Leap Chair Employee Review
We like to offer our own thoughts on what we sell and, oftentimes, what we sit in all day. A while back Matt did some serious sitting in the Steelcase Leap Chair, and here's what he had to say.
So it's Thursday at Smart Furniture and I've been rocking spreadsheets like it's my job. Rocking spreadsheets *is* my job (or part of it), so no surprises there. What was a surprise was the opportunity to test one of our new office chairs from Steelcase — the Leap Chair. Not only does this give me the chance to sit in what I can already tell is a pretty sweet office chair for at least a week, it also gives me the opportunity to show off my creative writing skills! That doesn't mean I have any experience writing commentary of this sort or imply that my creative writing skills are above average, nor does it ensure that I have the capability to deliver to you, the reader, an unbiased review of a chair that I would love for you to buy. But it does mean that I get the chance to share my thoughts in a candid forum as honestly as I can and hopefully assist some shoppers in their chair-purchasing decisions. It also means that when I'm writing I'm not looking at any spreadsheets! Already, the Leap Chair makes a difference.
I usually sit in the Bungie Chair, which seems to be the default at the Smart Furniture office. It's a great chair; but it's definitely lacking in some areas. Most notably, there's no pivoting mechanism between the seat and the back, so when you lean back your legs go up in the air, which means that your legs aren't supported, and your knees start to feel weird. I love to lean back, and I have bad knees, so that's a problem.
As you may have guessed, this is not an issue with the Leap Chair. When I first sat down in it, I noticed that the back flexes while your legs stay parallel to the ground. Of course I had to make some adjustments; as I mentioned earlier, I love to lean back, so I adjusted the lower back firmness to a very relaxed setting. This let me tilt as far back as I wanted, but my butt started to slip over the edge of the seat when I was fully reclined. Fortunately, this was quickly remedied when I adjusted the seat depth.
Most office chairs that have this option rely on a rolling mechanism at the front of the seat that actually increases how long the seat is, but not with Steelcase. The Leap Chair's seat actually slides forward and backward, and you can make adjustments even when sitting down in it (with one hand, no less). The only downside is that when you're sliding backwards, you have to grip the casters with your feet to prevent the entire chair from moving. With the seat depth adjusted to fit yours truly, the Leap Chair felt great in a reclined position. So I stayed that way for a good chunk of the afternoon. My back feels good as the day is drawing to a close, and I'm looking forward to spending the entire workday with Leap tomorrow.
...of sitting in the Leap Chair was a far greater test than day one — a solid nine hours and change of chair time was in the works. Now that time is closer to two hours and I have to say that Leap has performed very well. I picked up on a couple of subtleties that I missed yesterday, and they do make a difference when spending an entire day in the chair.
The first is the cushioning effect you feel when you sit down in the chair with all your weight. The cylinder (the part that attaches the chair to the base) has some shock-absorbing mechanism so you never really feel the impact of your backside hitting the seat. It reminds me of when you're driving your car and you stop at a red light. When you see the light turn red you can do one of two things — you can really hit the brakes until your car comes to a complete stop, which causes your torso to lean forward for a second before your back returns to the car seat in a jarring fashion, or you can gently hit the breaks and lightly release them the moment before your car stops, which accomplishes the goal of the complete stop without any jarring movement of your person.
The former technique is favored by most seventeen-year olds, taxi-drivers, and many, many Europeans. The latter technique is favored by, well, sensible people who enjoy a comfortable halt in their automobile. I know sitting down in a chair is a different movement than leaning forward in your automobile, but the sensation is similar. So if you fall into the latter category of sensible drivers you might like the Steelcase Leap Chair. It really does reduce the amount of force your back and butt experience when you sit down. No lie — if it didn't I wouldn't have gone through the trouble of the red light analogy. It looks like I've written sufficiently about this one benefit of Leap for today. Until tomorrow...
It's the third day of sitting in the Leap Chair, and I seem to have reached the point where I want one. I visit our studio (ie store) often and always spend a few minutes sitting in as many things as possible (since I can choose from premium quality office chairs) before doing whatever it is I've gone over there to do, and I pretty much always want whatever it is I'm sitting in at the moment.
But now I really, really, want the Leap Chair. For real. I figured out that the one thing I thought was lacking can be adjusted. When I reclined as far as I could my lower back felt unsupported, which seemed kind of odd as the lower back needs lots of support in order for the chair to be comfortable. Leap has a support band that spans the width of the back, but it didn't go down as far as I wanted it to. Until now. It turns out that I'm a weakling and just needed to use more effort to move the lumbar support as far down the chair as possible, so now my entire back is covered and feels really comfortable. And that makes me happy.
Another bragging point for Steelcase is the number of places that the Leap Chair pivots. The back reclines smoothly, and the level of resistance is ultra-adjustable — ranging from "Effortless Recline" to "He-Man Couldn't Budge It." Once you're reclined, however, you can keep moving; the back itself pivots against the chair's frame, making it easy to take a nice long stretch, or stare right up at the ceiling, if that's what you want to do. For me, this is advantageous because when I listen to my iPod at my desk I like to bob my head up and down, and the flexibility of Leap's upper half lets me extend this pleasant bobbing motion down my back, so I can kind of pretend that I'm dancing while seated. I'm sure the image that comes to mind is not as cool as I make it sound, but I guarantee it looks cooler than me dancing fully upright. That would belong on Fail blog or an equally disgraceful website.
It's Tuesday — not yet hump day for the working world, but hump day for me in that I'm on day three of five of my Leap Chair review. It's the penultimate day of my review; after tomorrow the powers that be will strip me of my Steelcase chair and I'll go back to sitting in the ol' bungie chair. Don't get me wrong — the bungie chair is great, but it doesn't provide the overall comfort level or have all the nifty features that the Leap Chair has. For instance — the arms...
The Leap's arms don't just go up and down, they move in a bunch of different directions, and they do it without requiring any exertion on the part of the user. To move up and down, just press a button below the arms, and then release it to lock the arms at the desired height. They also go forward and backward, and this requires no button at all. Not only that — they swivel left and right too! You can move the arms north, south, east, and west with just a slight push, and then use those optimally positioned arms to rest your..arms..I use a keyboard and monitor at my desk (as opposed to a laptop), and I like to move around depending on what I need to be closer to — my phone or my giant pile of mess on the other side of my desk. The point is that I constantly reposition my keyboard, which requires me to constantly reposition my arms; being able to move the Leap Chair's arms in three dimensions keeps me comfortable, and probably does good things for my shoulders and spine too.
Three dimensions — that's as good as it gets, plain and simple. It'll be years before they have a chair whose arms move in more dimensions than that. Only then it won't be called a chair — it'll be called a time machine. Ok I'm getting back to whatever it is I was doing before the muse took hold. Later.
It's Wednesday around lunch time, which means the week is about halfway over for me. The Leap Week, however, draws to a close. As I sit here, reflecting on my time sitting in the Leap Chair by Steelcase, I'm pounding coffee because I watched the Harry Potter opening at midnight last night and didn't get to sleep until three o'clock in the morning. The movie was beyond awesome — many magnitudes better than any previous Harry Potter movie, and this sentiment was shared by many other Potter fans in the packed theater in downtown Chattanooga (this is relevant to the Leap Chair, I promise).
It was a lot of fun seeing an eagerly anticipated movie with one or two hundred other folks, except for the fact that all those bodies generated loads of body heat. So much so in fact, that the seat I paid many dollars for felt like it had a heating vent under it. I found myself squirming more and more as the film progressed, and my thoughts managed to find their way to the ever-so-comfortable Leap Chair, which is equipped with a breathable polyester-blend fabric that makes your sweat glands go into a coma. I hate sweating when I work, which is one reason I chose a Bungie Chair when I started working at Smart Furniture. Sitting on rows of spaced bungie cords gives me plenty of ventilation from my shoulders to my knees, so it's great in that respect.
When I switched to the Leap Chair, one concern I had was that the fabric wouldn't breathe like the Bungie Chair; fortunately, Leap proved up to the task. The texture of the back and seat feels slightly soft yet rough; not rough in a bad way, simply not smooth like leather (I haven't sat in the leather version). Anyway, something about this texture breathes very well and has made the temperature between me and the chair a non-factor. I wish I could have somehow had the Leap Chair to enjoy Harry Potter in. That would have made it even better.
So that does it for my Leap Chair review. I hope the critique was insightful and informative. As for me, I'm going to behave as if my review week continues indefinitely and keep the chair right where it is. Until next time.