If you have to sit, try one of these chairs

We’re big fans of good posture, whether standing or sitting.

If you must sit, we recommend chairs that have been designed with proper ergonomics in mind. Here are a few popular choices. For something that you’ll own for a long time and spend a large portion of your day in, the price is right.

Steelcase Leap on Amazon ($827)

Herman Miller Aeron, fully adjustable, on Amazon ($939)

You may see a lot of people promoting the use of balance balls or balance ball chairs in order to help with posture and “strengthening of core muscles”. It’s generally agreed upon now that the stabilizer muscles in the core will tire out quickly (~30 minutes) and you end up losing the nice lumbar curve you’ve been trying to maintain. It’s better to alternate between those balance balls with a standard chair (or standing) than to utilize one all day.

f.lux: Live Better Through Proper Screen Lighting

One of the challenges working with screens is that it really messes with our sleep cycles. The bright, blue light, which is much brighter/bluer than natural sunlight, tricks our brains into thinking that it’s later than it really is.

End result: you sleep later and the quality of your sleep deteriorates.

It’s a well researched phenomenon of our current screen-heavy lifestyles. From the f.lux research page:

The science that explains why blue light keeps you up was begun many years ago in the study of bird migration, and it continued in humans with the discovery of a new photoreceptor in the eye, called Melanopsin. Many are familiar with the “rods and cones” that provide our visual capabilities, but it was only about 15 years ago that retinal ganglion cells containing melanopsin, which are sensitive to a narrow band of blue light in the 460-480nm range, were discovered, and their unique effect on sleep was investigated.


The experimental research suggests that an average person reading on a tablet for a couple hours before bed may find that their sleep is delayed by about an hour. Clearly, the details are complicated, but that’s why we get to cite so many very interesting papers.

There are a few ways you can help mitigate this. The first is to set a time when you stop using your devices to let your eyes and brain readjust to a more natural state. This includes the usage of mobile devices (stop using it in bed!), laptops, tablets, and televisions. The second, while not a perfect solution, is to adjust the temperature of your display to closely mirror the state of the sun outside.

We love f.lux

I’ve been using f.lux for years now with great effect.

f.lux, a free program, is available for Windows, OSX, and mobile devices. It adjusts the temperature of your display to mimic the temperature of light outside. As the sun sets, your body clock naturally wants to start winding down. However, with blueish white light from our screens, we are short circuiting that process. So, f.lux adjusts your display to become more yellow/orange/red in order to relax things.

Get f.lux for free here. Your eyes (and your sleep) will thank you for it.

More reading

Reading On A Screen Before Bed Might Be Killing You (Huffington Post)
Blue light from electronics disturbs sleep, especially for teenagers (Washington Post)

The open office trend — productivity boon or bust?

The startup and tech space is replete with open offices — areas where there is little to no privacy for employees. The open office floor plan, pioneered by tech giants like Google, and used by everyone from Facebook to LinkedIn, is almost seen as a must-have to foster ideals like “creativity”, “collaboration”, and “openness.”

While this all sounds great, there is a very real cost to open offices, and things may finally be swinging back in the other direction.

With more information coming out about interruption science (a field of study within psychology), distractions and interruptions are now measurably significant productivity inhibitors.

Coupled with a mutual feeling of distrust, since seemingly anyone can be looking over your shoulder at any time, many people are starting to voice their displeasure with open offices.

An essay in the Washington Post discussed this topic last month (“Google got it wrong. The open office trend is destroying the workplace.“)

I’ll be expanding on the topics of interruption science, productivity, and workplace design in the coming weeks. This topic comes and goes every few months, but with the growth of tech companies into some of the largest companies on the planet, it’s becoming a topic that requires a more concrete discussion sooner rather than later.

Is it Possible to Reverse the Damage From Sitting?


The Washington Post published an article today on the possibility of reversing the damage to your health from sitting.

The study they cite says that getting up and walking for 5-10 minutes at time helps reduce the blood pressure build up from blood pooling in your legs and feet. Very similar to why getting up and walking every couple of hours on a long flight is a good idea (also why your legs swell during flight — not from the lack of pressure!)

I’m personally a big fan of taking frequent breaks to either stand at a desk to work or going outside for some fresh air and vitamin D.

Beyond just blood pressure build up, there are also a multitude of other factors that are introduced while sitting at a desk all day: poor posture causing back, neck, and shoulder issues, wrist pain, shortened hip flexors that affect your standing posture and flexibility, and so much more. We’ll get into this more as work place ergonomics and postural health is a personal interest of mine.

Check it out the full here.

Your lifestyle has already been designed… or has it?


While the original article was written almost 4 years ago, it keeps popping up now and then.

Check it out: http://www.raptitude.com/2010/07/your-lifestyle-has-already-been-designed/

The author argues that the 40 hour work week was designed as a beast that feeds itself — a way to generate income so you can buy stuff you don’t need, sit in a chair for half of your waking life to generate said income, thereby keeping the economy afloat.

What do you think? Do you feel like a slave to the 40 hour work week? Are you working on plans to break free from the feedback loop to pursue time freedom?


*Clickity-clack*: The Case for Mechanical Keyboards

The Filco Majestouch Tenkeyless - One of the more popular mechanical keyboards on the market

The Filco Majestouch Tenkeyless – One of the more popular mechanical keyboards on the market (photo courtesy of Filco)

Aren’t all keyboards mechanical? Technically, yes — but there has been a new movement as people recognize the benefits (tactile, aural, and aesthetic) of “mechanical” keyboards.

You see, your traditional $10 desktop keyboard that comes from your IT department is usually constructed with a “rubber dome”. If you remove the key cap, you’ll see a rubber dome (crazy!) membrane over the activation area.

This creates a mushy feeling keyboard that requires a lot of force to actuate. “Heavy” keys are the harbinger of repetitive stress injuries (RSI) like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Enter the mechanical keyboard.

The classic mechanical keyboard is the IBM Model-M. The old school grey keyboard that is known for it’s loud “click-clack” sound as you type — the sound of a mechanical key actuator.

IBM Model M mechanical keyboard (photo from Wikipedia)

IBM Model M mechanical keyboard – a clickity-clacking classic (photo from Wikipedia)

Now you have an entirely new series of mechanical keyboards being manufactured by a slew of companies such as Filco, Leopold, Steelseries, Topre, Happy Hacking, etc.

These keyboards use mechanically actuated switches (usually made by Cherry or Realforce) that feel great while you are typing and create a very pleasing (or annoying, depending on the tolerance of your officemates) clicking sound.

Most of these mechanical switches introduce a tactile click, meaning you will feel a slight threshold of force about 2/3 of the way down where the key itself actuates before hitting the bottom — great for touch typists and showing off how quickly you can type.

If you have tolerant officemates (or people living in the same household — I’m grateful my S/O puts up with my keyboard nerdery) this is a great option to reduce cramping/stress on your hands and increase the pleasure you may derive from typing.

If you don’t have tolerant officemates, there are variations of the Cherry switch that aren’t as loud, as well as modifications you can make to the keyboard to dampen the sound (although some would argue you are making it feel more like one of the gross rubber dome keyboards).

Mechanical keyboards are huge in gaming circles, but there are significant advantages for the home/workplace:

  • Lower force required reducing hand cramping + repetitive stress injuries
  • Tactile feedback allowing for higher WPM for touch typists
  • Pleasing click-clack sound
  • Many variations come “tenkeyless” without a numeric keypad

I personally prefer tenkeyless models — these are keyboards without the numeric keypad. Why? First of all, I don’t work in accounting and I know a lot of people can enter numerals just as fast without the numpad; second, if you infrequently use it, it takes up a lot of desk real estate and screws up the ergonomics/placement of your mouse.

We’ll discuss desk layout/ergonomics in a separate post, but having your elbow angled out all awkwardly while reaching for your mouse due to the width of your keyboard is a real problem.

If you’re looking for a mechanical keyboard, you can start looking at a few different places for information and inventory:

  • Amazon.com carries Filco keyboards (Filco tenkeyless are my personal favorite, but a bit pricey)
  • EliteKeyboards.com used to carry Filco keyboards but now carry Leopold brand keyboards. They are slightly different from Filco in the way some keys are mounted, and have a distinctly different key feel to them even though they use the same Cherry switches
  • Steelseries and Razer both make gaming centric mechanical keyboards
  • There is a whole subreddit (/r/mechanicalkeyboards) dedicated to mechanical keyboards, modifications, and associated fetishism

I own both a Filco Tenkeyless at home and a modified Leopold Tenkeyless at work (it has an o-ring mod to dampen some of the bottoming out sound).

Give it a try — everyone I know who has tried one of mine has remarked about how much more pleasing typing is. While a lot haven’t made the plunge into mechanical keyboard-ville, if you’re serious about your typing you should definitely consider it.

Welcome to Undesk

Undesk was created out of a need to design a better work lifestyle.

Today’s worker is constantly on the move — whether working remotely from home/satellite office/coffee shop, on the road, at a conference, or elsewhere. The traditional format of being chained to a desk from 9-5 is quickly disappearing and is being replaced by companies that understand roles based on performance and workers ready to embrace that change.

We’ll be sharing ways to  improve your work life: how to be the most efficient out of the office, gear that helps you stay effective, software to enable you, and workspace design to help you tailor both your home and office environments to maximize productivity and comfort.

In the near future we’ll be making well designed gear and equipment available to you through our online store. It will be a great curated collection of items that will satisfy both the needs presented by a fast moving lifestyle and discerning taste.

About Me

I’m Andrew Hahn and I’ve been working in the online space for quite a number of years. From the glory days of the BBS to the modern internet community, I’ve seen firsthand how technology has been transforming the way we work.

As a self avowed tech geek my interests quickly went into human computer interaction and ways with which to improve work efficiency, improve work/life balance, and allow for more personal freedom.

I’ll be joined by some of my friends who will be sharing their domain knowledge with you.