The Study That Changed What We Know About Ergonomics

The Study That Changed What We Know About Ergonomics

Remember that time when the world shut down, and we all had to go work from home? Many of us convinced ourselves that we could get by working at the kitchen table, but then our bodies quite literally said, “NOPE!” and went on strike due to poor working conditions…  

Well, my friends, that’s ergonomics for you! Regardless of how you work, ergonomics play a significant role in how comfortable (or uncomfortable) you are in your working environment.  

When lockdowns struck, we were sent home with only laptops and well wishes. We soon realized that our backs were not up for the job, that is, sitting slouched over a laptop on the sofa. The consumer demand for proper office chairs surged, and online chair retailers like Secret Lab experienced record-breaking sales as a result! 

 

Form Meets Function 

There is no doubt that the pandemic changed the way we work and what we value in our workspace. Remote workers are seeking comfortable, functional, and ergonomic office furniture that also fits into their personal home design aesthetic.  

We at Vitrazza were not excluded from the consumer demand for functional, ergonomic, and attractive office furniture. As workers continue to upgrade their office chairs, they also realize that despite their fancy new chair purchase, they still struggle to move on their rugs, carpet, or dented plastic chair mats.  

We know that flooring directly affects how and if you can use your office chair as intended, and we have thousands of customer reviews to support this. Still, no one has ever actually studied the relationship between flooring and chair movement!  

Image of a review that reads: "After months of dealing with a plastic chair mat that developed a 5-point divot, I was motivated to try the Vitrazza Glass Chair Mat. I've already recommended it to my co-workers. If you're tired of scooting your chair over pits in your current mat, you will not regret this. Ergonomically, this should be a requirement. It's been a terrific upgrade to my home office. Perfect for a smooth roll!! Thank you!!"

 

We wanted some actual data to reflect what we already know, so we found an Ergonomist interested in putting together a formal study.  

 

 

Photo of a mother (kelly) with two young children

Meet Kelly 

Kelly Meetz, Licensed Physical Therapist turned Certified Ergonomist and founder of Work Matters Ergonomics and Safety, is passionate about providing solutions and education for safe, comfortable, and reasonable workplaces for all.  

 

 

Office ergonomists tend to look at two types of movement:

  1. Those that cause awkward postures 
  2. Those that promote mini-movement breaks 

 

Awkward Postures = “Bad 

Mini-Movement Breaks = “Good 

 

Awkward postures stress the spine and joints and cause muscle fatigue or pain when repeated consistently and over time. These awkward postures can lead to Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) such as strains and sprains. 

Mini-movement breaks are encouraged by ergonomists because they increase blood flow, allow static muscles to move, and relax tense muscles. While mini-movement breaks are a promising and simple strategy, coaching and training alone often have no permanent impact on human behavior. Studies have shown that workers provided with education and advice only did not take sufficiently frequent breaks to change discomfort levels. 

 

“Ergonomists get excited about products that require no change in habits by us humans, but simply buying and putting the product in place!”

- Kelly 

 

The Floor is Lava 

We all played that game as kids, right? Ok, clearly the floor isn’t lava… but could you imagine trying to move your chair on lava? Having never experienced a real-life lava floor, we can’t say for sure what it would be like, but we can imagine it would take a LOT of force to get unstuck. 

Kelly recently completed a pilot study to determine the amount of force required to roll an office chair on different flooring surfaces (lava not included). She also studied human behaviors, such as movement in an office chair and awkward postures, to determine if a correlation was present between the force required to roll an office chair and human behaviors.

 

Office chairs (with or without all the fancy adjustments) have a few vital functions: 

  • To allow you to roll
  • To allow you to swivel
  • To support your back
  • To let your feet rest flat on the floor 

 

She researched the force required to roll an office chair on several office floor surfaces:  

  • A rug 
  • Carpet tiles 
  • A plastic chair mat 
  • A vinyl chair mat 
  • A Vitrazza Glass Chair Mat 

 

Guess What?  

There is a quantifiable connection between the force to move the chair and Human behaviors!  

This pilot study demonstrates that human behaviors were changed by simply changing flooring surfaces. Those requiring fewer foot-pounds of force to move resulted in more natural opportunities for movement and fewer awkward postures. 

When looking at the flooring that resulted in the most significant reduction in awkward movement, the Vitrazza Glass Chair Mat provided more benefit in reducing “bad” awkward postures than the other flooring choices.   

 

Awkward Posture Comparison

   
When Compared to: Vitrazza Glass Chair Mat decreased awkward postures by:
Rug 93%
Vinyl Chair Mat on a Rug 92%
 Carpet Tiles (low pile) 76%
Plastic Chair Mat on Carpet Tiles 69%

 

Additionally, when looking at the flooring that resulted in the most significant increase in mini-movement breaks, the Vitrazza Glass Chair Mat provided more benefit in increasing “good” mini-movement breaks versus the other flooring choices.

 

Mini-Movement Break Comparison

   
When Compared to: Vitrazza Glass Chair Mat decreased awkward postures by:
Rug 61%
Vinyl Chair Mat on a Rug 43%
 Carpet Tiles (low pile) 13%
Plastic Chair Mat on Carpet Tiles 4%

 

Simply put - the harder it is to move your chair, the more “bad” behaviors and fewer “good” behaviors were observed. 

This pilot study demonstrates a correlation between office flooring and human behaviors, even with no coaching for benefits! For details on materials, study methods, and results, see the complete 26-page study here! 

 

Learn more about the benefits of a Vitrazza Glass Chair Mat.

 

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