Tracking the evolution of the office chair also involves taking a glimpse of how our lives have changed over the centuries. When our world became less agrarian and the journey to the Industrial Revolution began, companies needed to reinvent the workplace atmosphere and create new resources to support workers. The office chair was designed to address the underlying question of handling workers who work in an office for long hours. Today, the modern office worker spends 40 + hours toiling away, and much of that time is spent in a chair, making it more important than ever to seek the right combination of form and function.
History of the Office Chair
Historians argue the earliest chair of the office can be traced back to Julius Caesar. The Roman emperor would conduct official business while sitting on a “curule chair.” While this chair was also used by other leaders, magistrates, and priests, Caesar eventually distinguished his chair by taking it everywhere he left. His dead “office” chair was borne alongside his crown and other valuables. Being seated lent him a more confident look and made him seem more godlike.
The office chair took on more utilitarian functions over the years. Train cars were fitted with the Centripetal Spring Armchairs designed by Thomas E. Warren and manufactured by the American Chair Company based in Troy New York in the early 1800s, as rail travel became more popular. When companies used rail travel as a means of extending their reach, they recognized the need for a task chair that would allow workers to perform administrative duties while in transit. The Centripetal chair was equipped with seat springs to help absorb the bumps associated with train travel and keep business going as usual even while on the rails.
Office seats have also been used as tools to improve productivity in the years leading up to the Industrial Revolution. Charles Darwin is often credited with the idea of putting wheels on his office chair so he can simply scoot across his office and get to various specimens as necessary. Once the Industrial Revolution took hold, businesses began to become even more aware of office environments and began to look for ways to allow longer hours of work for employees. The office chair was instrumental in making accommodations more comfortable so that workers would experience less fatigue throughout the day.
Otto von Bismarck is another famous chair patron who helped popularize the chair. He distributed office chairs throughout Parliament during his rule, which only continued a growing trend. At the Great Exhibition in London, in 1851, the office chair was presented to a broader audience. Since then, prototypes for office chairs have continued to develop whilst also striving for the same objective: to have a convenient spot to sit and work.
Office Chair Design Innovations
Ettore Sottsass | Side Chair
Photos of early office chairs, like the Centripetal, don’t look as different as more modern versions of them. Even early models had a swivel seat and casters built in. A lot of them also came with some customizable features which required some customization based on the individual user’s needs. While practical, these chairs were not all that visually pleasing. Usually, they were all coated in varying colors of black and white until the early 1970s when the office chair got a quirky makeover.
The artist Ettore Sottsass worked with the Italian company Olivetti until he realized the office should make use of a color splash. Bright reds, yellows, and purples were incorporated into a variety of different office staples such as chairs, desks, and typewriters. While this trend did not survive past the 70’s, it helped to inject some fun and creativity into the world of office furniture.
Introduction of Ergonomic Design For Office Chairs
In office chairs, the year 1976 marked the next big development. This was the first time designers really started to think about the worker’s health and wellness, rather than simply viewing the chair as a productivity tool that ultimately benefited the business. The Ergo was intended to increase blood flow to the legs and provide support for the spinal cord. It also incorporated more adjustable features to create a more individualized feel for comfort. Finally, designers took into account how much time the modern worker spent sitting and trying to improve functionality through ergonomic designs.
The office chair eventually circled back to its Roman roots and became a status symbol once more. Only the highest-ranking executives and/or successful companies have invested in costly ergonomic office chairs. The still ubiquitous Aeron chair was introduced in 1994 with a meshed backrest. Those looking to make a statement gravitated toward this distinctive looking mesh chair that represented forward thinking at a time when the internet was fueling rapid innovations and workplace changes.
After the dot com bubble burst and America entered the Great Recession, the appeal of expensive chairs that used up all but valuable resources was gone. As consumerism lost its luster in the face of high unemployment and the housing crisis, office chairs became more environmentally friendly and economically. Starting around 2010, manufacturers started producing cheaper chairs requiring fewer moving parts and leaving a minimal carbon footprint.
The Future of the Office Chair
The future of the office chair is more uncertain than ever, despite the fact that more people than ever work in an office environment that requires long periods of sitting at a desk. As people become more aware of the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle and sit eight hours a day, they are trading for balancing ball chairs and treadmill desks in their office chairs.
From poor posture and difficulty focusing through damage through organs and soft tissues, sitting too long and sitting incorrectly comes with a wide variety of possible side effects. While the right office chair can certainly help combat some of these consequences, workers must also make a conscious effort to stand, walk and stretch throughout the day at their desk. Progressively, the office chair is likely to return to being more of a productivity tool than a place where we spend most of our waking hours.
And the last thing I want to say is, although chairs with motion look great.However, the actual use is not good, the load on the eye is large.It’s easier to take a few minutes to get around on your own.
Or, you can have a look at our Office Working Station, which is more comfortable at work and perfectly matches your current office chair!