Grown tired with simply sitting behind your desk? Did the horror stories about sitting sickness scare you out of your office chair? Fed up with corporate vegetating, buttplunked in an Aeron or Leap? Here are some chair alternatives to spruce things up at the dull ol’ office.
1. The mobile worker’s workhorse: The portable workstation
Some lucky people need nothing but a tablet computer to do their job, and can happily keep up with their tasks from a park bench or a crowded bar. If you need space to work effectively, but you still want the freedom to work anywhere, then a fold-out ergonomic workspace might be the solution.
An all-in-one workspace features a height-adjustable seat along with a decent-sized desktop, all designed to fold into a portable package. If your workplace encourages hot-desking, then this is a great way to ensure you always get a comfortable place to sit – instead of arriving half an hour early to nab the most comfortable chair, you can bring an entire workspace in from your car.
2. The uber-geeky futuristic workstation that lets you work in any position (even zero gravity position!)
Imagine a dentist’s chair on the set of Star Trek. That’s how the most sophisticated all-in-one workstations look. A chair with hydraulic lifting action and 360 degree motion allows you to tilt and readjust to find your perfect position, and a stand holds your computer at the perfect level for working.
The Altwork Station is unbelievably comfortable. You might find that you want to keep your rickety office chair for workday use, so you can save your $5000 workstation for relaxing in the evenings. Or simply never leave the office again.
3. The unsettling instability stool that knocks you off balance (yet calms down ADHD-ers)
These types of stools are similar to bar stools, but with a single leg that flexes gently as you move. A high seat encourages you into a half-standing position with your feet flat on the floor – much better for your back than slumping in a desk chair. The whole setup is designed to engage your core muscles, and regular users report better balance and less back pain.
Manufacturers usually tout their wobbling stools as a way to encourage time-saving practices like standing meetings. Instead of booking out a meeting room and settling in for a whole afternoon of coffee-drinking, you and your colleagues pull together your high stools and brainstorm. The wavering base means you’re too unsteady to procrastinate comfortably, so you’ve got to get on with your work. On a more serious note, click here for a slightly more positive outlook.
4. The treadmill desk, great for sports freaks and productivity buffs alike
Perhaps the best idea is not to use a chair at all. Our increasingly sedentary jobs are damaging our health, and some experts have gone as far as to say that “sitting is the new smoking”. Getting active during the workday isn’t just good for your health, it has also been shown to boost creativity and productivity.
The trouble is that most workers barely have time for a 5-minute bathroom break, let alone a lunchtime workout. A treadmill desk (or an exercise bike desk) allows you to squeeze some exercise into your day, without breaking away from your email. The treadmill runs at around 2mph, the speed of a gentle stroll around the park: it’s enough to keep you alert, but not so fast that you’ll spill your coffee.
Even if you only use it for an hour a day, that’s better than nothing, and research has shown that workers with access to a treadmill desk get more exercise even if they aren’t forced to use it. For obvious reasons, this type of desk is best for people with low-stakes office jobs: if you’re trying to restore a Renaissance painting or interview a murder suspect, this is not the desk for you.
5. The standing desk: this ‘innovation’ is actually ages old
The standing desk sounds like a weird hipster invention, but it has a surprisingly long history. Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci, and Winston Churchill are all said to have worked at standing desks.
Standing up all day is far better for your health than sitting: even when you aren’t doing anything, your muscles will be making hundreds of tiny movements every minute in order to keep you stable, meaning that you burn a handful of extra calories every hour.
One advantage of a standing desk is that it’s far cheaper than any fancy ergonomic equipment. Your boss might not want to buy you a $4,000 active-sitting chair with 4G connectivity and an inbuilt seat-warmer, but he really can’t object to you propping your computer monitor up on two shoeboxes.
6. The anti fatigue mat, not just for the office
An anti-fatigue mat has a non-slip rubber surface and shock-absorbing texture, to prevent muscle pain during long shifts on your feet. Factories, workshops, and labs use them to make life more comfortable for workers who are on their feet for hours.
For office drones, anti-fatigue mats are great to slip under a standing desk to prevent tiredness from standing up all day. Not only that, but it also gives your whole workstation a rugged, blue-collar sort of look, which is a nice counterpoint to a day spent completing meaningless admin tasks.
7. The balance board: Jetsons style office furniture (if only it could hover)
Turbocharge your standing desk with a balance board. A wobble board is unstable, and you have to constantly tense and flex your muscles in order to stay in one place. Some rock only from side to side, some move back and forth as well.
They’re large and fairly stable, so there’s minimal risk of falling off, but you’ll definitely find it more comfortable if you wear sensible shoes. Next ergo office equipment addition? A balance pole for some upper body workout?
8. The exercise ball, loved by health buffs, folks who can’t sit still, people with back aches, and yoga practitioners
Ever sat at your desk and wished you were at Pilates? Get that gym feeling with an exercise ball for a chair. Sitting on a squishy balance ball forces you to sit upright with your core muscles engaged: try to slump or lean forward, and you’ll end up falling onto the floor.
If you don’t think your torso is quite strong enough, you can buy a little frame that goes around the bottom of your ball to stop it rolling.
Studies have found mixed health effects from sitting on an exercise ball – but while they might have some shortcomings as a seating option, they are far more fun than a regular office chair. Race your colleagues around the room on your yoga balls, or play human ten-pin bowling down the main corridor.
9. The desk hammock: the poor man’s nap pod, the smart man’s office seat
Richard Branson is one of Europe’s most successful entrepreneurs, who started from almost nothing to build a chain of multi-billion-dollar businesses. When interviewed about his work habits, he doesn’t talk about getting up at 5am, inbox zero, or mindfulness: he says that he likes to work in a hammock.
Well, Branson owns his own Caribbean island, so it’s not too difficult for him. But even if you’re stuck at a desk job, it’s possible to work from a hammock. From a practical point of view it’s no more awkward than working in bed: lean on a lap tray, or build a mini hammock workstation if you’re crafty.
You can buy a special hammock (Schnap) which hooks to the underside of your desk, or you can attach a regular one – it’s safest to install two heavy-duty hooks into the wall, but you can get away with hanging it from a sturdy door frame or a very heavy piece of furniture.
This one’s probably easier for someone who works at home yet you may be able to convince your employer by telling them that concentration improves in a hammock. Just don’t inform them about the flip side: you’re likely to doze off.
10. The kneel chair, now non-Catholics can find absolution too
The human body is designed to either stand, walk, or lie: from an evolutionary point of view, sitting is a crazy modern invention. Active sitting chairs are slightly better for you than basic office chairs, but it’s still not healthy to fold your legs at 90 degrees from your spine for long periods.
Kneeling chairs feature a sharply banked seat which tilts your weight forward and holds your pelvis in an ‘open’ position. A pair of shin rests stops you falling off. These chairs are great if you need to do a lot of close-up work, since they allow you to lean forward without bending your back.
They’re an absolute nightmare if you often have to get up and walk around, though, since it takes a good thirty seconds to disentangle your legs from the knee pads.
11. The desk leg exerciser, give restless leg syndrome an outlet
Can’t decide on a stand, treadmill, or seated desk? Get the HOVR seated walker and combat the inactivity that’s thought to be so unhealthy. After all it’s not sitting that is bad for you, it’s being inactive. Its suspended discs can move in all planes of motion allowing your feet and legs to move independently and in all directions. I was not just kidding in the subtitle as studies show that “sitting for long periods at work can make restless legs syndrome feel worse”.
Got a favorite desk chair alternative?
Which one would you pick? Shout it out in the comments below.
Calorie burner: How much better is standing up than sitting? BBC.
Why Richard Branson prefers to work in a hammock or tub rather than at a desk CNBC.
Exercise ball studies. UC Davis.
How to improve meeting efficiency and productivity. Brandeis University.
Treadmill Workstations: The Effects of Walking while Working on Physical Activity and Work Performance. Plos.org.