The mobile age demands a redesigned chair. I didn’t believe it until I had my rump in the Steelcase Gesture chair for a couple of weeks on loan, and now weeks after that chair has left me, I long to have it back at work.

Steelcase GestureLet me qualify a few things with the above statement. If you work and use a handheld device at the same time this chair is targeted at you. With popping back and forth between a desk computer, a tablet, and a phone I see the use of the Gesture. If you don’t work on at least one mobile device at your desk on a regular basis, the chair may just be extremely comfortable overkill.

The idea behind the Steelcase Gesture is that since the computer, tablets, and mobile devices became a part of work, that we’ve adopted some new ways we naturally sit in an unnatural environment, and the Gesture can accommodate and provide proper support for using each of these.

Hi, I’m Paul’s bad back

The part where Paul tells you why he knows about the need for proper spinal support

Paul's back circa 2006There are a few things I really need in life, and one of them is proper back support. I’ll qualify this statement with this: in 2005 I managed to fall and bounce on my tailbone in the neighborhood of eight times over the course of a rather nasty fall that felt like it took 20 seconds to complete.

Triggered by that, an already kind of crappy back managed to turn into a leaning tower of spinal hell. I spent roughly four months getting back to the point I could walk again without screaming and about three years getting my spine back in a somewhat vertical column.

Because of that I’m pretty aware these days of exactly how to sit properly and how we’re getting sucked into doing it incorrectly by our gadgets, computers, and an evolving office. If I sit wrong for too long I’ll get a note from my back telling me just what an idiot I’m being. If I continue I’ll start staggering when I walk.

Being a computer tech who sits in front of a keyboard, also working on my beloved EVOs, and playing with tablets of various styles, I’ve probably adopted six of the new postures the mobile age has brought us in one sitting.

The new postures of work

The new postures of the digital age

According to a study Steelcase sponsored in 11 countries observing 2,000 workers, these are the new positions that we find ourselves in, usually in chairs that were designed to handle a person sitting at a desk moving paper and perhaps typing on a keyboard.

With a normal chair these positions leave your back relying on muscles you’re not using to keep your spine in a happy position, which eventually leads to back pain, back pain leads to suffering, suffering leads to the dark side.

Or not. You might not be the target.

The Steelcase Gesture arrives

Steecase Gesture chair boxWhen I got my last office chair at Ikea, I had two fairly small thin boxes. I was expecting something similar in an office chair shipment and had it shipped to my work. I didn’t know the Gesture was going to arrive fully assembled in a box designed to protect it from the ravages of the shipping industry.

As such it dominated the entry at work coming in at maybe three and a half feet high and two feet wide and deep. (These are guesses, I didn’t bother to measure it.) It was the size of a small human and I had to get it up three stories to my office. Luckily it wasn’t absurdly heavy.

I’d planned to do an unboxing set of pictures or videos; however, since the thing was fully assembled, the video would have been of an out of shape sick computer technician attempting to manhandle a chair out of the box before realizing it was easier to just tip the box sideways and pull the Gesture out and stand it up.

I wasn’t too much of a fan of the color of the demo unit, but there are 13 color selections on the website and two bases you can choose from, so you’ve got a reasonably customizable color pallet to work with.

So with the chair in place, my trusty office chair sitting outside my office, and my back complaining that I’d just moved a little too much, I got to the serious business of sitting.

Steelcase Gesture features

So one of the reasons this chair is even on my radar is the ability to move each arm to wherever you need it. Want your left elbow out far and your right arm supported above your lap? You can do that. Rather than give a series of examples, let’s just say wherever you would want your arms to be able to rest, it probably can reasonably accommodate that. If you’re a long-torsoed person, you’re going to finally be able to rest your arms on the rests while sitting in a correct posture.

Steelcase Gesture arm restSteelcase Gesture lower backSteelcase Gesture backSteelcase Gesture back side

The arm height adjusts from 7″ above the seat to 11″, so you’ve got a reasonable range to play with.

The lumbar support seems to be there in any position I could get in, although it does get diminished in my favorite sitting position which is unfortunately not listed on the new postures of work (that being cross legged and in the “strunch” position, or #9).

Being at work with shoes on, I don’t get to do that a lot, and as I had to return the chair I didn’t want to mess the thing up too much with shoe prints. I did try it once sans sneaks though and the ability to get the arm rests in the right position was incredible.

The seat adjusts forwards and backwards and can go from a depth of 16″ to a 18.5. Might be useful if you’ve got shorter legs or sit in the “draw” or “take it all in” positions. Didn’t seem to make much difference for the positions I was employing.

Steelcase Gesture padded backSteelcase Gesture rollersSteelcase Gesture adjustable armrestSteelcase Gesture adjustable armrest

I believe the back has an adjustable recline strength, I don’t remember and forgot to take note of it before shipping the chair back. It was comfy as it came is all I recall.

The seat height is adjustable from 16 to 21 inches, and is tested to support up to 300 pounds but I would be really surprised if the chair couldn’t handle more than that. The thing is solid coming in at a 63 pound shipping weight (which I’m guessing translates to a ~55 pound chair).

The six week test

Steelcase Gesture in plasticThe loaner period was for two weeks, but due to me being sick as a dog and a few issues with a little tornado I asked them to extend it for a week. During this period, I just used the chair as an office chair and scribbled notes when I got a back twinge or was uncomfortable.

I returned the chair and went back to my office chair with the added lumbar pad and non-adjustable armrests and started taking notes.

The short of it is while I was using the Gesture, I had one complaint of being uncomfortable and that was in my crosslegged strunch position. Anything else was adjustable. While I was using my normal office chair I’m pretty much always moving to adjust myself to get into position for it.

So basically one chair conforms to me, the other I conform to.

The Gesture I think was the arms-down winner.

Since its return I notice with my old office chair my shoulders are tense unless I slide forward into the “take it all in” position, which screws with the lumbar pillow/rock/whatever this thing is unless I move it.

I actually walk in and don’t see the Gesture and I think my back sheds a tiny teardrop.

Is it worth it?

Maybe. I’ll qualify that with I’m not an expert in office furniture pricing, but I’m pretty familiar with what a chiropractor and neurologist cost on a bad back even with insurance.

The office chair I use appears to be one I could get for around $200 or less, $50 lumber thing added post purchase. The Steelcase Gesture comes in at four times as much. When thinking about how I no longer had the shoulder and upper back stress with it if , I’d seriously consider it.

Having a relatively new baby and a backyard (and bank account,) completely wrecked by a plumbing disaster, it’s sadly quite out of my reach at the moment.

Wrap-up

It’s a good solid chair, adapts to pretty much any position you can get in and provides proper support, and comes in several color options to fit your needs.

The black base model is available for $979 from Steelcase, or you can get it in Polished Aluminum for $1,069. The Steelcase Gesture is available and configurable at the Steelcase website.