We recently spoke to Melanie Nicholls about her experiences with the shift to remote working and how this led her to improve her home workstation and start using an active sitting office chair. 

Please tell us about yourself, who do you work for, what is your job role, and what does a ‘day in the life’ look like?

I’m a director at a Market Research company, where i head up one of the specialist departments. My work involves being out and about a lot of the time (running focus groups and interviews etc.), but I still spend a fair amount of time in the office in meetings and running the team. A day in the life can be very varied. If I’m in the office, I’ll be be working on projects, writing proposals and in meetings (both internal meetings and client meetings). If I’m on fieldwork, I can be travelling around the country interviewing people, running evening focus groups or conducting telephone interviews. It’s very varied, and that’s what I love about it.

What were the challenges you encountered when like so many of us you suddenly found yourself working from home?

My company adopted ‘agile working’ around 18 months ago, and we’ve been encouraged to work from home one day a week where possible. This means that my tech set up is good, and I can access all the drives I need to when working from home, and am able to communicate with my team. The main challenge for me was my work set-up: I didn’t have a desk, so I had been making do with working on my laptop on the sofa. I realized very quickly that this would not be sustainable in the long term.
One of the key challenges of WFH was the number of Zoom calls that I needed to take. As my team was dispersed, it was important to set up a daily call to check-in, but all my other regular meetings – and any project meetings or informal catch-ups and interviews – were all transferred to Zoom. On some days, I had almost back-to-back calls, which meant I was sitting for hours a day.

What was the set up of your workstation at home? How adequate was it was in terms of ergonomics?

I bought a small desk, so I was in a better situation than when I was working on my sofa. I started off with my laptop and a mouse. I struggled as the screen was so low and the keyboard was too small.

We advised you to quickly improve your set up by putting your laptop on an improvised elevation (books or a box) to ensure the top of the monitor is level with your eyes when sitting upright, and to attach an external keyboard to your laptop to make this possible. How did you do this? What did you use and how long did it take you?

I gradually improved my set up from laptop on the sofa, to a laptop on a desk, to a laptop on a pile of books on the desk, and a separate keyboard. Although the screen was higher, I really struggled with my posture, and I had lower back pain from sitting on my (unsupportive) kitchen chair.

Finally, you decided that you needed a proper ergonomic chair when WFH so you familiarized yourself with active sitting and started using Symbiotic. How did you find the experience? How would you describe the impact it’s had on you?

I have a much better set up now! Symbiotic Chair has made a huge difference to my back, posture and overall levels of comfort. It took a little while to get used to (it was surprisingly wobbly at the start), but I felt the positive effects almost immediately. My posture is much better than when I was on the sofa (which is not surprising!), but it’s also better than when I’m in the office. With the ‘agile working’ set-up I had a different desk, chair and screen every day, which meant I could be too high or too low, leaving me slouching or hunched over my desk. Symbiotic is comfortable, moves with me, and keeps me in an active sitting pose, so I always feel supported. The seat is incredibly comfortable. I spend a huge amount of times in Zoom meetings and working at my desk – without the breaks that naturally occur at work (walking to the upstairs kitchen to make coffee) – and I’ve sat comfortable for up to 10 hours a day. That would not have been viable with my previous set up. Ultimately, it’s been a fantastic experience and I’ll struggle with the chairs at work when I go back.