We humans are simply not designed for what modern office life asks of us. Sitting in front of a computer all day is a well known cause of all sorts of musculoskeletal ailments - hence the popularity of standing desks. But standing up all day isn't great for you either. It hurts your feet, for starters, it places additional loads on the circulatory system, leading to carotid atherosclerosis, and it increases your risk of varicose veins.
Tossing in your office job and becoming a lumberjack is one possible solution, another is looking at sit-stand desks that can give you the option to change things up throughout the day.
For the last month or so I've been using a very affordable ghetto-style standing desk by piling old boxes under my keyboard and monitor:
This solution wasn't bad, but transitioning from sit to stand to sit again was a bit time consuming, the boxes were annoying when they weren't on the desk, and Gizmag CEO Tim Hanlon felt they didn't do much for the aesthetics of an emerging technology website's headquarters. Fair point, Tim.
So we started looking into affordable alternatives that might look a bit nicer and be easier to deal with. Clearly the electrically actuated, hand-gesture responsive MisterBrightLight desk was too expensive at US$3,400. In fact, most decently sized self-lifting desks go for around US$2,000 and upwards. This wasn't going to fly with the bean counters.
The Varidesk Pro Plus, however, looked much more reasonable. At US$350 a pop, it's not horrifically expensive. It sits on top of your current desk and has room for two big monitors, or in my case a monitor and a laptop. It elevates the monitors on a separate level from the keyboard/mouse level, which is also pretty spacious, and while you can't adjust the spacing between these two levels, they work fine for me.
To raise it up, you grab a couple of levers on the sides and lift it up as a heavy spring assists you. It still takes a bit of effort, but it's easy enough. The same process lets you lower it down in a couple of seconds.
At its highest point, it's impressively stable. You can shake your monitors around a bit, and you wouldn't want to go leaning on it, but it's solid enough. You can lift it all the way up, which suits me at just under 6 foot tall, or stop at a number of points before the full extension.
There's no setup required, you pull the Varidesks out of a box and plonk them on your table – a process I'd recommend two people for, as I just about popped a disk doing it myself like some sort of he-man to impress the rest of the Gizmag team. I don't think anyone noticed, or if they did, they're playing their cards close.
Varidesk supplies a free iPhone/Android app that is pretty much entirely pointless – it reminds you to stand up and sit down every now and then, and counts how many calories you're burning while on your feet. Thanks guys!
One potential issue, depending on your setup, might be that cords and cables get squished in the Varidesk mechanism. It's worth paying attention the first couple of times you move your rig to see what's falling where.
We've got six of them in the office now, and in their first week, heads have been bobbing up and down throughout the Gizmag office like a jumbo sized game of whack-a-mole with nobody whacking.
The Varidesks seem solid, well priced and a good way to get a bit more activity and variation into our physiologically stagnant work days. We're giving them the thumbs up.
Product page: VarideskView gallery - 8 images