Big calls in this day and age we rightfully meet with a healthy dose of skepticism. The loud extroverted nature of the internet sees us losing our faith as we are bombarded with hyperbole and BS each day. 

So how did a little company at the bottom of the world (New Zealand) create something world renowned designers have called the world’s healthiest desk? Is it BS?

Here is an overview of how Limber desks have come to be called the world’s healthiest desks, who called them this, why they made the claim, and what might out do Limbers in the future?

Professor Galen Cranz

The Limber Petal and Linear were the first desks we created and they were so interesting that in January of 2020 Professor Galen Cranz, a design and architecture professor from the University of California at Berkeley, decided it was worth flying to New Zealand to experience them herself.

Professor Galen Cranz is a celebrated researcher, architect, designer, teacher and author. A world renowned leader in furniture design, architecture and founder of the Association of Body Conscious Design. Prof. Cranz wrote the book on the Chair, its history and role in our ever evolving culture and its flaws (see ‘The Chair; Rethinking Culture, Body and Design’) as well ethnography for designers ( see ‘Ethnography for Designers’). When in Wellington Prof. Cranz came and worked from a Limber Petal and we got to spend a day together talking about health, design and the role design plays in behavior change.

After using the Limber for 30 minutes, prof. Cranz turned to me and said, “Bart, you have created the world’s healthiest desk”. I was speechless. Prof. Cranz knows about the latest designs in the world and lives at the cutting edge of workplace design and research (through the UC Berkeley Interdisciplinary Center of Healthy Workplaces), and here she was telling me that what we have created at Limber is the best in the world and was even happy to send me a video of her saying it! 

You can listen to a Radio New Zealand interview with Professor Galen Cranz here

But why? 

Why did Professor Cranz call the Limber desk the world's healthiest desk? Let’s break this down to make sense of this huge call. 

There are 5 key reasons;

  1. Largest range of motion: Limber Desks are the only desks in the world that allow for full standing to floor sitting range of motion, which in turn allows for a lot more movement and postural variety each day. 
  2. Limber Desks make active resting floor postures possible; this is important for 3 reasons.
    1. Getting to and from the floor is a predictor of how long we will live (or in researched terms, ‘all cause mortality’). Getting to and from the floor is a very important movement for our long term health. The strength, flexibility and balance required for this movement helps us stay independent and avoid falls in later life.  
    2.  The floor environment as a working environment is the most movement rich we have. There are 10+ floor postures and many variations of them that we can circulate through, keeping us moving and our joints supple. We can use this environment to improve our mobility over time, rather than lose it which is what happens in a traditional setup, and when you are tired of the floor you can stand up. 
    3. Floor postures are also called ‘Active Resting Postures’. They have been shown to increase activity in the big muscles of our legs keeping our metabolism processing fats and our nervous system up-regulated. This is the opposite of the negative metabolic effects of chair sitting which contribute to the metabolic diseases they have been shown to promote (diabetes, heart disease, cancer) and also has the effect of sending more blood to our brain, for creativity and problem solving benefits. 
  3. Speed of movement between heights and no need for a traditional chair; 
    1. The speed the desk changes height influences how likely it is we will change height. If you are in the middle of a task, deep in thought, the amount of time it takes to change height will impact your ability to stay focussed. Think about a desk that offers you the ability to work from sitting in a chair, but it takes 15 minutes to do this. How often are you going to change height in the middle of a task if it takes 15 minutes? What about a crank desk that takes 60 seconds to change height? 95% of people don’t change height on a crank desk. Electric Desks that take 10-20 seconds? 80% of people don’t change height in a day. What about if it takes 1 second? Much more likely. As soon as your body wants to move, you can, without interrupting your flow. Although we don’t have exact data on the utility of Limbers, we have anecdotal evidence that people are changing heights much more frequently.
    2. The inertia to stand when sitting in a chair is high, it is a big barrier to movement. Not only are top of the line ergonomic chairs $2000+ they are comfort traps. They prop you up in just the right ways to help you lose the motivation to move. So naturally after trying standing for a few weeks at a new desk, getting uncomfortable standing because our hips are not used to being upright, we revert back to the chair. Removing the chair and working from standing or the floor brings in much more movement and having the speed to change height means it does not interrupt our work. We can move more freely, more often and gradually we begin to crave movement, particularly the floor postures. 
  4. Adjustability; the Limber desks come with the ability to change the desktop and monitor height to whatever height suits your body perfectly and it is all included - no extra thought, just set up the screen at your height with the adjustable single and double monitor mounts, have your keyboard at the right height for your arm length and you are good to go! 
  5. Limber desks are built with sustainable design principles; Most desks in the office space are made from crap that doesn’t last and ends up polluting your local landfill. Limber desks are made from sustainably forested Birch wood, are built to last decades (no electric motors that break easily, just a rope and pulley system) and are made in ways that they can be easily repaired should something ever go wrong. 

    Points 1-3 all add up to more movement. More range of movement, more diversity of movement and moving more often. Then you have the ability to set everything up so that it is perfect for your personal body shape and finally, working from something that has caring for our natural environment in mind. 

    Sit to stand desk Balerina lifts desktop from floor to standing

    As a bonus the Limber desks come with beautiful out of site cable management and a bird shaped headphone hanger for the ultimate workspace experience. 

    What about the future? 

    It would be great if we did not rely on a screen and keyboard to interface with a computer and do our work. As that really is what a desk comes down to, and we are trying to adapt that need into an environment we can move the most. I believe that beyond the floor we can add some functionality around the desk to help us move more, but as long as we require a screen and keyboard we will need a desk and there is not any further progress the desk can make. 

    Maybe there will be a future where virtual reality will be able to provide an environment where we can interface with computers in a way that is more natural for us, but that is yet to be seen and will present its own challenges, I have no doubt.

    Where does that leave us? 

    When a world leading professor, like Galen Cranz, from one of the world's most renowned universities calls Limber desks the world’s healthiest desks we can have confidence that it is not just a bunch of hyped up marketing BS, but rather there is substance to these claims.  

    We certainly feel very fortunate to be recognised in this way by someone this knowledgeable and look forward to the research that is ongoing at UC Berkeley, the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi and the University of Southern California to be completed and published so we can all learn more about the benefits of working from the floor. 

    - Bart de Vries | Physiotherapist and Limber Founder

    About Limber

    8 out of 10 people get back pain in their life and back pain is the number one cause of disability, lost workplace productivity and income poverty. At Limber we are on a mission to halve that by 2050, and building the world's healthiest desks is just one part of the solution. We need your support to make that a reality.

    Become a back pain champion, share our back pain resource centre with your family and workmates. Subscribe to the Limber newsletter here to learn about floor postures and get access to special deals.