A niche market has developed for ergonomic office furniture in China as white-collar workers who hunch over their desks every day begin to complain about the unhealthy practice.
Traditional desks and chairs will easily strain wrists and bodies if maintained at the same position for a long time, but furniture that adapt to human bodies and encourage healthy and comfortable postures do not.
That awareness has helped ergonomic furniture makers like New York-based Humanscale Corp to grow. Founded in 1983, Humanscale entered China five years ago, and the company saw its sales double in 2015 over the previous years.
"We have visited the offices of many renowned enterprises around the world. Nearly every employee is unsatisfied about their work environments and they consider there is room for improvement. People prefer those smart furniture that are comfortable and easily functional," said J.S. Gan, Asia director at Humanscale.
"A large part of corporate values of most enterprises like banks and technology companies is created by their staff in front of computers. Ergonomic products will help facilitate productivity and improve health. If each one can raise efficiency, the company's achievements will grow tremendously," he said.
Gan said in Western countries, many companies choose to have ergonomic furniture for their staff, such as Apple Inc, Google Inc, BBC Ltd, Bloomberg LP, Chanel AS and Citigroup Inc. In Asia, the penetration rate of ergonomic furniture is lower and Humanscale sees a significant growth potential.
According to research by the University of Pittsburgh, sitting down at a desk all day long can cause obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Frequent standing breaks significantly decrease chances of getting diabetes and gaining weight, and it also help improve the brain.
Some work furniture that adapt to human bodies are in great demand, including those monitoring arms and keyboard supports that help reduce eyestrain and backpain. Sit-stand tables, which glide up and down, allow workers to alternate between sitting and standing postures throughout the day.
Rachel Wu, a 29-year-old public relations professional, said: "My work has long hours and a lot of hours are stationary. Even though working in an open space is great, my table is a little bit low for me. Ergonomic furniture will definitely help with postures and stress," she said.
Industry sources said the smart furniture sector in China is still in its infancy. Many traditional home appliance makers and Internet firms are launching their own smart furniture, but high prices and poor experiences are major hurdle for consumers.