Home & Design | November 2, 2020 12:20 pm

Stuff We Swear By: This Dead-Simple $40 Laptop Stand Is a WFH Essential

It doesn't take much to help out your weary spine

mStand best laptop stand

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At the end of 2019, there was one clear, emerging trend in the fitness industry: recovery. The country’s fastest growing class was Megaformer Pilates; services like physical therapy and chiropractic were becoming a mainstay at gyms, and percussive therapy toys like the Theragun had proven essential for muscle relief. If the embrace of recovery fitness wasn’t exactly revolutionary — Olympians have been on the injury prevention grind for decades — the fact that everyday exercisers were now leading the way was significant.

One simple reason: their backs hurt. We’re in the midst of the greatest American fitness boom since the 1980s, but it’s difficult to swing a kettlebell or run six miles (without incident, at least), after you’ve spent an entire day hunched over a computer. The pandemic has only amplified that issue; Americans are working longer hours during quarantine, and doing so at ill-equipped home workspaces. That practice is dangerous for your heart health (it disrupts the body’s ability to break down body fat, while elevating blood pressure), but it’s mainly terrible for your back. A day at the desk rounds the shoulders and curves the spine. And opting for a standing desk is no easy solution.

Elongation, massage and recovery tools are worthy, sustainable pursuits; if any are part of your fitness routine, good for you. Keep at it. But instead of always needing to mitigate damage done during the workday, it can be a smart idea to meet that damage head-on, and work to actively sit smarter. My top recommendation for starting that process? Buy yourself a basic laptop stand. At my home office, Rain Design’s $40 mStand gets the nod.

Rain Design’s mStand Laptop Stand, in all its glory.

I use this thing every single day, so at this point, I know it a little too well to fawn over it. It’s more or less just a stage for your computer. There are grips on the platform to keep everything in place, you can feed your chargers through a cable hole in the back, aluminum construction acts as a heat sink to keep the laptop’s temperature down (which is something your sweatpants can’t accomplish). It’s decent on the aesthetic front — though it can’t compete with some of the web’s more bespoke offerings, like those from Grovemade, a Portland label that makes stands from American Black Walnut and Eastern Hardrock Maple Plywood — but that’s okay. Ultimately, I just think of this stand as an affordable, always-there reminder to look up.

The mStand raises laptops a crucial six inches, which is enough to ensure that my eye-line is aligned with the top third of my screen. We really shouldn’t be physically craning our neck when we head down to the toolbar and launch Chrome. Ergonomic experts agree that perfect “form” at a workplace desk involves keeping your posterior chain stacked. That means feet firmly planted on the floor, with your low back, spine, neck and head all vertical. Arms should be locked in at a ninety-degree angle, with your hands sticking out straight. (Imagine a typing T-Rex.) The linchpin to that entire setup? Elevating the monitor. It’s impossible to hunch over something that’s above you.

These days, if I find myself working outside of the house, I’ll generally balance my laptop on a book, box or board game. Whatever I can find. It doesn’t work as well as the mStand, because the keyboard is forced to lie flat. The mStand’s base, meanwhile, is tilted, which not only encourages better posture, but is blatantly more comfortable to work with than any DIY option. To be clear, I’m not perfect throughout the day. I don’t sit with my laptop perched on the mStand for eight straight hours a day. I often head to the couch for an hour or two. But in the new normal of WFH, simply having options is crucial. And having the mStand handy helps me set the right tone — not only for my workday, but for the workout I want to knock out once it’s over.