If your work involves staying in front of a computer all day, you might as well be carrying brickloads on your back for the effort. In all likelihood you would be suffering from an aching back before the day ends. Trust me, I go to the day spa almost every other day just to get a back massage to soothe those aching muscles.
Sometimes I think it’s because of my computers. I usually work with two laptops on my desk: one Mac and one PC. That means the keyboard and pointing device are desk-level. I consider having the keyboard lower–almost the same level as my lap–the most comfortable, since I won’t have to strain with having my arms forward too much.
But the culprit is really my chair. It’s too cheap and too generic to be comfortable. And it’s too stiff for me to get a good posture. Why, oh, why can’t I afford one of ’em Aeron chairs that über-techies seem to be so fond of? Want to know how great they are? Check out Joel on Software. One of the biggest come-ons to joining Joel Spolsky’s company is the office ambience. Each employee–even interns–gets to have only the best equipment. And that includes an Aeron chair. Joel even highlights the importance of this great chair in his Field Guide to Developers.
Let me, for a moment, talk about the famous Aeron chair, made by Herman Miller. They cost about $900. This is about $800 more than a cheap office chair from OfficeDepot or Staples.
They are much more comfortable than cheap chairs. If you get the right size and adjust it properly, most people can sit in them all day long without feeling uncomfortable. The back and seat are made out of a kind of mesh that lets air flow so you don’t get sweaty. The ergonomics, especially of the newer models with lumbar support, are excellent.
They last longer than cheap chairs. We’ve been in business for six years and every Aeron is literally in mint condition: I challenge anyone to see the difference between the chairs we bought in 2000 and the chairs we bought three months ago. They easily last for ten years. The cheap chairs literally start falling apart after a matter of months. You’ll need at least four $100 chairs to last as long as an Aeron.
If you think that’s expensive, do think about durability.
So the bottom line is that an Aeron only really costs $500 more over ten years, or $50 a year. One dollar per week per programmer.
A nice roll of toilet paper runs about a buck. Your programmers are probably using about one roll a week, each.
So upgrading them to an Aeron chair literally costs the same amount as you’re spending on their toilet paper, and I assure you that if you tried to bring up toilet paper in the budget committee you would be sternly told not to mess around, there were important things to discuss.
Makes for good business sense, doesn’t it?
But the most important part of having an exceptionally ergonomic chair would be the productivity gains! Imagine how productive you can get if you don’t have to worry about back and wrist pains because of bad ergonomics.
I guess that’s one side benefit of working at an office. My home office should have Aeron chairs. I want one! My back wants one badly! No, two. No, three!