HOW NORMAL WORK CREATES ABNORMAL STRAIN     There is a common kind of strain that the best ergonomic equipment and working-practice cannot help.  It happens whether you sit on the best or the most simple chair, and it persists even when you have a good ergonomic setup.  It is not helped by advice like ‘sit well’ or ‘adopt a good posture’ because the cause is unconscious and it’s hard to change things you’re unaware of doing.  And if you take a short break or stretch it is waiting for you when you come back

The problem is the forward movement of the head and neck when you concentrate, which creates a leverage action on your back.  Focusing tends to pull the head along the line of attention, so even when when you have optimal eye-level sightlines, normal work can pull your head into an abnormally high-strain position (an estimated 15kgs extra downward force as seen here)

Best-practice ergonomics cannot currently help with the strain that comes from concentration, but now there is a solution based on a simple design change that works with almost all kinds of seats.  This is how Backlift can take ergonomics to the next level




VISION DRIVES TENSION     Concentration affects our working posture and especially our head position:  the effect starts young and it shapes the way we sit all through our lives.

At Backlift we call this pattern of head/neck displacement and partial postural collapse ‘Eyefall‘.  It begins around the time children learn to read and write.  There is something about narrow, complex concentration (on non-intuitive things like letters and mathematical symbols) that somehow disrupts the back’s natural lift and alignment





Long after our early schooldays the disruptive effect of concentration can be seen.  Eyefall is usually more subtle in adults than schoolkids, but it explains why you don’t have to have ‘bad’ posture to have problems with a tired/tense back.  Even minor forward movement of the head and neck creates a lever action that makes the head more tiring to support

The degree of strain is also related to how strongly you focus.  The eyes and head tend to push forward more with increasing concentration, intensifying the strain on the back.  In practice this kind of postural overwork is hard to change because the eye-lead movement of the head is unconscious and deeply ingrained




EYEFALL AND SPECIALIST SEATING      Many clinical and technical professionals need to sit upright (and mostly self-supporting) for their close-focus work, and the combination of strong concentration plus unsupported sitting is hard on the back.  People often choose saddle seats and other technical chairs to help with this, but the problem of Eyefall is only partly helped by using specialised seats

The attraction of elevated seats like saddle seats is that they help the back work in a similar way to if you were standing.  Indeed the back does stay generally comfortably straight and self-supporting in the semi-standing position, but things change when the sitter goes into active concentration.  The lower and mid-back still tend to keep their shape, but focusing pulls the head along the line of sight, and the straight back/angled neck position can put a lot of strain on the upper body






A CLEAR PATH TO COMFORT      The idea for Backlift comes from the observation that when your body is outwardly braced the expansion action drives a natural anti-gravity action in the back.  Your postural muscles tend to work in one general direction or the other, and if you are actively pushing outwards your body cannot passively contract inwards at the same time

The same principle of keeping the back open is used by physiotherapists in resistance band exercises for back pain and postural strengthening and rehabilitation.  Generally these kinds of ‘theraband’ exercise can be quite hard work, but we discovered was that very little expansion is needed to keep the back comfortably self-supporting and prevent the passive pull of Eyefall

From this insight we saw that a low-effort, hands free expansion effect could be built directly into chairs for a continuous postural lift.  A simple change to a seat base creates expansion while sitting, activating the back’s original anti-gravity reflex and buffering against the pull of concentration.  At last an effective design soluton to Eyefall


Backlift is weight-activated, so the effect automatically starts working the moment you sit down and runs in the background all the time.  Backlift resets the postural gearing of your back so it works in the direction of all-round expansion

That means that when concentration passively and subtly pulls your head forwards and downwards, the stronger 360º expansion of your back helps keep you actively open and balanced

Backlift gently drives the same dynamic that drives the easy, light posture that you see in younger children.  Because of life’s wear and tear we can’t promise your back will feel as good as when you were this young, but it makes a difference when your back is once again working in the same expanded way 





MAKING GOOD SEATS BETTER     Backlift is a mechanism and it is not tied to a single seat design.  It is simple and compact and can work with almost any kind of solid (non-mesh) seat.  We have focused on making technical samples of saddle and other work seats to show how Backlift can help in the areas of greatest need

Our saddle seat, hybrid perch seat and operator chairs show how you can transform working comfort with minimal change.  We don’t show these in detail because the mechanism works unseen in the seat base and the samples are not design submissions:  the difference is in how you feel and there is no substitute for the direct experience






AN INVITATION     With the current Covid-19 crisis, travel and face-to-face meetings are restricted and they could stay that way for a while

However, we believe the Backlift effect can speak for itself, so we suggest this:  if you’d like experience the difference for yourself then get in touch and we’ll send you a sample seat on loan.  And if it works for you, then let’s arrange to talk

Thanks for dropping by

Paul Smith and Lucy Barron


 / Brighton, East Sussex / +44 1273 566 616 /