Some Small Sense

Shopping experiences and store reviews by a very petite woman. Indeed, it sucks. 4'10", 87 pounds, and full grown - is it a surprise I have trouble finding clothes?

August 10, 2006

Sitting Is So Hard

I think it's fair to say that I hate most chairs. I feel like I'm in some horrible medieval torture device. Cruel and unusual punishment indeed! Not only are there issues with the chairs themselves, but in conjunction with a table or desk, it's hard to say whether standing is a better option than squirming uncomfortably for 8+ hours in a typical office. To be fair, anyone sitting in a position for that long is bound to be uncomfortable. And that's for people that are starting from an ideal ergonomic arrangement (all good except for the desk height). There's no way that my way of sitting in modern office furniture (or, heck, any furniture) can ever be misconstrued as ideal or ergonomic.

Chairs are usually too deep and too tall for me. Ideally, I want a chair depth to be 13" or less and for the seat height to be 13" or less (length of my heel to back of my knee). That way, I can get back support and also have my feet (and the weight of my legs) resting on the floor. Now, since most people pass through, or never leave, the IKEA stage of furniture, I look a sample of 8 chairs from that store. The listings thoughtfully listed important measurements, and I determined that the average depth and seat height are 15 4/5" and 17 3/4", respectively.

With the addition of a desk, the problem multiplies. The average desk is anywhere from 28" to 30" high. You can't usually raise or lower office furniture. And since I don't want to be working at chin level at my desk, that means I have to always raise my chair to compensate. Hence, the leg dangling that often occurs. Work is probably the worst place for me to be, comfort-wise, since I don't really have a choice in furniture.

When I'm in the office, it's hard. Since bigger is apparently always better, the office chairs could eat the IKEA ones for breakfast. So, when I'm in the office, if I wear 6" heels and use a big pillow behind my back, I'm all set. But of course, that's ridiculous. So is the fact that I have to make so many changes to make myself even remotely comfortable because someone thought the huge furniture looks more imposing. I use a footrest to prop up my feet, but it usually isn't enough. Which leads me to my solution - sitting cross-legged, or curled up, in the chair, with my shoes kicked under the desk. While this is okay when I go to a movie theatre (well, maybe it isn't, but it's dark, so no one can see anyway), it's not particularly professional or proper in the office environment.

Luckily, we don't live at the office (well, hopefully not anyway). If you're buying stuff your yourself, find the furniture that's best for you. Certainly, most short people aren't as short as me. But adjustable furniture is always a good bet. Furniture stores do sell adjustable tables and desks, such as this one, albeit not that many. As for an office chair, find one that has a footrest to brace your feet on, like this one. For regular chairs, this may be a little more difficult. Some have a cross-brace in front; again making the height issue irrelevant. Otherwise, an ottoman anyone?

The funniest thing about the chair problem is that I often find it easier to sit when I'm wearing heels. Yes, I know that sounds like an oxymoron - why in the world would you wear a pair of 3" heels when no one can see you?? But it's true. That's why I sometimes play piano in high heels. It's all for greater leverage and all that. Honest!



Blogger Rebecca said...

I understand, and I'm almost 5'6". Although it's important for me to be able to walk 2 or 3 miles in my shoes, if I know I am going to be sitting I always wear high heels.

Some people may think I'm going for a certain look or whatever, but we know better. ;)

August 12, 2006 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anderkoo said...

The much-maligned Aeron chair comes in 3 sizes; size "A" is almost too small for me, and should be perfect for you and Rachel's height. Check it out.

Desks are usually too high for most people regardless of how tall they are; ergo the ubiquitous keyboard tray. I've found that the best desks have adjustable height, and preferably infinitely adjustable height for micro-tweaking. Ikea's Galant series meets that criteria and is what I use; so does Jerker, which is what Rachel has.

We had the Jerker at standing height, and personally, I would probably prefer that for myself if it weren't for the fact that my computer monitor doubles as our movie screen (watching a movie standing up is a different matter than working!). Ikea's Galant series actually has a motorized up/down leg option that I might have been willing to plunk an extra $350 down on if only (here it comes) it went down low enough.

August 14, 2006 2:15 PM  
Anonymous Rachel said...

I completely agree with your lament. I find myself squirming and straining in office furniture all the time. I often leave meetings with a headache - because my feet don't touch the ground and therefore put strain on my back (add some high powered AC that causes my blood vessels to constrict and I'm toast for the day). Anyway, it's frustrating when such a simple piece of the environment causes problems. I'll look for more posts on office solutions for us petites. (yes, the IKEA Jerker is what I use at home)

August 15, 2006 9:43 PM  

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