Global study uncovers new postures driven by mobile technology

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Our reliance on technology in the workplace has led to nine new postures such as the "strunch", the "cocoon," and the "swipe" which frequently cause pain and long-term injuries, disrupting concentration and creativity.

Steelcase, the office furniture and workplace knowledge company, conducted a global study in 11 countries, observing over 2000 people in a wide range of environments and postures.  The new postures identified were a result of using small, mobile technology such as smartphones, tablets and laptops and new workplace behaviors.

"We love our technology – it's become a ubiquitous extension of ourselves," states James Ludwig, vice president of global design for Steelcase. "But the way technology impacts our bodies as we work has been largely ignored."

They newly identified postures are:

  • The Strunch - The "strunch" (stretched-out hunch) is a very common posture with laptops. As people become fatigued, they gradually push their laptop further from the edge of the worksurface, resting their weight on the surface.  This causes them to reach forward to work. Since the back and neck cannot sustain the reach and hunch posture for a long time, the person begins to prop themselves up with their non- tasking arm.
  • 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.
  • The Multi-Device -- This posture is representative of how people adapt to multitasking on multiple-devices. One hand holding a phone to the ear, the other tasking on a laptop. The result is a forward lean that is a symbol of concentration and an orientation to the smaller screen of a laptop.
  • The Text - 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.
  • The Cocoon - People recline, bring up their feet onto the seat, and draw their smartphone or tablet close, resting on their thighs. The result is a cocoon - small mobile technology allows people to remain productive in this posture.
  • The Swipe - This posture results when the device is used on a worksurface in "surfing mode", in which people operate the device with one hand, typically with swiping gestures. Because it's on a worksurface, a person must keep their head a certain distance above the tablet in order to see it, and position their head to look down at it.
  • The Smart Lean - 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.
  • The Trance - This posture was observed when people were focused on the screen and either mousing or using a touchpad to navigate on the screen for extended periods of time. This is a long duration posture.
  • The Take It In - In this posture, people recline to view content on the large display and/or sit back to contemplate. This posture is about "taking in" information rather than generating it.

Researchers also noted a more extreme range of human sizes around the world, which impacts postures, as well as people rapidly shifting between individual, focused tasks and creative collaboration, changing postures with each new challenge.

Based on these insights, Steelcase has designed a new chair – Gesture – that moves with the body and supports the user throughout the different postures.  Gesture is the first chair designed to support our interactions with today's technologies and will be available in the UK later this year.

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