Over the course of my career as a writer, I have probably spent the cost of my son’s future college tuition to have physical therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and crystal healers (sorry, I live in L.A.) all tell me a version of the same thing: “You sit wrong while you work.” My job is a literal pain in the neck — and frankly, my top left shoulder too. When I am on a job that expects me to work outside of my bedroom (which is where I work from home), I can find a little relief from the fancy standing desks that lots of writers’ rooms are furnished with. But I work from home a lot, and a standing desk would never work for me at home, because they tend to be quite large. They can also be very expensive and, to be honest: I hate standing. (I hail from the Midwest, where, at least in my experience, the feeling is pretty much mutual).
Having ruled out a standing desk, I began to search for some sort of alternative that would allow me to follow another piece of advice that all these specialists agreed upon: Any desk I use should allow me to rest my elbows on it while I tap away, to help take the tension out of my neck and shoulders. Armed with this wisdom, I headed over to my (retail) therapist — Amazon — where Avantree’s adjustable laptop table caught my eye. Not only did it look like something that could help lift up my laptop so that it’s level with my gaze (eliminating the need to tilt my head down), but unlike other (more expensive) laptop stands, it also appeared to have enough space for elbow-resting. Its price is also half the cost of one hot-stone massage. “Worth a try,” I thought.
The table comes in three sizes. I went for the medium size, which has a tabletop that’s 21x12 inches and can be raised between 9.4–12.6 inches. (The smaller one has the same-size tabletop and can be raised between 8.3–9.8 inches; the larger one a bigger tabletop of 24x13 inches and can be raised between 9.4–12.6 inches — thank God I took math.) The tabletop can be tilted, and you adjust its height via two buttons on either of its legs. If I put it on top of the regular desk I work from in my bedroom, the setup affords me enough height that you could call it a makeshift standing desk. But since I hate to stand, I will just mess with the table’s height until it’s ideal for my neck and elbows while seated. Or the tray table and I will shimmy off to bed, where I can get really comfortable with it — perched on my mattress, the table stands tall enough that I can extend my legs beneath it or sit cross-legged. No matter where I put it, the thing is sturdy enough to support my MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, a small bowl of chips, and a margarita. (I am sure it would just as easily accommodate a green juice and a bowl of raw almonds, I just don’t keep either in the house.)
After I started using the table, I noticed that I could work for hours without having to lie on a tennis ball and that I no longer needed to hang my head upside down off my bed every hour. (As kooky as these things sound, both were recommendations from my chiropractor for alleviating tension.) My table TED talk is not over yet, people. Another plus is that the table is collapsible, making it easy to bring along if I want use it outside of my home. And when I am not using it to write, I use it for my son when he’s home sick in bed, as sort of a hospital tray. It has a detachable lip designed to stop your laptop from slipping off, which we have found to be just as capable at stopping a bowl of Fruit Loops from sliding onto clean sheets. Do you know how long it takes to change a duvet cover?
More Strategist-approved laptop stands
According to Great Jones co-founder (and former Grub Street editor) Sierra Tishgart, “the ultimate status symbol at The Wing, a women’s social club and co-working space in New York,” is this “ergonomic laptop stand.” She adds: “The Roost is an adjustable, portable stand that raises your computer 6 to 12 inches. It puts you at eye level with your laptop, relieving the strain on your neck and making you less of a hunchback.”
When we asked chiropractors and physical therapists to recommend laptop stands, chiropractic sports physician Dr. Caleb Ridgway pointed us to this less expensive Roost-esque model. “It is adjustable, lightweight, and has CPU fans to prevent overheating,” he told us, noting that “it’s important to find a laptop stand that is sturdy, adjustable, and allows you to easily manipulate the height so you can seamlessly transition from a sitting to a standing position and vice versa.”
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