Had generations of office lemmings known that sitting will kill you, they would quit their jobs, increased their average lifespan, and struggled with fewer chronic diseases. Or they, like us, would have been given standing desks and then asked to get back to work.
Too much sitting significantly elevates the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and even cancer, but according to the Mayo Clinic, when you stand up, walk, even move just a little bit, your muscle activity elicits fat and sugar breakdown that sitting doesn’t address, thereby decreasing your risk of disease and early death. Even alternating standing with sitting throughout the day greatly minimizes the risk. And so, while sitting and working can kill you, standing and working just might not.
Exorbitant costs associated with making the move to standing desks makes some people a bit gun shy for making the leap upward, but there is a growing field of options, like the Varidesk Pro Plus ($350), that offer good entry level options. Not nearly as fancy or expensive as many of the other desks in the market, I put one to the test for a month to see if a $350 standing desk can make a difference in my work day.
One very real challenge that the Pro Plus presents is getting its nearly 53-pound heft out of the box, and out of the substantial packaging. You’ll either need help, a good box cutter or arms like the Ultimate Warrior. Once it’s out, however, there’s literally nothing to assemble. It’s ready to go once you place it on your existing desk or table. Move a few things aside, place your computer or laptop, keyboard and mouse, add a photo of your dog on top, and voila.
The Pro Plus benefits from increased desk area over other even more affordable entry-level standing desks. You won’t be able to spread out any big architectural drawings on its 36 x 29.75-inch surface area, but there’s ample room for a large desktop monitor and a laptop on the main area (or, you can do two monitors if the collective weight doesn’t exceed 35 pounds). The smaller keyboard tray can accommodate one keyboard and a touchpad or mouse, but there’s not much room for more, aside from your wrists.
When you decide to stand, or when the free Varidesk app reminds you to, just grab the two flanking handles and the spring-loaded mechanism allows you to easily lift the working surface to one of eleven positions. Finding the optimal height isn’t difficult, and the Pro Plus snaps into place with an audible locking sound. I was able to find an excellent position for both typing on the keyboard and viewing my 27-inch iMac monitor. Retracting for sitting is even easier, and the surface doesn’t come slamming down, thankfully. It descends gently with the handles deployed and locks back into place once the base is flush with the desk surface. Ease of use is one the Pro Plus’s strong suits.
The biggest drawback of the Pro Plus is its failure to properly address cords. Even if you use a wireless keyboard and mouse, like I do, your desktop or laptop docking station still requires the use of wall outlets, and there has to be enough slack in your cords to allow the Pro Plus to extend to your ideal height. Even with the reach, the cords hang free, which can be unsightly.
The Pro Plus, as well as the rest of the Varidesk line, is made with hard black vinyl wrapped over medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and steel hardware. It’s not the sleekest-looking piece of office furniture, largely because it has to sit on top of your desk rather than replace your existing one. It is somewhat bulky, but it’s primarily designed to add convenience and thrift rather than nab a design award. So if you care less about aesthetics and more about function, the Pro Plus works marvelously. You can complain about the bulkiness or the austerity of the materials, but you cannot deny that it brings an affordable and useful option to the world of standing desks.