[TBT THROW BACK THURSDAY] Lately there have been lots of images on FaceBook and other sites of a workstation for working lying down. During the period 1982-04-19 – 1989-01-09 I worked at Arbetslivscentrum, Stockholm (later Institutet för Arbetslivsforskning) as a project assistant (1 year), then administrative assistant, secretary to one of the research directors in one of the research departments. Our department researched in the areas of work organization and computers – coordinator of jobs for the assistants and assigner of jobs to the assistants, economic administration for the department. Parallell to this from December 1984 I was the main operator for the Macintosh installations in the house, responsible for three networks with a total of 70 Macintoshes. All support and installations and internal training programs.
The image above is from 1988. We were testing workstations of different kinds, among them one for working lying down, together with Ergonomi Design Gruppen (EDG). Conditions were very different in 1988 than today as there were no portables, no pads, no smartphones and no flatscreens. We used a Macintosh Plus… and hoped it wouldn’t fall down on the person sitting there testing the chair… You can easily say that we were too early with what we wanted to achieve. Conditions today are much different.
Above tone of the images from Altwork.com that lately has been seen in various social media and on various websites. If you visit the site, there are more images and a video about the ideas around it.
The image with me in that contraption above was what I immediately thought about when seeing the Altwork workstation. The image of me and our workstation was published in a leaflet about how to make offices better in an ergonomic and organizational way. The leaflet was called Bakom Knuten, News from Knut-Projektet, December 1988. Still today, the leaflet is interesting. Some of those ideas have since been implemented, like working and meeting more flexibly standing up for instance.
We also tested various ergonomic chairs. The one above was good for relaxing or reading, but at the time not something you could use in front of a computer. Today yes, as there are pads of various sorts. Some found it difficult to use and were a bit afraid of using it as it leans quite far backwards.
One of them, the above kneechair from Stokke, stayed with us permanently as it turned out to be very comfortable and good to sit on and work. It was relaxing for your back. Trick was to not hang on your knees on it. I’ve missed that chair ever since… (I left that job in januari 1989 to join an Apple Center).
This was a research project. Some of it has become reality since, but not everything. Particularly the design of office furniture isn’t really there yet. Some of the more advanced ideas about how it would come to be in 2003, that were in that leaflet, seem dated today. Development on the technical side also has advanced much faster than the researchers then could foresee. It is interesting to compare the ideas from 1988 with the reality of today. To work lying down still has a long way to go though I think.