Whether you’re in the office or at your new, pandemic-forced WFH station, it’s no secret that sitting in front of a computer for eight or ten or twelve hours a day isn’t great for your health. “Sitting puts excessive stress on the low back, shoulders, and neck and can lead to low back pain, neck pain, shoulder impingement, carpal tunnel and more,” says Caleb Ridgway, a chiropractic sports physician who has treated the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team. Those aches and pains (and fear of death by sitting) are exactly what drive so many people to look for standing desks and laptop stands — really anything to help them set up a slouch-proof desk and get work done without suffering from the consequences of sitting.
But even if you’re convinced about the benefits of standing more during the workday, it can be hard to know which type of laptop stand, standing desk, or other ergonomic office accessory will actually relieve the physical stress. Plus, simply owning a laptop stand won’t really help unless you know how to align it properly.
That’s why we reached out to chiropractors, sports doctors, and physical therapists for advice on which ergonomic office accessories can actually help prevent slouching, improve posture, and hopefully get you to focus better — or at least feel less bad all of the time, even if you do still have to stare at a screen all day.
Best ergonomic laptop stands
“It’s important to find a laptop stand that is sturdy, adjustable, and lets you easily manipulate the height so you can seamlessly transition from a sitting to a standing position and vice versa,” says Ridgway. He recommends spending no more than an hour standing each day for the first couple of weeks and gradually increasing that amount of time. For a stand that’s easily adjustable, he likes this aluminum one that’s also lightweight and features USB-powered quiet cooling fans to prevent your laptop from overheating.
According to physiotherapist Lyndsay Hirst, “Working from home or at a desk that hasn’t been ergonomically assessed can pose a real problem for many,” a fact lots of us are starting to face after a few months of working at home in less-than-ideal conditions. Like Ridgway, she recommends an adjustable stand, specifically one like this that can be used standing, sitting, or even lying down on your bed or sofa. It includes a stand for an external mouse as well as built-in cooling fans.
While some assume standing is a cure-all for our posture problems, experts stress that it’s more about changing up your position throughout the day, including a mix of standing and sitting. “With a sit-stand workstation, the individual would be able to adjust their posture at the onset of discomfort and thus reduce the total amount of discomfort resulting from prolonged time in the same posture,” says physical therapist and integrative-pain expert Joe Tatta. “Look for a desk that offers the most versatility for changes of position in three planes to accommodate a variety of body types and postures.” The VariDesk, also recommended by Jan Lefkowitz, a chiropractor at New York’s Body in Balance Chiropractic, has 11 different height settings, so you can try out a variety of different positions. It’s also big enough to hold a monitor, in case you like to work with two screens, and has a lower shelf for an external keyboard and mouse. Austin Evans, who reviews tech on YouTube, uses the VariDesk too. “When working on a laptop, elevating it off the desk to roughly the same height as a monitor can help a lot,” he says.
Even before the pandemic, writer (and Strategist contributor) Liz Carey did most of her work from home, and often in her bed. After consulting with physical therapists and chiropractors, who told her to look for a laptop stand she could rest her elbows on to alleviate her neck and back pain, she found this one on Amazon and was pleasantly surprised by how much she liked it. “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,” says Carey, who reports that it works both on a desk and in bed.
Great Jones co-founder (and former Grub Street writer) Sierra Tishgart called this laptop stand the “ultimate status symbol” at co-working space The Wing. After trying one for herself, she understood the hype: “It puts you at eye level with your laptop, relieving the strain on your neck and making you less of a hunchback.” Lightweight and portable, it’s easy to tote around in your bag between home and the office, or, more likely these days, the sofa and the kitchen table.
It’s not quite as streamlined as the Roost, but this stand is more affordable and gets plenty of rave reviews on Amazon. “I was getting tired of sitting all day, so this has provided some flexibility in terms of standing versus sitting,” says one satisfied customer of the stand’s adjustable height. You can set it anywhere from 3.5 to 16.5 inches high and choose among nine angles to find a just-right position. Reviewers also say it’s sturdy, easy to install, and highly portable when folded down.
One of our favorite pieces of work-from-home gear under $50, this compact stand gives your laptop a little lift for improved posture while you’re sitting. “The added height puts your eyes at the same level of your screen, forcing you to sit up a little straighter so you can avoid unnecessary trips to the chiropractor,” says Strategist writer Jordan Bowman.
Best ergonomic desk accessories
“Prolonged sitting, specifically when working on a computer, can cause us to roll our shoulders forward, which leads to poor postural and functional mechanics of the shoulders and gives rise to rotator-cuff injury and adaptive muscle shortening,” says Scott Weiss, a physical therapist and professional trainer. To balance out your sitting and standing time, he recommends using the Pomodoro Technique, a simple system of getting up and standing for five minutes after every 20 to 25 minutes of sitting. This little timer cube — Strategist deputy editor Maxine Builder calls it “the only tool that’s kept me reliably distraction free” — can be set to beep at preset intervals to remind you when it’s time to get up.
As for where to sit when you aren’t standing, you may want to consider replacing your regular chair with a balance ball. It looks a little kooky, but it can actually help improve your posture. “Exercise balls are great because if you do not balance on these balls, you fall, so it forces good posture,” says chiropractor Sean McCaffrey. “The balls will work only if you balance — and, therefore, you are sitting upright.”
If you’re not quite ready for the balance ball, Aideen Turner, a physical therapist and CEO of Virtual Physical Therapists, says a lumbar roll can prevent you from slouching in your chair. “It is the slouch postures that over time stress your soft tissue and lead to discomfort, muscle spasms, and soft-tissue injury,” she says. “The lumbar roll corrects this faulty posture and maintains the proper ‘lordotic’ curve in your low back. It also automatically corrects your head posture from being forward to setting your ears correctly over your shoulders.”