Have a seat and take a load…on?

Stand up.  Just for a second, and then return to your chair.  What is your body’s response?  Does it pop and crack, or do you glide smoothly to a standing position?

eames-lounge-chair

If you sound like a collapsing bridge when you rise from your seat, chances are you aren’t using an ergonomic chair.  And if that’s the case, every day on the job is inflicting trauma on your body that will one day require medical attention.

Ergonomics is a fairly new science.  Workers of the 1960′s, 70′s, and 80′s never heard of such a thing.  They just went home aching and attributed to a hard day’s work.

In time, we have found that it doesn’t have to be that way.  With so many people in jobs that require near immobility for eight or more hours a day, the incidence of ergonomics-related injuries is rising.  Employees have a right and a responsibility to ensure that their employers are providing appropriate seating, and employers have a legal obligation to do so for workers–possibly even if they telecommute.

A new and expanding field like ergonomics presents opportunities to small businesses.  The field is specialized enough to have niche market value, but not so specialized that it lacks a market.

Customers needing effective ergonomic furniture will bypass the local discount store, which typically have two or three “one size fits none” chairs in one or two colors.  Instead, they will check out a company like Sitbetter, which has captured the variety of sizes, colors, types and styles that customers are seeking.

Tall workers?  There are special chairs just for them.  Heavier employees?  Petite staff?  Are workers at a drafting table all day?  All of these special functional needs create a market that is impractical for the big-box retailer to meet.

It’s a perfect market for online retailers.  Even a large city could support very few brick-and-mortar outlets for such a wide array of products, and most customers find it far easier to point and click for their purchases than to burn half a day of productivity with a crosstown drive and two-hour shopping expedition.

The market also prices nicely for a niche retailer.  Certainly retailers of ergonomic products offer high-end units, but there are less expensive models that most budgets can accommodate quite nicely.  As a would-be retailer, there is a wide range of shoppers to be captured.  This helps insulate you from economic downturns but still provides the opportunity for higher-profit items.

Our parents and grandparents put in an honest day’s work in the office of yesteryear.  They could have never imagined the changes that would be seen by their descendants.  Technology has brought us to a point where that honest day’s work can often be completed with very few departures from the desk.  The productivity is great, but the back edge of the sword is the ergonomic issues workers experience.

With any challenge comes opportunity.  As a growing field, ergonomics provides opportunities for wise startups to capture a secure, durable market share that limits competition without sinking into obscurity.