Imagining a workplace without chairs

A Dutch architectural studio has come up with a bold solution to offices taking a physical toll on workers’ bodies – a table-less, chairless workplace of the future. 

It’s common knowledge that being chained to a desk all day at work doesn’t do wonders for your health.

Among the negative effects of office life: Back pain, neck pain, a shortened life span, a slower metabolism – the list goes on.

But Dutch studio RAAAF has come up with a radical solution.

Brothers and co-founders Ronald and Erik Rietveld have been studying the effects of sitting in the workplace and whether a complete redesign of a workplace would solve many of the health problems involved with it.

 Their line of thinking is: what would happen if we did away with chairs in the workplace altogether? Is that even possible?

Two of the Rietveld’s installations, one called The End of Sitting released in 2014 and one released this month called Breaking Habits, aim to explore this idea.

The workplace environments are designed to be various surfaces that people can rest on, lean against or lie on – but not sit.

The conceptual environment is instead completely free of chairs and tables, encouraging people to get up and move every so often.

This helps to address one of the major risks surrounding sitting at a desk: a slower metabolism.

Moving around and stretching regularly helps muscles remain active, preventing diseases further down the track like type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Though the idea is conceptual, there is some research behind the designs.

It is based around the scientific concept of affordances, where human behavior is learned by picking up on information that’s relevant to survival.

In other words, if something’s there, humans will use it – be it a tree to climb on, or a seat to sit in. Removing it eliminates this need.

With The End Of Sitting, the installation was far from cozy or homely.

The concrete and plywood hard-angled surfaces were meant to encourage the user to switch positions or get up regularly, rather than staying nestled in one spot for too long.

But feedback from users was that if it was a comfier, softer environment, it would be easier to stop sitting.  

Breaking Habits is an evolution of this, with carpet-like material used to make the environment softer.

Whether a chairless and table-less environment would just cause frustration for workers instead of helping the cause remains to be seen, but it’s an interesting concept none-the-less.

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