A Legacy Always On the Move

 

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“The workplace is no longer about sticking people in a cube, adding some lumbar support, and telling them to not move until lunch.”

The man who spoke those words, our founder Chuck Saylor (pictured above), knows a thing or two about the importance of movement. It was, in part, seeing the effects of stasis in cubicle-bound workplaces that inspired him to move out on his own and start a different kind of furniture company in 2001—one focused on human-centered wellbeing and connection.

Thirteen NeoCon shows later for izzy+ (and 40 for Saylor!), he is once again making a significant move—this time toward retirement—but not without first introducing a new pair of chairs, designed and engineered by Sava Cvek to dramatically shift the way people understand sitting at work.

The desire to create Wabi and Nikko, the two chairs being featured in our showroom at NeoCon this year, was sparked by a back injury that radically changed how Saylor felt about sitting down.

“Even after I went through successful physical therapy, I still couldn’t get comfortable in a task chair for any extended period of time,” he says. “It didn’t matter how expensive it was, or how ergonomically sophisticated it was, I could not find a chair that didn’t ultimately produce pain for me.”

That’s when Saylor reached out to Cvek to take the design lead and to physical therapist Barbara Hoogenboom to serve as an expert resource on sitting posture and body mechanics. As the team worked through the anatomical research, it became clear that the design of the chair’s seat pan—not its back—was the key to creating a better way to sit. As a result, Cvek designed Wabi and Nikko from the bottom up. The seat pan, by aligning and balancing the pelvis, allows for the greatest freedom of movement while sitting, relieving pressure points and back pain while improving circulation and brain function.

Now, as he moves toward retirement at the end of July, the legacy Saylor is leaving through Wabi and Nikko is very fitting for a company that has always been about being innovative, agile, and on the move.

“The company that Chuck Saylor founded and inspired is a lively one that just can’t sit still,” says Kevin Kuske, who is marking his first NeoCon as President and CEO of izzy+.  “So, it’s truly appropriate that we introduce to the marketplace this year a pair of chairs that both promote healthy movement and speak volumes about Chuck’s contributions and legacy at izzy+.”

That legacy includes a focus on movement that came long before it became a buzzword in the realms of both design and wellbeing. From the first izzy “catazine” publication (which was called Go!) to the casters on all of our easy-to-move furniture designs and the surfboards and tandems that have topped our iconic NeoCon Mini Coopers, movement has been a theme all along:

2001: On your mark, get set, go! Chuck Saylor launches izzy, a different kind of furniture company, with human-centered products like Hannah that encourage movement.

2004: Ahead of the movement. We formed a partnership with Norwegian seating expert HAG, who has always understood that ergonomics is about movement.

2006: Research that hits the road. We began visiting colleges and universities to learn as much as we could about the future of teaching and learning spaces.

2008: Moving forward, Better Together. Acquiring Jami Inc. and it’s four brands—Harter, Fixtures Furniture, Zoom Seating, and ABCO—allowed us to move into more markets with more solutions.

2010: 3-2-1…blast-off! Our design team developed a new approach to the design of work and learning spaces, with a focus on movement between three key types of spaces.

2012: On the move to Nicaragua. A group of interior designers takes off with us on our first service-learning adventure in Nicaragua.

2014: BAM! Balanced Active Movement—the key to healthy sitting—is articulated in the creation of Wabi and Nikko, designed by Sava Cvek.

And now Chuck Saylor is on the move to his next big adventure. He will be greatly missed, but we will honor his legacy by moving forward in exciting ways, as he has always taught us to do!

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5 gifts of wellness to give yourself

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It’s that time of year—when the length of your to-do list meets the width of the holiday treat table in the break room, and the only gift you end up giving yourself falls somewhere under the category “stress” (which isn’t, of course, a gift at all).

Thinking about your health can  just add to the stress, but that’s because we tend to raise the bar too high, adopting an all-or-nothing mentality that’s tough to conquer. But take heart—giving yourself the gift of wellness doesn’t have to look like a six-mile daily run or cutting every last sweet treat out of your diet. There are many ways to insert small, good-for-you actions into your day, and there are many reasons it’s worth making it happen, from increasing productivity and creativity to decreasing aches and pains and irritability.

Consider these ideas a holiday gift from us, which will help you give a gift to yourself. Try several of them or just pick one or two that seem especially manageable.

1. Check your posture

No, your mother didn’t tell us to say this—our friend Barbara Hoogenboom did. Barbara, a physical therapy professor at Grand Valley State University who specializes in movement and posture, says our sitting and standing postures are key to our overall wellness. While sitting, aim for 90 degree angles at the hips, knees and elbows, and keep your shoulders at ease. Your head and torso should be in line with one another, and balanced over your center of gravity. Good posture doesn’t just make your mother proud, Barbara says it helps relieve back and neck tension and improves circulatory, respiratory, and digestive function (which can improve the workings of everything else—even your brain!). Read more about basic posture principles

2. Keep moving

You may have heard that sitting is the new smoking. You may have also heard that we make chairs, but we’ve always been big fans of movement—both moving while sitting and getting up to move about your workspace. While sitting, a correctly balanced seating posture (see above) allows for maximum healthy movement, according to Barbara Hoogenboom, EdD, PT, SCS, ATC. When it comes to getting up and moving around, research shows that getting away from your usual location (like your desk) is critical to effective thinking—it not only gets the blood flowing, but it  opens up neuropathways in the brain, allowing us to look at problems and projects from a fresh perspective. Read more about how “getting away” affects your brain.

3. Sleep well

Everyone knows that getting a good night’s sleep helps our immune system fight off viruses (and helps us fight off the grumpies). But research shows that adequate sleep can also boost creativity, by increasing levels of serotonin. To achieve the deep sleep required to reduce cortisol levels and boost serotonin, start winding down an hour before bed by putting away your electronic devices and reading a book or a magazine rather than Facebook or your email. A hot bath or shower also helps, as does limiting food and alcohol for two hours before bed. Sweet dreams!

4. Stretch yourself

You don’t have to go to the gym to do something good for your health. Simple stretches can be done right at your desk, boosting energy, releasing and lengthening tight muscles, and moving more oxygen through your system. Try a couple of these work-friendly stretches every hour or so. (And if you’re taking time off work for the holidays, these yoga poses can be practiced without leaving your bed!)

5. Laugh a little

Of all the gifts of wellness we’ve offered, laughter is probably our favorite at izzy+—especially during a holiday season focused on joyful times spent doing your favorite things with your favorite people. Not only does approaching life with a sense of humor bring many personal benefits, laughing with others creates and sustains interpersonal bonds (something we care a lot about at izzy+—being Better Together). Laughter also results in multiple health benefits, from decreasing stress and managing pain to energizing organs, boosting the immune system, and improving blood pressure and flow. Read more about the benefits of laughter—and be sure to practice laughter as much as possible this holiday season!

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Two companies learning & growing together, across the miles

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What does dog sledding have to do with seating ergonomics?

Or what does a manufacturing plant have in common with a herd of reindeer?

And why would two furniture companies based more than 4,000 miles apart decide that a partnership is a great idea?

For more than eight years, izzy+ has been making treks to visit the Norwegian side of its family and uncover answers to those questions and more, firsthand.

Most recently, in March, it was a group of 11 izzy+ sales representatives who traveled to Norway, where HAG has been based since it began designing and making workplace seating in 1943. izzy+ founder Chuck Saylor met HAG leaders in early 2004, when izzy+ was just three years old, and the two companies announced alliance at NeoCon that June.

“The corporate culture and beliefs at izzy+ and HAG are so much alike,” says seating product manager Nick Fernandez, who has visited HAG twice since starting at izzy+ in 2012. “When you’re at HAG you hear the same types of stories, and see the same passion for the same things. It’s also laid back like izzy+—they don’t take themselves too seriously on a day-to-day basis, but they take what they do really seriously, just like izzy+ does.”

While the commonalities of the two companies sparked the partnership, it’s their differences that inspire such a vibrant collaboration—and make these regular treks to Norway so important—according to Rune Akselberg, a native of Norway and Vice President of Sales and Market Development at izzy+.

“The culture in Norway is quite different than in the U.S., especially when it comes to caring for the environment and general health and wellbeing,” says Akselberg. “It’s a much stronger lesson when you can experience it for yourself—when you see the elk and the reindeer drinking from the stream right outside the HAG plant, you understand that everything is connected. The choices a company makes have a broad impact, well outside its doors.”

The Norway trips, which include time in Oslo, where HAG is headquartered, and Roros, the small mountain village where HAG’s main plant is located, are all about learning through active participation in the culture, not passive observation.

For instance, at the Oslo Opera House, izzy+ groups see another type of Scandinavian design, experiencing how form, function, and people come together. When they visit a dog sled camp, they learn basic dog sledding techniques, then harness the dogs on sleds and go on a thrilling ride into the mountains. After dog sledding, the group convenes around a big fire in a teepee, where they eat, drink, and share stories—perfect object lessons in HAG’s focus on movement and izzy+’s Better Together philosophy.

“Dog sledding is an experience like no other, and it perfectly demonstrates the HAG philosophy around balance, movement, and the environment,” says Akselberg.

Laura Connell, who is based at the Chicago izzy+ showroom, says immersing yourself in Norwegian culture really makes a difference. She uses the word “profound” to describe her experience in Norway this past March.

“Norway is the healthiest country I’ve ever been to. The culture is all about balance and movement, and how our bodies are supposed to function,” says Connell. “Everything we did on the trip tied into something we were learning about HAG. At HAG they have a very holistic approach to everything—the environment, corporate responsibility, ergonomics, design—it’s all there in every chair. It was great to see it all in action, both in how they work and how they live.”

Seeing HAG’s beliefs in action has really stuck with Fernandez, who says, “No decisions are made randomly or by accident at HAG. Every decision is held up against their brand standards. It doesn’t matter how cool something is or how easy it would be to sell. If it’s not up to all their standards, they won’t make it.”

More than anything, Akselberg loves seeing groups of izzy+ travelers return home with stories to tell and a deeper, more passionate understanding of HAG, their Norwegian family.

“I think this relationship with HAG has played a huge role in how we understand and talk about important issues like the environment, and health and wellbeing at izzy+,” Akselberg says. “Learning together, experiencing something new together, is a really powerful experience. izzy+ and HAG have so much in common, but also so much to learn from each other because of our different perspectives and cultures.”

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Pictured at the top of the post is the izzy+ group that traveled to Norway in March (photo by Stacy Marcus). Below are photos of the izzy+ group preparing to go dog sledding; people congregating and walking on the new Oslo Opera House (both photos also by Stacy Marcus); and a recent outcome of the izzy+-HAG collaboration: HAG Capisco Puls seating, pictured with Dewey 6-Top tables.

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