Refactoring the home office

· by Steve · Read in about 4 min · (722 Words)

I’ve been thinking for a while that I needed to get a new chair for my home office - the one I have now is 15 years old and doesn’t even have a lumbar support (so I supplement it with cushions). However, good chairs are expensive, and I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted - I had a more modern chair when I used to work in an office, and that still didn’t stop me getting back problems, and most recently I’ve had thorasic-region problems which aren’t directly addressed by a lumbar support anyway.

The issue is that sitting places far more stress on the back than standing/walking, and most back problems are made worse by immobility. I can definitely attest to both of these assertions from my recent experience, it’s just that addressing those issues has meant interruptions to my work schedule, a general loss of productivity, and some frustration at not being able to do all that I want to do.

I want to thank Martin for triggering off a thought chain last week about stand-up desk set-ups, which I hadn’t heard much about before. People like Churchill used these all their lives, where you stand at the desk most of the time, or perhaps use a tall chair like a draughtman’s stool if you want to take the weight off your legs for a while. As well as the general position being better for the back, you’re more likely to move about as a matter of course while standing up, and many people have cited productivity gains because the posture makes them more alert.

Finding these set-ups is another matter though. Most of the dedicated set-ups are rather old-fashioned, podium/writing desk sort of style, and not really the configuration I’m looking for, but a number of people around the internet have built their own, either by modding existing desks or going the whole hog. There are also height-adjustable desks that you can buy, a small number of which go up to the sort of height I need to stand at (about 1m), but unfortunately no-one I’ve talked to so far seems to do them over here; the best I found so far locally was an adjustable one to 85cm, which is still too low for standing at, and a mainland UK provider that won’t ship to the Channel Islands for fear of the mechanism being damaged in transit. I’ll keep looking, but I think I’m going to try retrofitting my existing desk instead, perhaps starting with a rough setup of a few bits of wood to make a raised surface on top of what I have, and refining it later if it works.

I still want a better chair though, since I don’t want to stand all of the day. The draughtsman’s stool idea isn’t bad, but I thought I could do better. Then I found lots of good reviews of the HAG Capisco. It’s pretty odd looking, compared to more traditional ergonomic chairs like the Herman Miller Aeron and will undoubtedly take some getting used to, but the key thing about it is that it’s a ‘saddle seat’ -  your legs are much more vertical, which puts your spine in a far better position than regular sitting does. The other nice thing about the Capisco is that you can reverse it and sit backwards if you need to lean forward with extra support (that’s why the back is such a weird shape - it’s a combination of back and arm-rests for both set-ups. The seat design also makes you use your muscles more actively which encourages more mobility. Back sufferers seem to be raving about it, which is what attracted me to it. Finally, it has the option to go high enough that you can use it with a standing-height desk as well as a regular height desk, which ticks the final box if I intend to turn my desk into a standing area too.

Anyone had any experience trying stand-up desking or the Capisco? Unfortunately again there are no places locally I can try out the Capisco, although reports from users on the web suggest that’s not a good way to evaluate it anyway, since it seems weird for a few days until you get used to it, so I’m probably going to have to order blind.