I often have conversations about the benefits of training. How much do people retain? Does it bring about genuine behaviour change? How long before they revert to old habits? I am not a specialist trainer so I have no intention of exploring the psychology of training in general. However, I am very interested in posture training and the long-term health benefits of good ergonomics.
As I have stated elsewhere, many office furniture suppliers offer no training at all when they install products. Some of the more specialist seating suppliers do the “how” training (what the knobs and levers do) but it’s really important that users also understand “why” (what is a good posture and why is it important to set up the workstation properly?).
We know that a good chair, no matter how good, may provide little benefit unless the user is properly trained to optimise the features it offers. That is why we place such emphasis on this training – and on support tools such as the free Posture Guidance. But the big question still exists about how much of the original training and good behaviour is retained and sustained over time. If someone has a bad back or existing musculo-skeletal issues, it’s likely that self-preservation will encourage them to adopt good practice but that is less likely for those with no current evidence of MSD problems.
What would happen if you released the user from this responsibility and let the chair do the work by warning (with vibration and an audible buzzer) when poor posture occurs? What if you could take a good chair and make it “intelligent” – monitoring the user’s position on the seat and their contact with the back rest? What if you could track this data and provide feedback to users, management and Occupational Health? What if this technology was readily available, affordable, easy to set up and simple to use?
In my case the answer to all these “what ifs” is that I would be rather excited. And I am! I don’t normally blog about a specific product but I genuinely believe that the new BMA Axia Smart Chair has achieved an ergonomist’s Holy Grail.
Trials in its native Netherlands have been highly successful and we are just starting to look for projects in the UK. All the technology is contained in the seat pad and back rest so the rest of the chair is a standard BMA Axia Office model. Furthermore, you can convert an existing Axia to a Smart version in less than 5 minutes. And the extra cost is much less than I expected.
After 20 years in workplace ergonomics, I am usually rather cynical about the claims of new products. I have been disappointed so many times! However, I think the claims made for the Axia Smart Chair are actually rather tame in relation to its potential. I love what it does. I love the simplicity. I love the price. I love the fact that it just works! We also have over a year’s successful experience with the Back-Track manual handling device which uses similar technology to correct bad lifting habits.
At the time of writing, we still have to run some field trials to ensure it fulfils all its promises but the proven projects in the Netherlands suggest I shall continue to be impressed.