Common Mistakes: Task Seating

May 1, 2007
Base your task-seating selection on in-person evaluation, critical adjustments, and durability

With so much riding on the task-seating decision (user safety and satisfaction, insurance claims, and more), your considerations should include more than the brochure and price. Request a model from the dealer or manufacturer and allow users to test it out at their workstations for at least a week. But, be careful that the model you're testing is actually the one you're going to get. "A lot of times, facility managers buy products based on the top of the line, but then they give up options that are sometimes critical," says Rani Lueder, principal at Humanics ErgoSystems Inc., Encino, CA.

Critical adjustments include back-tension control and removable armrests. Options like sliding width-adjustable armrests may benefit some users, but ensure that the extra bells and whistles don't cause unnecessary complication. "Extensive adjustability does not need to cause a problem; the ease of adjusting is more important," Lueder states. "When chairs are used by more than one user, such as in shift work, that user should be able to adjust his/her chair within 1 minute after proper training."

In order to select task seating that will fulfill specific life-cycle requirements, examine the durability of the mechanisms. Are they plastic or metal? Are they well designed? "The durability of [the chair] is almost in a direct line with the price point," comments Rod Vickroy, design director for interiors at Chicagobased Perkins+Will.

The chair's materials need to be appropriate for the application. For task seating in cubicles, Jennifer Latto, project manager at Boston-based Margulies & Associates, recommends using polypropylene for the back side of the chair rather than fabric. In small workspaces, the back of the chair often rubs against the desks and cabinets when swiveled, resulting in wear. While polypropylene doesn't offer as many aesthetic opportunities as fabric, it is significantly more durable.

Also, don't get caught relying on a warranty without checking into the details. "If you have a call center [facility] that is open 24/7, you need to make sure that your task chair is actually under warranty for [being used during all] three shifts. Also, some warranties will include labor and some won't," explains Latto.

Once you've selected the task seating that meets all your requirements for comfort, safety, and durability, it's essential to set up a training process for users to maximize the benefits of the seating. Don't rely solely on the instruction manual that hangs on the chair to instruct users on how to operate their chair. "People are always in a hurry; they don't necessarily read all of that information," states Vickroy. Both he and Latto recommend taking advantage of free training courses offered by the vendor or manufacturer's representative.

SIMON SAYS: Specify the correct type of caster for the flooring to avoid having to change it later. A hard-surface floor will need a different type of caster than a carpeted floor.

Other common mistakes:

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