonomics?

Avatar of Autonomous Autonomous | Jul 23, 2021
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The trends of societies and civilizations have changed a lot over the ages. We saw the beginning of a new era when the industrial revolution introduced an economic system dominated by industries, and the agrarian or handicraft economy almost got swept away. Since workers started working in an industrial environment, we saw a division of the industrial sector into different scales. As the scales varied, so did the furniture in every fold. Ever since then, we have noticed the office chair evolution and, in general, evolution in every sector to become a more functional and advanced economy.

We specifically highlighted office chairs because office chairs have been the most necessary furniture in every industrial sector irrespective of the industry's size. Ever wondered what could be the office chair history? Did we always care about workplace ergonomics? How did we end up with the modern ergonomic chairs, and what could have been the ergonomic office chair history? All these questions are quite interesting, and as a curious office worker, you might have pondered over them at least once. So, let’s have a look at them from the very beginning and answer all your questions.

The Office Chair History

The concept of having the office chair has been in the picture since times as early as Julius Caesar. A chair or mostly the throne was symbolized as a symbol of power and gave Julius a more godlike image per his belief. This specific chair type was known as the Curule chair. Other court members such as the magistrates, priests, and other leaders had similar chairs and would conduct business deals while being seated.

The Office Chair History

If we ponder over the office chair design history, they mainly serve various utilitarian purposes. Suppose you look back to the 1800s, so Thomas Warren and the American Chair Company designed and manufactured centripetal spring armchairs when train travel gained more traction. These chairs could dampen the bumps that the travelers faced while traveling to have a hassle-free ride.

Even in this case, we can notice that they were being used for businesses because the train travelers were mainly businessmen. Therefore, they wished to conduct their business meetings during their transit.

So, chairs were in the picture even before the industrial revolution. However, they gained major popularity during the revolutionary period. Ever since workers started spending more time in an office environment, the managers started showing interest in ensuring that the workers get a suitable and productive work environment to stay more productive. Soon the chairs were installed with wheels by Charles Darwin and became much more functional. Then, the office chair evolution begins!

 The Evolution of Office Chairs Over the Eras

The office chair design history clearly depicts that the older chairs were not completely different from the modern chair; in fact, some similarities were still there. Nevertheless, these chairs were not very visually appealing. However, we can say that over the industrial revolution to the modern era and later to the recent years, we have seen a major change that the chairs now look more visually appealing.

The Evolution of Office Chairs Over the Eras

Chairs had adjustment features even in the early days where users had the liberty to adjust them. These chairs had casters and swivel seats but lacked that advanced visual appeal. Chairs were usually designed in shades of black and grey till the early 1970s. But then came a time when manufacturers gave the office chairs a complete makeover. Chairs incorporating red, yellow, purple, and different color combinations were designed by an Italian Ettore Sottsass of Olivetti, an Italian manufacturing firm. These chairs were used in offices for various tasks and became the reason for the office chair evolution gearing towards a funkier and more stylish outlook. This is where the modern office chairs came into the picture, and people started wondering what an ergonomic chair is and how beneficial it could be. 

Introduction of Ergonomic Office Chairs – Big Evolution

The ergonomic office chair history can be dated back to the year 1976 when chair designers started considering the health and wellbeing of the workers while designing the office chairs. Before this period, office chairs were only thought of as a means for enhancing productivity. However, the designers didn’t understand that productivity was also associated with the employees' wellbeing.

These chairs were referred to as Ergo. The Ergo was mainly designed to increase the blood flow and provide spinal support to workers as they sat on them. In addition, these chairs had more adjustment features and were designed to provide a customized outlook for greater comfort.

Introduction of Ergonomic Office Chairs

As you have heard, history repeats itself, the old Roman emperors’ thoughts prevailed in this century, and people saw these chairs as a status symbol. If you had wondered why office chairs are so expensive, you would have noticed that the ones who have the most advanced features are the expensive ones. So, people with higher posts invested in the more expensive variants. They were mainly attracted towards the mesh chairs, which looked different from the rest.

However, this increased consumerism lost its value as the USA went into the Great Recession after the dot com bubble burst. This was the reason why designers started making chairs that were more eco-friendly and economical. It is an important stage in the office chair evolution. Eventually, from 2010, the manufacturers started designing and producing cheaper chairs that left a minimal carbon footprint. 

The Future of Office Chairs

As time went on and research started pouring down the facts that showed the health hazards of excessive sedentary behavior, people realized that they should not be entirely dependent on sitting on chairs while they work longer hours. Health risks like muscle soreness, tissue damage, obesity, etc., made people realize that they should start using a chair as a secondary option while they work.

The Future of Office Chairs

This was the time when intermittent sitting came into the picture and is still there in almost all offices. So, we can say that we have reached a point where office chairs are being used more as a tool of productivity rather than being the sole furniture that we use for long hours. It is a result of the office chair evolution. Nevertheless, this cannot underestimate the importance of ergonomic office chairs, as they continue to gain popularity by ensuring they do not impose any health hazards on office workers.

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