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With all due respect

Every Issue

Cite as: May 2015 89 (5) LIJ, p.14

Recline and fall

We spend more time at them than in bed, in our car or at the dinner table, but how many of us really give much thought to our office desk?

The office desk may have changed appearance but the principle has basically stayed the same for a couple of hundred years. A desk is a flat elevated platform covered with too much stuff that you access in a sitting position while your lower back aches.

In law offices more desk acreage usually denotes seniority and this leads to ludicrous situations where a junior lawyer attempts to have a conversation with an older colleague over a space as big as the great American plains.

When computers started to appear in offices, attempts were made to redesign the traditional desk and the worst examples were the ones that had an adjustable centre section for a keyboard. The metal mechanism was beautifully designed just to catch your knee every time you sat down.

The latest innovation in desk design is the “sit and stand” desk and the more elaborate versions have a memory settable platform that raises and lowers at the touch of a button. It did occur to me that if you push the button accidentally you might find yourself being raised to your feet by your chin.

I have to say the idea of standing while working makes me want to lie down.

I read with interest recently that Richard Blau, a partner at American law firm GrayRobinson, has ditched his traditional office desk altogether and instead works while walking on a treadmill.

I imagine Richard’s meetings with clients must be interesting. As he explains complex areas of the law he can accurately say to them “are you keeping up?”

The other part of the workspace equation is of course the office chair. We now have ergonomic chairs with more buttons and levers than a NASA spacecraft. This means that you constantly go through a routine of tweaking and rocking and elevating instead of just sitting down.

Not many people know that ergonomic is a Swedish word for “looks great but is killing my back”. My least favourite feature on these chairs is the lever that can send you skywards as if you have been ejected from James Bond’s Aston Martin.

As a service to WADR readers I tried to come up with a better way to enjoy working at the office desk and my mind turned to those sword and sandal movies that show aristocratic Romans feasting while lying down.

This reclining while dining tradition gave me an idea. Why not copy this for the office? If you had a couch instead of a chair you could lounge beside the computer while booking your next holiday or watching funny cat videos on Facebook during your lunch hour. A kind of lolling while trawling.

The beauty of this idea is that you can have a quick post-sandwich snooze and no one may notice.

And people say “what have the Romans ever done for us?”.


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