The Wrong Trousers? How clothing affects ergonomics for office workers

Our serviced offices in Manchester and London are designed to be as comfortable as possible, with ergonomic furniture, relaxation rooms and plenty of different areas for informal conversation and collaboration.

So we’re always interested to learn of possible causes of discomfort in office environments, and ways to overcome them.

One potential pitfall for office workers is the problem of wearing the wrong trousers, which was the focus of research published in the academic journal Procedia Manufacturing 3 and carried out by a team from the University of Minho in Portugal and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

What’s the problem?

The researchers posed a problem for office attire: “A growing number of jobs require workers to sit. Most clothes, except those intended for wheelchair users, were designed for walking or the standing position.

“Clothing designs should be user-oriented and meet users’ needs. Garment design should conform to body position and posture, not just shape and size.”

They proposed that because trousers are designed for standing and walking, they can cause multiple problems once the wearer sits down:

  • Overlapping fabric
  • Uncomfortable seams
  • Pressure exerted by accessories

All of these combine to create compression forces, poor circulation and may lead to thermal discomfort as well.

What’s the solution?

The team suggested trousers designed for the seated position, allowing for a rise at the back and a decrease at the front, adapting to the change in leg length and avoiding seams across the buttocks and lower back.

In the study, they tested regular jeans against FYT jeans, which have four adaptations in a seated position:

  • Less bunched-up fabric behind the knees
  • Hidden elastic in the waistband
  • No patch pockets on the back (to reduce uncomfortable seams)
  • Hidden zipper to increase inseam length in crotch area

The study found significant reductions in compression forces in each area, including over 75% on the back of the knee and 65% on the front of the knee, 55% less compression on the crotch and nearly 90% less on the waist.

What does this mean?

Whether you wear formal office attire or more casual clothes to work, it’s worth considering the seated position when trying on new clothes to see how well they fit.

There are plenty of ways to get a more comfortable fit, ranging from stretch denim jeans, to hidden elastic in the waistbands of smart trousers – there’s something for every dress code.

Even on a very basic level, this research helps to validate the decision to loosen your belt a notch after a particularly large lunch.

Ultimately it’s all about feeling comfortable at work, which in turn can naturally help you to be more productive over the course of a long day sat at your desk.

With the ergonomic furniture in our serviced offices in London and Manchester, you’re off to a good start – and if you ever need to stretch your legs, our kitchen areas, relaxation rooms and scenic surroundings all give you somewhere to go when you need to stand up for a while.

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