The office dangling feet disadvantage: why it is harder for people to be confident when they sit and
Updated: Oct 23
Have you ever attended a meeting and, as you sat down on your chair, made the uncomfortable discovery that your feet couldn’t touch the ground?
Have you ever been in a meeting where you needed to be confident, make key remarks and make decisions, but found yourself having to do so with both your feet dangling like you were a 5 year old?
If you have never experienced dangling feet in a meeting, you are definitely taller than me or your workplace has chairs that enable shorter people to touch the floor.
If you have never experienced dangling feet at a meeting and wonder why I’d ever take the time to write about this, let me offer you a sneak peak into my world. I am 164cm tall (almost 5.4 for non-metric people), which means that I am not tall, but I am not short. Actually, the average female height worldwide is around 163 cm but varies depending on the region. Personally, at 164cm, I am the female average height in many countries including the USA, France, Ireland, UK, Belgium, Spain, New Zealand, China and many more. And yet, when you are my height or shorter, it often happens that you find yourself in meeting rooms where the chairs, even at their lowest level, prevent you from touching the ground fully. I have baptized this rarely discussed phenomenon, the “office dangling feet disadvantage” and I think it’s time we talk about it more, because let’s be honest, office chairs were made for tall people and no one likes to have their feet dangling in an office setting.
All of us, as children, have spent a great part of our childhood with our feet dangling. Whether it was when we sat at the dining room table on grownup chairs, on the bus, in the car or basically in any other seat made for adults, our feet dangled. As an adult, I’ve come to appreciate touching the ground when I sit. And this appreciation I have doesn't stem from me being picky or difficult, psychological studies have clearly demonstrated that humans are more confident, present and grounded when their feet lay flat on the ground. As an average heighted female, I often find myself in situations where my feet can’t fully touch the ground and it takes me extra effort to find my confidence and ground myself. This is why I believe that “office dangling feet” is a disadvantage.
As my own experience of this disadvantage is anecdotal, let me expand on the importance of being able to touch the ground and why I believe we need to ensure office workspaces can also accommodate those of us who are not tall.
The underestimated importance of being able to touch the ground to stay grounded during business encounters:
Physical and emotional stability: being physically connected to the ground through our feet has a deep effect on our mental and emotional state. If we are unable to touch the ground or have dangling feet, we can experience a subtle disconnection from our surroundings. If, on the other hand, our feet are firmly planted, it sends a signal to our brain that we are present and engaged. Such physical connection can promote a sense of stability, confidence and focus.
Reducing anxiety: as mentioned in other articles, I can easily be anxious in important meetings. Not touching the ground with my feet can add to the nervousness. The simple act of touching the ground with my feet can serve as an anchor and in turn reduce anxiety or nervousness. It also allows me to remain centered and composed.
Projecting presence and confidence: in addition to the above, having our feet planted enables us to maintain an upright posture, which is associated with confidence and presence. It is much harder to do so with feet dangling. Additionally, being grounded can also help regulate our body language allowing us to make confident gestures that reinforce our message.
Better presentation: when presenting something to a group, being grounded allows for better control over our body movements and also enables us to convey our message with more confidence and clarity. It is hard to be grounded when our feet are dangling. By staying connected to the ground, we can utilize our body language effectively, emphasizing key points, and engaging the audience more effectively. This enhanced physical presence helps to captivate attention and make a lasting impact during meetings.
Better decision making: when we are grounded, we are better equipped to make sound decisions. Having our feet on the ground helps us stabilize our thoughts and emotions allowing us to think more clearly and critically. By staying grounded, we make informed choices based on a balanced perspective, leading to more effective decision-making in high-pressure situations.
Active listening: did you know that it is easier to actively listen when we are grounded? When our feet are on the ground, we are less likely to be distracted or fidgety, which allows us to actively listen to what others are saying. Active presence leads to better understanding, better collaboration and the ability to respond thoughtfully to others.
Resilience: when facing challenges, being grounded helps us maintain stability, balance, remain composed and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances more easily.
Self-awareness: when grounded, we are more self-aware and empathetic towards others.
Overall, being grounded is critical and enables all of us to be a better version of ourselves. This is why I truly dislike when I find myself in meetings with dangling feet and why I struggle to be my best self in those situations.
To conclude this article on this unspoken topic that affects many of us, I have two key recommendations:
Always try to find a chair that will allow you to touch the ground, especially for important meetings.
As an employer, please ensure to purchase chairs for people of all sizes so that people with shorter legs don’t end up stuck with the “office dangling feet disadvantage”.
Let’s all remember to embrace the ground beneath our feet and let it serve as a powerful ally.