March 28, 2022
It should come as no great surprise to learn that data from Leesman, the world’s leading workplace analyst, found that the chair was seen by remote working employees as the second most important feature in creating a productive working from home environment. Cited by 90 percent of people, it was narrowly beaten into second place only by a desk or table (91 percent). A ‘mere’ 89 percent of people cited WiFi, which is what you may have assumed was the most important need of remote workers, especially given that Hierarchy of Needs meme we’ve all seen. That needs to be reworked because clearly broadband matters slightly less than comfort and safety.
And yet it’s another data point in the Leesman data that provides the real kicker. As is often the case, it is the juxtaposition of information that highlights what is really important. According to the report, and despite the value they place on seating while working remotely, nearly 40 percent of people are dissatisfied with the chair they currently use for working at home.
This is surprising for at least a couple of reasons. One is practical. An employer’s obligation to their staff – and indeed an individual’s obligations to themselves – to nurture wellbeing and ensure health and safety is the same regardless of where people work. Indeed, a number of recent court cases have emphasised that this is a legislative as well as ethical obligation, as we discussed recently. So we may have expected more employers to provide a better working environment for those people working from home.
The other reason is more humane. Of all the things we buy, with the exception of our clothes, furniture is the most intimate, the one item we spend most time in contact with. According to JG Ballard who dedicated himself to understanding our relationship with the world around us, ‘Furniture constitutes an external constellation of our skin areas and body postures’.
In other words, furniture matters, and more than we might assume sometimes. The design of the physical environment to make us comfortable, more productive, more collaborative, more creative, send messages to others or enhance our wellbeing is the underlying, recurrent theme of this blog and the workplace press more generally as well as the driving force behind the work of Sedus and other workplace pioneers worldwide.
The past two years have emphasised the role of the working environment in making us feel better, physically, intellectually and emotionally and in terms of our relationship with work, and colleagues. That is true regardless of where we work and is why we place such a high value on our physical surroundings.
So, the message for employers is very clear. If you want to send a signal to people that you value them when working remotely, make sure they have the best chair (and desk) possible. The WiFi and the tech is important, but come on. First things first.