Ergonomic furniture firms spring into action, riding big demand

By Zhu Wenqian | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-18 08:17

Ergonomic office furniture makers say they have not sat still-riding a booming business in China, where an increasing awareness by office workers of the need for healthy lifestyles has seen them move to alter their sedentary work schedules.

New York-based ergonomic furniture maker Humanscale Ltd said sales revenues in China has grown consecutively by about 25 percent year-on-year in recent years. Founded in 1983, Humanscale entered China in 2011.

Currently, Humanscale sells its furniture on Amazon in China. Additionally, it has showrooms in Beijing and Shanghai, where corporate customers can visit and place orders. It is also planning to open another retail store in China soon, but will not disclose specific plans.

"The United States is our largest market followed by the United Kingdom, although we think China has the potential to overtake them," said Tim Hutchings, president of Humanscale Ltd's international unit.

Hutchings said his group targeted any customers who use a computer, particularly those companies in the finance, legal and technology sectors.

"We are very optimistic about the future of our business in China," he said.

"The growth potential is amazing, because Chinese people are fascinated in keeping ahead of the curve with cutting edge innovation and design. Our seating products and monitor arm solutions are particularly popular in China."

Hutchings added that there were a huge number of computer users in China and his company designed products that enabled computer users to feel more comfortable. As a result, corporate clients were seeing improved productivity, staff retention and profitability.

Traditional desks and chairs can strain wrists and bodies if postures are maintained in the same position for a long time, but Humanscale says furniture that adapts to human bodies and encourages comfortable postures, such as sit-stand tables that could glide up and down, allow employees to dynamically alternate between positions.

"When I travel on business in China, I like to get up early and go for a run. It's amazing how many people are out in the parks in the early morning, practicing Tai Chi and moving," Hutchings said.

"Chinese people understand the importance of keeping fit and that's why it's such an exciting market for us."

In Europe and the US, many companies choose to have ergonomic furniture for their staff, such as Adidas, Apple Inc, Google Inc and HSBC. In China, online news aggregator, a new media platform, also chooses to use ergonomic furniture at its Beijing office.

According to research by the University of Pittsburgh last year, frequent standing breaks during work can help to control weight and reduce obesity, and decrease the chances of getting diabetes and cardiovascular conditions.

"My work has long hours and I have a sit-stand desk," said Michelle Chen, a 26-year-old lawyer based in Hong Kong.

"Most of the time, I would prefer to sit down to work, as it helps to raise my efficiency," she said.

"But it's great that I have the option to work while standing, especially after I had lunch or when I feel tired."

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