In Design: The economics of ergonomics

Humanscale makes office furniture that is not only good for the body but is guaranteed to be good for many years to come.

By ORI J. LENKINSKI
January 11, 2012 10:25
Ergonomics

Ergonomics. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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What is ergonomics? Aside from having a scientific ring to it, this word carries increasing meaning for the office-bound being. Ergonomics is the study of designing equipment to fit the shape and needs of the body. For a perfect example of this budding discipline, take a look around the dentist’s office during your next check-up.

Every single element, from the chair to the overhead lighting, has been designed to best suit the needs of the practitioner. The way the pieces work in concert so perfectly is the calling card of ergonomics.

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This is the core of American design house Humanscale’s philosophy. For nearly 30 years, the engineers and designers of Humanscale have tackled problems that hinder efficiency in the office. Their products are clean, elegant and environmentally conscious.

“Our goal is to make companies more successful by making their people more successful,” explains Shane P.

Cohen, Humanscale’s local development consultant.

“We don’t sell products, we sell solutions,” says Cohen, whose enthusiasm for Humanscale’s work is apparent.

Robert King founded the company in 1983. Recognizing the rise of headaches associated with prolonged computer use, King’s first quest was to invent a no-glare computer screen. From there, the list of office items that needed tweaking grew and grew.



The three main areas that Humanscale focuses on are lighting, seating and air purification. As Cohen explains, improving these three arenas has a dramatic effect on the productivity level in any office.

Humanscale recently celebrated the sale of the one millionth Freedom chair, designed by ergonomics pioneer Niels Diffrient. This chair, which put Humanscale forever on the design map, has become a classic for both the company and the furniture world.

As an offshoot of its green philosophy, Humanscale also makes a lovely reusable bottle to help offices cut back on plastic and cans. “It’s part of bringing professional equipment into the workplace,” says Cohen. The company’s client list includes Intel, Apple and Adobe. It also makes excellent furnishings for the home office.

One of Humanscale’s most recent developments is a partnership with Waxman Office Furniture. For years, Waxman has sold innovatively designed chairs for the office and auditorium.

The work of Waxman can be found at Habimah Theater, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and cinematheques throughout Israel.

“I have a great love of the body. That love is at the heart of Waxman,” explains Michal Waxman, CEO of the 40-yearold family business. “One of the first things that anyone who knows about the body will tell you is that sitting is the worst position for the body.

With our technological advances, we end up sitting for hours on end every day, which makes our bodies stiff and tight. It was natural for us to work with Humanscale because we have similar philosophies.”

Hand in hand with its new partner, Waxman has developed a local campaign featuring famed choreographer Ohad Naharin sitting on a classic Humanscale chair.

“I used to be a dancer,” says Waxman, gazing at the photos of her new spokesman. “Ohad is a symbol of health, but he had a very serious injury once.

His orthopedist told him not to sit. When we asked him to try the chair he, told us simply that the chair was right for his body.”

Finding synergy between Humanscale and the other brands Waxman distributes, the store now offers complete office furnishing that combine Humanscale solutions with furniture by Portuguese brand Famo.

With a focus set on function as opposed to fashion, Humanscale’s items are much less decorative than those of their competitors. For example, the textiles used for its line of chairs may not look fancy at first, but it is top-of-the-line mesh is developed specifically to cradle every vertebra. The same is true for all Humanscale products. Though they don’t shout chic, at second glance the amount of effort, thought and skill that went into choosing each knob, light bulb or switch is apparent. “The wow factor here is in the modesty, in the feeling of sitting on the chair,” beams Waxman.

Be it their desktop lighting, seating or adjustable monitor arms, Humanscale designs are all about sending an office worker home without head/back/wrist aches. “We know that comfortable people do better work. Our mission is to perform,” says Cohen. “None of our products are beautiful, but they are like the Golden Gate Bridge. Timeless design can be beautiful.”

Naturally, Humanscale solutions cost a pretty penny. And in today’s market, where the only thing that is not disposable is cash, selling an expensive, albeit brilliant, product can be a challenge. Office chairs range from NIS 2,500 to around NIS 5,000. However, both Cohen and Waxman seem extremely confident about Humanscale’s potential in Israel. “It’s a perfect fit for Israel. There are so many hitech companies here. Of course, price is an issue,” says Cohen. “But this is about price versus long-term value. Companies that take care of their staff care about ergonomics.”

“Nobody likes to spend money,” adds Waxman. “But a good chair is like a good pair of shoes. These days, we do everything with the computer, and that means that a good chair is vital.”

Every Humanscale chair, of which there are currently four varieties on sale at Waxman, comes with a 15-year warranty.

“The guarantee says it all,” asserts Waxman. “These days, nothing comes with more than one-, two- or three-year warranty.

This is a chair that will stay with you for a big part of your life.”

For more information about Humanscale products at Waxman, visit www.waxman.co.il.

The Waxman showroom and store is located at 22 Halehi Street, Bnei Brak.

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