9 Nov 2021

Limbering up - Bart de Vries

From Nine To Noon, 11:30 am on 9 November 2021

Wellington entrepreneur Bart De Vries is on a mission to create office furniture that helps prevent back pain.

The adjustable wooden desks created by his new company Limber have been hailed by international experts as "the world's healthiest desk".

As New Zealanders transitioned to working from home during the first Covid-19 lockdown last year, there was a massive increase in the amount of money spent on chiropractors and pain relief, De Vries tells Susie Ferguson.

A lot of stiffness from computer work comes from simply not moving enough, says De Vries, a former professional hockey player whose own hips have had "a world of experience".

He started exploring how to solve this challenge through design.

Carrying out his research via a laptop on a fixed desk, De Vries was well aware of the irony.

"I'd shifted away from physio to explore these ideas and then here I am experiencing all of the symptoms of the problem I'm trying to solve. That really jolted me into action and jolted me into starting the design process around this desk."

The office chair itself is the biggest obstacle to movement, De Vries says. 

And contrary to popular belief, bad posture isn't a cause of pain - it's lack of movement - so standing isn't much better.

Standing desks are also often difficult to adjust so people are less likely to interrupt their work and do that.

A Limber desk in action

A Limber desk in action Photo: Limber

Furniture that is itself designed to move easily is what keeps people moving, De Vries says. 

Limber's dynamic desks', which are designed and produced in Wellington, enable people to move into different positions as easily as possible.

The desks make it simple to quickly lower the height of your work surface to the floor which is the best place for your body to work for long periods, he says.

"The ground is the most movement-rich environment we've got ... Going to the floor takes your hips, your knees, your ankles through a full range of motion. It requires balance, strength, flexibility.

"Then once you're on the floor, you've got access to a number of different postures, from kneeling, cross-legged, crouching… there are so many different options. You can just circulate, you can wriggle, you can move when you feel uncomfortable."

For the "floor curious", Limber also produces a low stool that supports all of your body weight.

"It's overwhelming for people when they first try it. They do not expect it to be as comfortable as it is."