Sitting desk, standing desk or one of these oddball alternatives?


Use a laptop? A 2 in 1 or a tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard? You’re probably sitting at a desk or slouched on a sofa. Did you know that it’s arguably the worst way to be working? With health studies constantly linking such sedentary behaviour to heart disease, obesity, diabetes and even cancer, working sitting down could literally be killing you.

Read: Are you sitting down? Then you’re doing it wrong

Of course, there are ways to sit better. You can invest in a more ergonomic chair; make sure that your monitor is comfortably at eye height; even try a posture tracker like Alex (see below) that nags you when your shoulders slump.

But this isn’t addressing the core problem: sitting down at a desk for large chunks of the day is bad for your health.

Not everybody can do something about it. But there are alternative desk solutions you can try, some of them more oddball than others.

The most obvious is the standing desk. IKEA’s £445 BEKANT desk, for example, goes up and down at the touch of a button to accommodate sitting or standing work. This has recently been joined by the more affordable SKARSTA sit/stand desk (£175), the height of which can be adjusted by a crank handle.

They’re not the only contenders. There are height-adjustable laptop stands and wall-mounted computer desks that provide cheaper, space-saving alternatives. While the Eiger Standing Desk is a striking shelving system designed to retrofit any desk into a standing one.

Eiger Standing Desk
This Eiger Standing Desk is a stylish shelving unit that turns any desk into a standing desk. Image courtesy:

In fact, you don’t need to spend a ton of money to stand and work. The key is to place your screen at eye height so you can have a straight back and don’t spend hours looking down, straining your neck. You can hack such a setup with a table or sideboard, a couple of shoeboxes to raise up your laptop (I use a Lavolta Folding Laptop Table Desk Tray Stand) and a standalone keyboard. It works just as well.

A variant of the standing desk is the treadmill desk, where work space meets gym. LifeSpan sells the space-hogging TR1200-DT5 for £1,499, which combines a height adjustable desk with a treadmill powered by a 2.25 HP Continuous-Duty DC Motor. It can track your distance traveled, calories burned, time and step count as you work.

Prefer to pedal and work? LifeSpan also sells bike desks, which pair a work space with a gym-style indoor cycle. And while we’re combining exercise and work, take a look at this impressive ‘hamster wheel’ desk, designed by art graduate Robb Godshawin 2014:

Don’t want to work standing up? Not a problem. We have two unique solutions for you. As its name suggests, the LeanChair allows you to lean backwards slightly, supporting your back.

“LeanChair uses a reclining angle that takes about 25% of your bodyweight off your legs,” says its inventor Wayne Yeager, “which makes standing a lot easier and less painful.”

The LeanChair
The LeanChair, as its name suggests, allows you to lean rather than stand. It could be a more comfortable way to work.

Taking this leaning approach to the extreme, how about a ‘lying desk’? The $4,900 Altwork Station looks part dentist chair, part starship pilot’s command couch.

It offers users the ability to stand, sit or lay back in a chair that reclines almost flat — what Altwork has dubbed a ‘zero-gravity’ position. As you lean back, the attached monitor and desk swing up so that you don’t need to move your neck.

“Our unique focus position allows high intensity computer users to eliminate the discomfort of standard tables and chairs to they can focus longer on complex tasks,” says Altwork. “It’s time to move beyond outmoded furniture and create a new way to work for digital professionals.”

Of course, these desk alternatives might be missing the point. In the future, we might not use a traditional, physical desk at all.

If Microsoft has its way, we might work using a ‘Holodesk’, an augmented reality (AR) environment powered by the corporation’s HoloLens helmet. In this scenario, we’ll be able to work sitting down, standing up or lying down, interacting with holographic menus and apps projected onto our walls, floors and ceilings.

In this future, the concept of sitting down for hours at a desk could become as alien to us as a VHS tape is to a six year-old. — Dean Evans (@evansdp)

Man wearing a Microsoft HoloLens
HoloLens might enable us to work without a traditional desk, projecting our apps onto walls, floors and ceilings.

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