Finding the right office chair is mostly an impossible task.
With Americans sitting more than ever — sedentary jobs are up 83% since 1950, according to a recent study — the workplace has started to adapt more to active sitting in a direction that promotes health and wellness while sitting at your desk all day.
Early renovations like the yoga ball have infiltrated office spaces, as have standing desks, with people opting to stand like scarecrows over their workspace instead of lounging back.
For brief periods of my professional work-life, I tried both and couldn’t find a solution.
For me, my office chair is like a living room sofa. Regrettably, I sit slouched deep into my chair with the seat low staring at computer screens for eight hours a day. I’ve sifted through chairs like swipes on a dating app, some stick but most not, and none have lasted the test of time.
I’ve tried new models that have seats curved like a skateboard and others with elastic-knitted backs and bottoms, a sleeker take on cushioned models, that still encourage the same slouching tendencies. There’s only been one chair that I really ever enjoyed. It was an inherited model with unknown stains from previous owners, passed around an old office with broken swivel wheels and a torn seat cushion. I sacrificed pills in clothing for comfort, anything to fuel my slouching tendencies.
That chair didn’t come with me when I got a new job — and probably for the better.
Slouching gets to you — sitting for 40 hours-a-week will do that. I started spending more time foam rolling cracks and knots out of my back than ever before. I found myself even doing light stretching in the office to just get the blood flowing in areas where they weren’t. In fact, 31 million Americans experience low back pain at any given time, according to the American Chiropractic Association. At work, about one-half of all working Americans have admitted having symptoms of back pain. It costs businesses more than 264 million lost workdays annually, which equates to about two full workdays per worker each year.
In an effort to better myself, I started rethinking active sitting — and I found something just a little bit different that might work.
Sit this one out
The Ariel, a stool-like chair made by Burlington, VT-based chair company QOR360 (pronounced core 360), looks more like a mechanic’s chair rather than an office chair. But it’s refined look with a sleek tweed-like oversized cushion doesn’t make the chair stick out at all inside the office — and keeps you body-conscious with its backless feature as you sit at your desk.
The chair is designed to keep your knees below your hips, which combined with no arm or back support, naturally makes one find balance while sitting which creates stability in your core. Dr. Turner Osler, a former trauma surgeon turned chair wiz, is on a mission to help sitting-types navigate away from back problems through his chairs, which promote active sitting and can alleviate back pain, speed up your metabolism, and be the start of a healthier you, according to the QOR360 team.
Osler, 69, told Ladders he thought about chair-making when he transitioned from being on his feet all day as a trauma surgeon to sitting in front of a computer writing code when he himself started to experience pain unlike before.
“I had the idea that sitting actively when people have to sit in front of their spreadsheet all day,” he said. “Instead of being damaged by their chair in terms of their posture and back pain and biochemistry, I figured by making a chair that kept their core engaged, all of those things would get better. The idea sounds radical to say, but try to make sitting helpful.”
Together with his son, Lex, the Oslers teamed up to make an American-made chair, produced in Vermont, that’s sold more than 1,000 chairs through online sales since 2016.
The chairs, which range from $350 to $500, aren’t just limited to the office. Osler said he’s taken his chairs to pilates instructors, occupational therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors, yoga-types, and even equestrians, who’ve all found unique ways to make the chair more than a chair.
“Just because I invented this thing, I don’t know what it’s for,” Osler joked.
QOR360 has even extended their chairs to the classroom by creating the “ButtOn Chair,” a cheaper prototype designed with plywood and a tennis ball that offers a healthier and better way to sit at their school desks.
“People really like these things which give me hope that we’re actually on to something,” he said. “Because it’s no good creating a solution to a problem unless people embrace it. We’ve been pleasantly surprised that people like these things.”
Verdict: It’s been a welcoming change. With your posture forced to stand straight to keep balanced, your core remains still which is equatable to performing a plank in the gym. The cushion is comfortable and I’ve noticed that my posture has improved even when sitting in other chairs.