You're likely never going to see "desk jockey" join the ranks of loggers, pilots and roofers on the list of America's most dangerous occupations. But recent studies now claim that people who sit for long periods of time face health risks as dire as those caused by smoking. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times noted the following:
"A study published in the journal Diabetologia in November 2012 analyzed the results of 18 studies with a total of nearly 800,000 participants. When comparing people who spent the most time sitting with those who spent the least time, researchers found increases in the risks of diabetes (112%), cardiovascular events (147%), death from cardiovascular causes (90%) and death from all causes (49%)."
One solution, recommended by James A. Levine, M.D., Ph.D, on the Mayo Clinic's website, is to move and stand more—and to consider using a standing desk. The problem is that standing desks tend to be expensive: prices we found ranged from $549 to $1,925. Also, they aren’t designed to move easily between sitting and standing positions. Both issues make it hard for cost-conscious small business owners to provide a healthier working alternative for their employees—or themselves.
A Standing Desk Priced for Small Business
An affordable alternative, the adjustable-height VariDesk, comes in three models. Laptop ($275); Single—designed to hold one monitor ($275); and Pro—designed to hold two monitors ($300). We reviewed the Varidesk Laptop.
Figure1: The VariDesk Laptop standing desk makes it simple to work from a standing or sitting position.
Installation and setup is about as easy as it gets. No assembly required, although you might need two people to get it out of the box and onto your desk. When flat, the Varidesk Laptop model measures 5(h) x 30(w) x 27(d) inches, and it weighs slightly more than 39 pounds. When fully extended, it measures 15.5(h) x 30(w) x 31.5(d) inches.
While the website advises that the Varidesk Laptop holds up to 20 pounds of weight, our review unit sported a large sticker on the platform deck warning us not to exceed 35 pounds. We advise erring on the side of caution. The sturdy, black-coated desk features a built-in adjustable keyboard tray (which doubles as a stabilizing counter weight), smooth, rounded edges and a classic look that should go well in just about any professional or home office.
Out of the Box and Onto the Desk
The VariDesk lets you move easily from a sitting to a standing position. It sits on top of your desk, and when you want to work while standing, you squeeze the release handles situated on either side of the platform deck. Just lift until it clicks firmly into place at the height that works for you. Simply reverse the process when you're ready to sit down.
In the lowest position, the platform deck sits five inches above your desk, and it reaches a height of nearly 15.5 inches when fully extended. We counted a total of eight height positions. The spring-assisted mechanism moves smoothly, and it doesn’t require any appreciable strength to operate. We like the VariDesk's overall build quality. It's solid without a hint of instability, and it never gave us a moment's worry as we lifted expensive equipment up and down throughout the day.
Figure 2: The Varidesk Desktop App reminds you when it's time to change working positions.
One thing to note: the VariDesk works best when used with a wireless keyboard and mouse. Each time you raise the Varidesk, you move your keyboard and mouse from the keyboard tray and place them on the platform deck. With wired peripherals, you'll need to thread them through each time you change position and, while doable, it's a pain.
One other consideration: Varidesk fits on most desks, but it works best on a flat desk, table or cubicle counter. If your desk has shelves, multiple levels, or a back, take measurements to make sure it can accommodate the VariDesk both in the flat and in the fully extended positions.
A Standing App
It's one thing to have an adjustable height desk; it's another to remember to actually use it. That's where the VariDesk companion app comes in handy. A quick, free download, this customizable app reminds you when it's time to take a stand or take a seat. You can adjust the reminder in 5 and 10 minute increments, and a pop-up window tells you when it's time to change positions. It can also tell you how many calories you burn throughout the day, but you have to divulge your weight first.
A word of advice: start your stand-and-work regime slowly at first; stand for 5 minutes at a time and then build up. Working while standing takes some getting used to, but we found that it improved our focus, and we felt decidedly less achy at the end of the day.
Whether you're concerned about the health effects of sitting all day, or you simply want to improve your mental focus, a standing desk can help. And if you're also looking for affordable quality and a top-notch design, the VariDesk delivers on all counts.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of Small Business Computing.
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