After years of building prototypes and consulting with chiropractors and mechanical engineers, Joe Nafziger and Ben Larson created Readydesk to alleviate back problems and other potential medical problems.
By Lee Barnathan, Special to California Business Journal
Tired of his back hurting from years of sitting at work, Joe Nafziger took a stand. He placed his feet on the ground, contracted his leg muscles, elevated his body using his knees and balanced upright on his feet.
Then the creative director at an ad agency built a two-level shelving system using mostly just pinewood and nails. It didn’t take long for him to start feeling better.
His friend, Ben Larson, who suffered from back pain from all that sitting while working at Technicolor, saw Nafziger’s device and wanted one, too. He knew that by simply standing, such as at the kitchen table, his back pain went away in a day.
But Larson’s online research proved pretty fruitless: There weren’t too many options, and those that existed were either too big, too expensive, didn’t allow for perfect posture or all of the above.
That was in 2008. After three years of building prototypes, testing them on coworkers, and consulting with chiropractors and mechanical engineers, they were ready to debut the Readydesk, first on Kickstarter and now on their website, thereadydesk.com, and Amazon.
It’s still two levels but has undergone numerous design changes to make it easy to assemble and adjust to one’s height, and now is made of birch instead of pine. But the guiding purpose remains the same: to help people become more productive at work – and stay healthier – by alternating sitting and standing.
“If you don’t stand up, you’ll get in the pine box sooner,” Nafziger says. “It’s one way to counter the effects of being too sedentary.”
Studies have long shown the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle: obesity, diabetes, certain cancers, depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, heart disease. Sitting too long contributes to such a lifestyle, but it also could lead to metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.
According to Fika online, one study showed one in six deaths in Britain have been linked to a sedentary lifestyle, and people spend as much as 85 percent of their workdays sitting down.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if people in California, a litigious state, start suing their employers,” Nafziger says. “I don’t know why it wouldn’t start to happen. We think companies are going to be at risk for getting sued because the jobs require employees to sit when they work.”
To combat the health risks, many workplaces have turned to “sit-stand” desks, which allow people to do both throughout the day. In fact, Denmark passed a law in 2015 making such desks mandatory.
It is this philosophy to which Nafziger and Larson, both 38, subscribe. They know that standing for too long also has health risks: chronic back and foot pain, blood pooling in the legs, increased pressure in the veins, increased oxidative stress; and a 2017 study published by the University of Toronto concluded people that primarily stand at work are twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who primarily sit.
That same study says a sit-stand desk doesn’t pose any health risks.
“That’s why we recommend you do both,” Larson says. “You don’t want to stand all day or sit all day, but you’ve got to challenge yourself. Alternating reduces risks of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and it burns more calories.”
In fact, on their website is this claim: Standing at work for three hours a day for five days a week will burn as many calories as running a marathon monthly.
The Readydesk has two shelves that can be adjusted to fit heights of between five feet and six-feet-three. At 31 inches across, it’s wide enough to hold a 27-inch monitor and a laptop, or an all-in-one computer. Nafziger says the average owner places a 15-inch laptop and 22-inch monitor on it.
Despite its light weight, the 215-pound Lawson stood on it, and it didn’t break. Nor did it when they piled 285 pounds of dumbbells on it.
It’s priced starting at $160, but $210 gets you a laptop stand and a gel-foam standing mat (each also sold separately). Nafziger estimates they have sold 8,000 units in three years.
“People let us know how they feel,” Nafziger says. “ ‘No more taking pain pills.’ ‘Back feels better.’ ”
Gadget Review says, “It doesn’t matter what kind of desk job you have. Readydesk will improve your life and it will make you more productive at work.” Apartment Therapy gave it a “Best Design” award in 2015. “The adjustable shelf for keyboard and mouse were also sleek and I appreciated the rounded finishes in the corner,” Elizabeth Giorgi wrote.
Believe it or not, Readydesk is not a full-time job for the creators. Nafziger is a creative director at Robik and Larson is marketing manager at tech company. If more people get up, and stand up, that could change.
Readydesk is manufactured by Robik, LLC
302 Washington St. Suite 409
San Diego, CA 92103