I quizzed the 'chief of chairs' at Posturite, Scott Bottomer - better known as their Head Seating Specialist - on what to consider when businesses buy office chairs suitable for hybrid working. And are all office chairs suitable for hot-desking?
Scott has long been championing working in different venues, as he headed up Posturite's 'Agile working' team way back in 2013, when hybrid working was a concept only embraced by a minority of businesses.
Let's get started with some basics on the terminology:
What is hybrid working?
Hybrid working is when employees work in more than one location or workstation on a regular basis. Their work venue varies, and they might split their time between home, in the office and on the go. It's so-called because 'hybrid' means 'a combination of different elements'.
What is hot-desking?
Hot-desking means that employees use an available, multi-user workstation instead of being assigned a permanent, individual workstation in the office.
Q: You probably get asked this all the time, but what makes a good hybrid working chair?
Scott: "When it comes to hybrid seating, we need to consider the spaces in which the chairs are used, the tasks carried out in these locations, and the users within the space.
We like to segment hybrid working into 3 areas: in the office, on the go, and at home.
Working from home chairs
"The key things to consider for a chair to work from home are domestic-grade fabric and foam. Slightly different testing and certification is required for domestic environments than for office spaces so it's important to factor this in. Aside from that, almost all the same functionalities for a chair would be beneficial at home as would be in the office environment. Required office chair features and adjustability such as a 5-star base, seat height, back height, and back tilt adjustment are recommended. Chair users may also benefit from additional lumbar support and seat depth adjustment to ensure the seat pad supports the upper leg suitably.
These office chair features can all be found in the Homeworker range of chairs from Posturite - pictured above - along with all the required labelling and certification. If your employees are going to be regularly undertaking computer work at home, the chair should be part of a workstation which meets health and safety DSE requirements."
Sidenote: Here's a guide to Healthy working from home as a hybrid worker.
Hot-desking chairs at the office
Scott: "So a hot-desking chair is likely to be used by different individuals from one day to the next, depending on who sits at that workstation. Employers aim to find a chair that supports each user suitably. This scenario presents a couple of challenges.
From a user perspective (which is what we'll focus on here), the primary challenge here is that we all come in different shapes and sizes. Secondly, we are aware that not all individuals take the time to adjust their chair appropriately each day. This is heightened furthermore in a hot-desking environment where we may only be sat at a workstation for a couple of hours and the person that was sat there the day before may have required a different set up. Additionally, there is a degree of training required to know how to set a chair up correctly, which becomes more complex the more adjustment levers we have to navigate.
As you'd expect, the office chair market has responded with innovative designs - Seat Depth and Lumbar Height adjustments have become commonplace on task chairs. Armrests that are adjustable in height, depth, and width are now available options on most models.
In my opinion, the key differentiator is the emergence of movement mechanisms that adjust to the user, rather than the other way around. Some refer to this as "Plug and Play Seating" as the user often only needs to adjust the chair height, seat depth, and lumbar height each day. The result of this is the benefit of an appropriate level of support for the user without the need to adjust the movement mechanism themselves with a tension control lever; something we find staff are unlikely to do when using a communal chair for a short time.
One of my personal favourites is the inBalance movement found on certain HÅG chairs from Flokk that we offer at Posturite, in particular the HÅG SoFi – which can be supplied with either an upholstered or mesh backrest.
Here's a video set up guide of the HÅG SoFi chair you might find helpful too."
Also, a number of 'Synchronous' movement mechanism chairs (back angle and seat tilt adjusted from one lever) now provide an autonomous body weight option that tensions to an individual when sat on. There can be a manual override adjustment on many of these to allow for fine tuning! An example of this on the Posturite website would be the Responsiv chair."
Hot-desking chair checklist:
- Quick and easy to adjust (self-adjusting movement)
- Key core adjustments (seat height, seat depth, back/lumbar height)
- Appropriately sized seat pads for a large percentage of staff
From a chair purchasing perspective, additional factors to consider are:
- Durability, warranty and maintenance (return on investment)
- Sustainability and 'End of Life Story'
- Set up guidance (video or graphical)
- Lead times
Working on the go equipment
Scott: "For hybrid workers on the go, going into a space that doesn't have an adjustable chair doesn't mean that there aren't quick fixes to help remedy the potential ergonomic challenges that you're going to face.
You will be using whatever seating is available – perhaps on a train or a plane, perhaps visiting clients, colleagues and suppliers. For example, roll up a coat into a flat sausage shape and place that into the curve of your back. If you find you are sitting too low, consider sitting on a cushion or your jacket. Even if the chair you have to use for a short period is uncomfy, you can get up and move around and stretch - which will be a winner for your back."
Take a look at Posturite's Ergonomics on the Go infographic.
Q: What about chair comfort and support for employees who are petite or obese?
Scott: "We find that with most chair projects we work on, clients look to factor in a small selection of chairs that cater to smaller or larger members of staff in addition to their 'standard' offering that will accommodate the majority. Several manufacturers offer different sized/shaped seat pads and backrests that allow varying specs within the same range – so we can keep the office looking uniform.
If this isn't possible with the selected chair range, or the individual's requirements fall outside the dimensions available we would suggest utilising Posturite's Assessment Service to make specific recommendations."
Thank you so much to Scott Bottomer for all this great advice on choosing office chairs. Find out more about unleashing employee potential with better office seating here. You can contact the Posturite team for chair consultancy for your business whenever you need assistance and chair recommendations.
True to his name, Scott was born in Scotland, and if you detect an unusual mix of accents when you chat chairs with him on the phone it's because he moved to England as a child, then to Texas as a teenager, and Lancashire is now home. Scott started at Posturite as a DSE Assessor which gives him a fantastic background to help people embrace ergonomics to work more healthily.
"People come to Posturite because they know we understand the body" says Scott.
Read next: Is hybrid working the future?