“They look really well designed. Everything is there: nice coffee, great designer furniture,” says the designer Mirjam de Bruijn. “But more people have complaints. [It] looks nice but the furniture is not made for working on.”
De Bruijn, a recent graduate from Design Academy Eindhoven, decided to create a series of portable tools that look good in contemporary offices — but also make up for what those offices lack in ergonomics. Called Asana, the series includes a wooden roller you can rest your wrist on while using a mouse, a set of weights to exercise your upper body, and a stylish resistance band for stretching your shoulders and chest. There’s also a wooden board to stimulate blood flow in your legs and an inflated cushion that helps with posture and activates the muscles in your back.
While larger ergonomic tools like standing desks have become popular and are occasionally available into contemporary office spaces, smaller tools most are not. De Bruijn was inspired when she realized that many of the supports physiotherapists might recommend to people who are suffering from back pain and poor circulation look like they’re straight out of a gym or a doctor’s office–not something that you necessarily want to use at work. Take those desk-sized bike pedals, for instance, or balance ball chairs. “You always have this one colleague who has one. People make jokes about it. It’s never the standard,” she says. “You really notice it in a well-designed area. It became a taboo.”
But people do care about their health, and there’s been a lot of studies on how destructive sitting at a desk can be for your body. That’s where Asana fits in. Each of the tools is sleek enough to pass for a stylish paperweight or a small-scale minimalist sculpture–so it looks right at home on your desk. Plus, seeing these kinds of objects every day could even act as a reminder to get up and stretch.
De Bruijn showed off the project prototypes at Dutch Design Week last year, along with a packaging idea designed to reduce global emissions. She hopes to one day develop Asana into real products that simultaneously integrate into modern office spaces and encourage people to use them.