Another long day at the desk, my back hurts and my neck even more. Was it because of the crooked posture? Sitting for hours? One quickly comes to the conclusion: the office chair is probably to blame for the misery. If you then look around the Internet for a better, even more ergonomic model, you will always come across the same offer: Chic, futuristic office chairs with interestingly shaped backrests, wide armrests and comfortable headrests. So all you have to do is lean back in your triple-leaning chair and the discomfort will go away on its own?
A dangerous misconception, explains Josef Glöckl, managing director of the company Aeris from Haar. “The better the back is supported by particularly ergonomically shaped backrests, the more the muscles atrophy. Because a muscle that is not used degenerates,” he says. Hence the back problems. His solution: the “Swopper” with 3D motion technology. And it doesn’t look like the classic office chair at all: a round seat cushion, underneath the spring leg and a foot ring – either with or without castors. At first glance, a somewhat peculiar piece of office furniture, but the test seat is already convincing.
The spring tempts you to rock up and down, or “swopping”, as inventor Glöckl calls it. No matter which movement you make – forwards, backwards or to the side – the seat cushion moves with you. This keeps your back upright at all times. “Nature designed us to run, jump and climb, but not to sit rigidly,” says the entrepreneur, who enjoys devouring medical literature in his free time. Hence the company slogan “Never just sit!”, to which the 78-year-old seems to strictly adhere. To underscore his stories, he squats down, jogs through the room or bounces up and down on the swopper.
“Invent something, so that people don’t sit shattered in the office.”
The Viennese native was drawn to Haar a long time ago because of love. At that time he had already completed his studies as a civil engineer “with gnashing of teeth” and at the insistence of his father. When he moved into his wife’s apartment in Haar, he was studying industrial engineering, but this time of his own volition. In his engineering office he later devoted himself to many projects for development aid. Glöckl still lives with his wife in the district of Munich, although they have lived in Kirchheim since 1977. The company also moved between Kirchheim, Haar and various premises before moving to Hans-Stießberger-Straße in Haar six years ago.
It was also Glöckl’s wife who, as an osteopath and physiotherapist, made a significant contribution to the invention of the Swopper. During an evening walk in 1990, Glöckl says, she asked him to finally do something about this annoying back pain, which many of her patients at the time were struggling with and which was also plaguing him. Then she said to him: “Invent something, so that people don’t sit shattered in the office.” Glöckl accepted the challenge and considered what an ideal seat should be like. He has acquired a lot of medical knowledge, he says, also because he was “very interested”.
When developing the Swopper, three functions were particularly important to him: The stool should be springy so that the intervertebral discs would be supplied with nutrient fluid when swinging. The seat should also be movable in all directions and without a backrest to build up the back muscles. And it should promote an upright sitting posture – for deeper breathing, which would then have a better concentration effect. “The better the oxygen saturation, the better the brain works,” says Glöckl. Five years and many adventurous designs later, there were eight prototypes. “I was so convinced that humanity needs this seat,” says Glöckl. “Then I would have received a license fee and would have gone to play golf” – that was the plan.
But his requests were unsuccessful, nobody wanted his swopper. At that time, however, Glöckl could not think of giving up, as he had already invested almost 1.6 million marks in the product at that time. So instead of the Swopper, he gave up his engineering office and had the office stool manufactured himself. He then exhibited it at trade fairs and was initially laughed at for “the hopping”. It took 20 years, says Glöckl, for people to realize that exercise is the best antidote to back pain. In the meantime, business with the Swopper is booming and the company supplies the whole world.
The range has been expanded. A novelty is the “Active Office Desk”, a height-adjustable desk with two worktops of different heights. The idea behind it: Switching between standing and sitting as often as possible during a long day in the office in order to stay fit and focused. The “Muvmat” standing mat is then used for work that can be done standing up. With its special structure, it is intended to imitate the forest floor and counteract fatigue when standing for long periods. As a further development of the Swopper, there is now also the “Muvman” standing seat, which is reminiscent of a bar stool but has integrated the movement elements of the Swopper.
The Aeris range is always innovative, but it also comes at a steep price. Depending on the model, a swopper can cost between 600 and 700 euros. The office desk is priced at 899 euros, the standing mat is available for 199 euros and the stand-up chair for 419 euros. The products can be individually configured online, for example by color, cover fabric, height and spring settings. Glöckl justifies the prices with high demands in production in terms of quality, technology and durability – in addition, it is manufactured in precise manual work. Glöckl explains why such an investment makes sense: “You are doing something good for yourself and your quality of life.”
The people in the Munich area are extremely creative. In the “Hippes von hier” series, we present examples of unusual business ideas.