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An Archimedes-inspired sit-to-stand desk to tackle workplace sedentarism

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Workers of the world, rise up

A sedentary lifestyle threatens the health of millions of European office workers. One Italian firm’s innovative designs could put a spring in their step.

Society

There was never any question about Luciano Marchina’s calling in life. “The family business was Mara so it was more than natural that as soon as I was old enough, I would also join the business,” says the Archimede project officer. For 60 years, the company started by his father Camillo has offered customers furnishings for offices and public spaces. The younger Marchina’s passion for applied mechanics – which drove him to dismantle objects around his home to better understand how they worked – led to the development of innovative and functional furniture designs. Chief among these is the Follow desk: a table whose height can be quickly and easily adjusted with a touch. This fine-tuning reduces the chance of office workers developing poor posture and muscle pain, and by transitioning quickly to a standing desk, the Follow desk gives employees the opportunity to stretch their legs – and safeguard their health. “Sedentarism in the workplace is an important contributor to ill health,” says Marchina, reeling off the negative consequences associated with sitting too long: cardiovascular and kidney disease, musculoskeletal disorders and obesity. The World Health Organization has linked physical inactivity with 2 million deaths per year. The problem, he explains, is that many sit-to-stand desks are not fit for purpose. “After an initial moment due to the novelty, the table returns to being a normal desk.” This is because operating the table proves cumbersome and imprecise, or, in the case of motor-assisted tables, the adjustment process is too slow. By contrast, Mara’s Follow desk contains a special spring precisely designed for this project, which has the peculiar characteristic of releasing stored energy at a constant rate, explains Marchina. This behaviour allows the desk to easily rise or lower in a smooth, controlled manner, something Mara calls a ‘no gravity effect’. With the rise in demand for flexible working environments, particularly among coworking space, the demand for more equally responsive office furniture is growing. Marchina estimates that this market is responsible for 70 % of the company’s turnover. “The health and well-being of employees is an increasingly central issue in the modern working world, and as a result, solutions such as height-adjustable tables are spreading rapidly,” he says. EU funding helped his company to respond to this demand. “The development of new products is expensive, but it is an essential part of our business,” says Marchina. “The financing of the EIC Accelerator gave us the opportunity to offer the market an innovative and technologically advanced product.” Helmed by Marchina and his daughter Laura, Mara continues to thrive: the company has seen 25 % growth for 4 years running. “The aim of our company has always been to improve business environments with dynamic and easy-to-handle solutions that could revolutionise the way we work,” says Marchina. Marchina hopes to continue this tradition for innovation. “When I have the opportunity to meet a customer and show them one of our products, I like to see an expression of amazement on their face,” he says. “It is a small confirmation that Mara, my work and that of the team, are going in the right direction.”

Keywords

Archimede, furniture, Mara, spring, office, desk, table, sitting, sedentarism, standing, posture

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