Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Tyranny of the Office Chair

I have a not-so-secret fantasy. I really want a beanbag chair for my office. This is a well-known fact at my workplace. We joke about how I could make some extra money on the side by allowing other faculty and staff to sit in it for a small rental fee.

Like most office spaces, my office is dominated by hard, rectangular, pointy-cornered objects: the desk; the shelves; the filing cabinet; the books. Even my chair, while ergonomic, does not satisfy. Every now and then, I want to slouch. I want to sprawl. I want to find a way to let my body relax for a few minutes. Hence, the beanbag dream. I want a structureless blob of over-sized cushion plonked off in the corner that’s just for me.

I recognize that I’m fortunate in that I can entertain this fantasy: I have an office that would be large enough to accommodate such a wonderful object and a windowless door that would let me sprawl sans surveillance.

I think about seating a lot, especially at conferences. I love conferences because they give you the opportunity to meet and interact with lots of folks. You start having "conference buddies." But even if the conference is awesome, the chairs are not. Conference chairs are always uncomfortable. And I’ve been well trained to not squirm around in my seat, no matter how uncomfortable it is.

One notable exception was at a Feminist Disability Studies panel that I attended last year. People were encouraged to move the furniture around. People were invited to stand. People were invited to do whatever they wanted to do to make their bodies feel as okay as possible in the space. Revolutionary! Why can’t we have more of this?

I remember how important comfortable spaces were to me as an undergraduate. The university that I attended had a large quiet room with red (slightly cruddy) sofas: in my last year, the space was renovated, the sofas were removed, and the space was repurposed for private functions only. I think these kinds of spaces are becoming less and less common in universities as they adopt more of a business culture. And I think that’s unfortunate. I don’t think it’s “unprofessional” to have a quiet space to take a break.

3 comments:

  1. In the large library at my public university the armchairs in the newspaper room were often filled by people who didn't look like students (probably homeless) or by people who looked like UW service staff, custodians etc. Now there are only hard chairs. Professionalization is definitely anti-worker, anti-homeless too.

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  2. I want a beanbag chair for my home office space (a sad little portion of my bedroom). I love the idea of sprawling out, but for now I do most of my thinking in the office space at the university O.o I hope you find your ideal beanbag chair--I say go for it!

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  3. Even i am lucky too have kneeling chairs in my home which helps me to work for longer hours without developing back pain.

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