Q&a / Design
”There is no such thing as a perfect sitting position”
On how ergonomics will shape our work-from-home future
21 Jun 2021

The Oslo-based 42-year-old has been the CEO of leading sportswear and outdoor brands Viking Outdoor Footwear and Bergans and is the co-founder of footwear brand Zero˚C. Since 2019, he’s the CEO of Varier Furniture.

— Our brand and product range is based on the simple notion that the human body is built for movement. Therefore, we design furniture on the basis of a single idea — challenge the notion of a perfect sitting posture and explore how design can invite for movement. Variable was the first design by Peter Opsvik based on this philosophy, which has served as inspiration for all later products that we’ve introduced, he shares.

World-leading textile producer Kvadrat is a long-term partner to Varier. When they recently wanted to renew their textile offering to modernize the look and feel, as well as improving their sustainability footprint, they decided to take a step back.

— We aimed to select fabrics based on a holistic approach and wanted to collaborate with someone from outside of the company for that added perspective. We decided to team up with Snøhetta, undoubtedly a firm with talented people which we had been keen on working with for a while. The way they approached the task, working with the basis of a concept and a set of criteria, felt reassuring. Fabrics that did not meet the criteria were simply removed, making the selection process intuitive and the collection cohesive.

A few years ago, we saw Apple’s Tim Cook citing doctors who had said that ”sitting is the new cancer”. Do you agree?

— I fully agree that an overly sedentary lifestyle is a very real threat to public health. But, would I go as far as to say that sitting is the new cancer? No. As opposed to cancer, there is a cure against sitting too much: we simply need to incorporate movement into our daily lives. Our bodies are meant to move. However, modern ways of living and working can make it challenging to move enough throughout the day. Some exercise after work and take walks on the weekends to compensate for lack of activity when working. We have learned to be either in motion or to be still, not flow in between the two. When we sit, we often just sit still. We want to challenge that notion by integrating movement and variation with the act of sitting, says Holst-Liæker.

How has this last year, working from home in a maybe not so ergonomic way, affected our bodies?

— I think the last year has been tough for a lot of people. Both working from home and being more limited in our general activity level. Looking into Google Trends, you see a very sharp rise in topics related to ergonomics from the start of the pandemic. It did not take long before people saw a need to address the new needs that the home office had created. This behavioral shift has created an extreme increase in demand for our products and Variable in particular. Our main challenge the last year has basically been to meet this demand.

How big will the issue with ergonomics become in the future?

— I think ergonomics is a topic that so far has received a lot of attention when it comes to how we work in the corporate office. You have seen a lot of advancements in ergonomic office chairs, sit-stand desks and stools, and so forth. However, research now shows that the home office will be relevant also after the pandemic. We see that most employees say that they would like to continue to work 2-3 days from their home. This obviously moves the topic of ergonomics from the office into the home. However, unless you have space to set up a dedicated office in your home, you do not want your home to look like an office. Therefore, consumers will look for a new type of multifunctional furniture. In our case, chairs that promote a feeling of wellbeing, but also feel like a piece of furniture that naturally blends into your home, says Holst-Liæker, continuing,

— We have just completed a larger study on consumer trends and behaviors, with a focus on what will happen post-covid. Most of this study confirms the assumption that people will continue to work from home also after the pandemic, for at least 2-3 days. What we also found is that consumers are quite confused with the term ergonomics. It is often interpreted as sitting correctly, defining a kind of ”perfect sitting position”. We see that there is a lot of work for us to do here to break down this notion. There is no such thing as a perfect sitting position. Peter Opsvik said it so well; ”The next position is always the best”.

Varier’s new Textile Collection by Kvadrat Textiles, developed in close collaboration with Snøhetta