What's your problem?

My office chair is giving me a back ache...

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 03 May 2011

I have been working with my company for just over a year and all is going swimmingly - apart from one thing. I have been getting the most incredible neck and back aches and I'm sure it's down to the cheap chairs we have to sit on. The company I work for is a start-up, so I know we don't have cash to burn, but I'm spending so much money on massage treatments, that I might as well buy a new bloody chair myself. Does my employer have any legal obligation in the chair stakes?

A: My heart always sinks when people start talking about legal obligations. Of course they need to exist and of course we should all know what they are and of course, as a last resort, companies should be held to them; but it's nearly always better to start with amiable conversations, nifty ideas and a smidgen of humour. The moment legalities worm their way into human relationships, something dies.

Of course you should consider buying a new chair. There are specialist back shops in many towns and lots online. First, you need to be sure you're right in your diagnosis. Have you had a professional opinion? If and when you've found the right chair, go to your boss with a detailed analysis of your predicament: doctor's prognosis, cost to date of massage, likely future days off sick, price range of suitable chairs ... and so on.

Chances are he'll say: 'Oh, for God's sake. Just buy the bloody chair and send me the bill.'

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office? is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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