Say hello to the text-friendly office chair

Gesture, a flexible desk chair from Steelcase, caters to the texting, swiping crowd.

Do you cocoon when you text? Or strunch when you’re tablet gazing? Bringing mobile technologies to work can lead to new aches and pains as workers hunch over small devices and tap at tiny keypads. Veteran furniture maker Steelcase studied changing postures in the workplace and designed Gesture, a new office chair geared for people who juggle multiple devices. (Read the story version.)

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Gesture chair

The Gesture chair encourages a sitter to move around rather than hold a single position. Set to retail next month for $979, it’s built differently from other desk chairs. The segmented structure is designed for flexibility.

Gesture chair

The Gesture’s back and seat move in tandem to provide continuous support. If a sitter reclines to scroll on a tablet screen, the core shifts and hugs the lower back.

Gesture chair

Gesture’s arms are designed to move like human limbs so that the user’s arms and shoulders remain supported when texting on a smartphone, typing on a keyboard or swiping a tablet. The user can draw closer to a work surface without hunching over a screen.

Gesture chair

Small technologies tend to pull the body down, explains Carol Stuart-Buttle of consulting firm Stuart-Buttle Ergonomics. “If the chair doesn’t move with the user, people slouch to make up for it, or flop on the desk to overcompensate for what is uncomfortable. Workers today are moving from bad posture, to bad posture, to bad posture,” said Stuart-Buttle. “Gesture helps you be where you need to be – it helps workers find support in smarter ways so they can use their devices in safer ways.”

Gesture chair

Steelcase studied 2,000 people in 11 countries to see how we interact with technologies. Specifically, it looked at how the human body responds as workers shift from one device to another -- swapping a laptop for a smartphone, for instance. The studies led Steelcase to distinguish nine district poses.

Gesture chair

“The workplace and the seating experience had been designed for someone sitting at a computer all day long, not the way people are working today,” said James Ludwig, vice president of global design and engineering at Steelcase, in a video Steelcase created about Gesture. “The human body doesn’t want to remain in one posture all day. It wants to be fluid and be supported dynamically. That’s a big challenge.”

Gesture chair

One of the nine poses defined by Steelcase is The Draw: “Technology (small and mobile) allows people to pull back from their desks while they use it. They recline, signaling they’re contemplating or absorbing information and draw the device closer to their body to maintain an optimal focal length,” Steelcase explains.

Gesture chair

The Text is a familiar posture: “Smartphones are small compared to other forms of technology and, therefore, require unique postures. Workers bring arms in close as keying and gesturing are performed.”

Gesture chair

The Smart Lean is common in meeting settings: “This posture is the result of mobile devices that create the desire for people to temporarily ‘pull away’ from others without leaving a meeting or collaborative environment. This is typically a temporary posture and used for glancing at incoming texts or e-mails.”