On Saturday, I shared some of my thoughts about desks. I concluded with a call to action for myself to talk about chairs so here goes.

As indicated on Saturday, my first desk was actually from my grandmother. In addition, it came with a chair. They were not a matching pair; the desk was cherry wood and the chair, I’m guessing, was walnut or maple. It had been stained a couple of times over the years so it was hard to say. I’m sure that you can picture the type of chair with wooden arms. It was a grown-up’s size and so my little feet didn’t reach the floor. But, it was there for me in elementary and secondary school. The parts were glued together but some of the glue had gone away and so I could rock back and forth in it a bit and make it squeak, driving my brother in the next room crazy. Of course, that only encouraged me.

Not to university though. It was a big chair and wouldn’t fit under the desk. Since I was going to be sharing a room with someone else, I splurged and bought myself a chair with wheels that would fit under the desk. Being a poor student at the time, it was likely bought at Consumer’s Distributing or Shoprite and needed some assembly before use. It was surprisingly durable and lasted university and a number of years at my home office.

At this time, I also had a couple of desks at work. In my classroom, while the students had smaller moulded plastic chairs, the teacher had a bigger moulded chair. Later on, in another job, I inherited a much nicer chair with wheels that I put into good use rolling across the floor.

I learned some important things about chairs in getting qualified to teach keyboarding and then actually teaching it.

  • feet need to be flat on the floor
  • you need to sit deeply into the chair so that you could benefit from the lumbar support
  • strangely, resting your arms on the arm rests is a way to really tire yourself out. Your elbow needs to be at a 90 degree angle
  • when typing from copy or working on a computer, your eyes should be almost level with the top of the text. Looking down is considerably easier than looking up
  • it’s always good to take a break and stretch. My Grade 9s would be told to stand and stretch about halfway through our class

In fact, we had posters on the bulletin boards showing the proper way to sit.

These days, those lessons on the ergonomics of sitting remain with me. My wife gave me a terrific, adjustable chair for use at home. Staples has lots of them. While this chair is quite a few years old, it looks like it’s like the La-Z-Boy Arcadian Bonded Leather Executive Chair, Brown (60008). Except that the brown has rubbed off just about everywhere and there’s a piece of black duct tape over a whole in the chair arm. The key to a good chair is make sure that it’s adjustable so that you can sit just right and not strain. I also have one of those ergonomic balls that I use as well. I have to be careful because I do tend to lean back and stretch in my chair… I also tried one of those “kneeling chair” and a “standing chair” and they just didn’t work for me either.

Just like my wonder about desks, I wonder how students at home are sitting at their workspace. It was important to my parents that I always had a good chair and desk growing up. I’ve made sure that I continue to do that for myself. So far, I’ve avoided the back stress and carpal tunnel issues that we hear so many having.

So, if parents have always had a well designed workspace, things should be good. But what is the desk “position” is actually stretched out on the floor? Or the desk is a kitchen table and the chair is a kitchen chair? Or a lawn chair? Or a card table and card table chair? Can the student sit comfortably with both feet flat on the floor or at worst on a box for stability? For kicks, I sat down at our kitchen table with one of our chairs and my arms were bent well past the 90 degree mark. I doubt that I would be able to work long in that position.

I know that a lot has changed in the past couple of weeks for the continuation of school at home. I’ve always felt like a well designed workspace was critical for what I do and not just a nice to have.

I’d love to read your thoughts.

4 thoughts on “Chairs

  1. Good morning, Doug!

    For many years, my wheeled chairs at school or home have needed to meet one simple requirement alone: they need to have that lever on the right hand side that activates the pneumatic piston that lets you make the chair descend gradually under your weight. You then lift yourself up off the chair and allow it to spring back up, so that you can then repeat the process again when the mood strikes.

    For me, this is less about utility and more about the opportunity for spontaneous fun. This one feature turns something so basic as a chair into a sudden source of simple, momentary amusement. About the only thing that could be better would be if the chair had an ejection button, but somehow I think the recovery from that might be more of a distraction, and the return to work would take longer.

    I’ve had my current chair for many years, and it now suffers from terrible squeaks and groans that I am very conscious of in these days of daily online meetings and webinars. I’ve tried identifying and rectifying the squeaks, but they seem to be directly in the plywood bones that support the chair. At one point, years ago, I even had to temporarily remove the staples on the underside of the chair to get out a bolt that had somehow worked its way in between the seat covering and the foam. This chair still serves its basic function, as well as the entertainment one, but the squeaks are really problematic. I’ve taken a look at replacements, but these days, everybody and his brother wants to sell you something that looks like it belongs in the cockpit of a virtual Formula One race car or fighter jet. Either one of those could come with an ejection seat feature.

    Maybe I can find one with a red alert button on the right arm rest.


  2. Hi Doug! Interesting hearing about your chair experience. I have a nice swivelly one now. It’s comfortable to sit in for long periods of time, and you can tilt it back a bit, which I love. Never has there been a better time for a good chair.



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