Day in the Life: Sitting at my desk

I wasn’t even sure I’d write a Day in the Life post about work. What would I write? “I sit at my desk. I type, I mouse. Occasionally I go to a meeting.”

(Of course there’s more to my work than typing and mousing.  But if you were interested in the process of software development you’d probably be reading one of these books, not this blog ;)

And yet…..

When I get to my office, my cubicle has a different chair than everyone else.  Why?  Because mine is custom-ordered, extra-wide, and armless.  It was purchased for me last fall, after the standard chairs went from a “too narrow but not bad” to seriously irritating my injured leg.  We are talking not only increased limping but pretty serious pain.  I tried adjusting it – including removing the arms – but it was still problematic. I couldn’t seem to sit on the thing without the bottom edge cutting into my pulled muscle.

So one Friday I explained to our HR person, as matter-of-factly as I could, that the chair was a problem. HR person’s reaction was wonderful – no “Let’s try adjusting it again”, for which I was grateful.

Now, when I was recovering from RSI issues at a Fortune 100 company in 1993, one of the staff ergonomics specialists visited my office to help configure my workstation correctly.  The specialist immediately ordered me a high-end, expensive, ultra-configurable BodyBilt chair that came with a 13-page owner’s manual.

I no longer work at Fortune 100 company. This is good in some ways, but the ergonomics specialists are a thing of the past, not to mention budgets that support BodyBilt chairs :) The HR person asked if I would be willing to do some research and identify a model of chair that would work, starting with the Staples and Office Depot catalogs in the office.  I agreed, and suggested I could also stop by the local stores over the weekend to actually try a few chairs.

The good?

  • I tried a lot of chairs
  • I got an idea of the seat width I needed
  • I figured out the general seat depth (from back to the front edge) I needed
  • I got an overall sense of which adjustments I really needed (seat height, seat tilt, back tilt)

The bad?

  • None of the office furniture chairs in the area had a seat wide enough for me
  • So seat width ended up being a guess AND
  • I had to order a chair without trying it
  • I realized arms could be great or a serious problem – and it’s hard to tell without “trying them on”

In the end, I picked an extra-wide task chair rather similar to this one, rated for 500lb persons. I’ve been rather happy with it.

3 thoughts on “Day in the Life: Sitting at my desk

  1. I think it is so great that they were willing to work with you like that, my last job all the chairs had arms and would cut into my legs and pinch nerves at awkward places so that I would get up and my legs would feel numb and it would be very hard to walk. I tried to talk to my boss about it, and he would give me this blank look and say .. well no one else has complained about the chairs… try a different one. Yeah ok all the other girls in the office were quite a bit smaller then me, and all the chairs were the same.. just different colors. It took me a while to work up the courage to talk to him and I am proud that I at least did that!

  2. Cordy,

    Good for you on speaking up, and bad on him for not working to figure out the problem. Chairs are not “one size fits all”, even with the common height and arm width adjustments. A 5’2″ size 4 isn’t going to be comfortable in my chair, just as I’m not comfortable in a chair that has too narrow a seat.

    I think it helped that I went through the whole RSI stuffs too. One of my day one requests is always for a split keyboard, such as Microsoft’s Natural Keyboard. It’s never been a problem — and if it were I’d probably be rethinking the job. If nothing else, it has given me practice in speaking up!

  3. I’m only size 20 and there are some classrooms at my university where I cannot sit comfortably. What’s worse is that I’m not the only one in the room with this issue, but I am the only one who has done anything about it. I feel so bad for my other students who are as large or larger than me who aren’t speaking up.

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