If you sit in an office all day, you probably have a reasonable office chair to sit in all day.
But if – like many of us – you’ve been working from home, sitting on a dining or kitchen chair and reaching up to a kitchen or dining table that’s higher than an office desk, or perching on the sofa, that’s not as good for your back. While a decent office chair and a desk are usually the best option, you can also get a little more creative, especially for those times when you fancy a bit of a change for a few hours.
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If you’ve always wanted to try a standing desk and you have an ironing board that you can adjust to elbow height, try putting your laptop on that; it’s going to be more stable if you put a tray or a sheet of wood on top. A standing desk should be about an inch below elbow height so that your keyboard puts your elbows at a 90 degree angle, with your eyes level with the upper area of your screen when your head is up: having to look up or down at your screen will quickly give you a crick in the neck or sore shoulders.
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You’ll also need some cushioning for your feet; a memory foam bath mat can stand in for the kind of anti-fatigue mat you find underfoot in a conference booth. As an aside, walking around the show floor at conferences (remember them?) always gave me an instant feel for how much companies invest in their staff, just by how much cushioning they pay for at their booth.
Standing doesn’t mean standing still; the benefit of standing desks is that they let you move around a bit, and you can adjust the ironing board down to sitting height. Unless you’re used to a standing desk, you’ll want to change position fairly often, like every half hour. One way to do that is to pull out the Sitpack Zen X, a carbon and aluminium widget about the size of a large beer can that unfolds telescopically.
The padded carrying strap turns into a 15″-wide padded seat that locks cleverly into place. And you can pull out as many of the three expanding sections as you need to get the right height (up to 38″): they also lock into place securely. The chunky ridged rubber foot looks like a mushroom and keeps things stable when you plant the Sitpack at a slight angle and sit down on it.
It’s sturdy and surprisingly comfortable for a padded strap that you’re trying to sit on; but if it’s not wide enough for you and you end up sitting on the hard clips that hold it in place, it’s rather less comfortable. It’s also more comfortable if you have reasonably good balance and don’t feel like you’re going to fall over when you’re perching; some of our testers felt less confident sitting on it than others. It’s easier to balance when you’re standing up with your legs straight and using the Sitpack to turn you into a tripod the way the instructions suggest, but you can shorten it and sit with bent knees if you want (that definitely feels more like doing a stretching exercise).
It certainly never feels like you’re sitting in a chair and you’re not going to want to sit on it for a long session, but it does give you a break from standing up without putting you right back in the chair you got a standing desk to avoid. I’ve mostly been using it when cutting out fabric and pinning patterns for sewing, which is easier to do standing up, but gets rather tiring after a while.
The Sitpack is designed for festivals, and fishing, and wildlife photography where you need to stand around waiting for wildlife to do something, and for crowded public transport where you can’t get a seat; it might make watching a presentation at a conference booth more comfortable (if and when any of those are back on the agenda).
Unfolded it may look like one of those walking sticks that turns into a seat, but when you fold it up it doesn’t turn into a walking stick with an awkward handle. That makes for a more comfortable perch and something that’s easier to store, but you can’t lean on it as you wander along – so it may actually be a better fit for perching in front of your laptop at home or in a hotel room than heading off for a long hike. It’s a little wacky (and at £84/$99 it’s not cheap) but it’s also a bit more fun (and a bit more exercise) than just sitting on the sofa.
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