Back in September, a photo of Gretchen Goldman, the research director at the Center for Science and Democracy, went viral. It captured her profile view while sitting for an interview with CNN, and the behind-the-camera shot showed a much different picture from what viewers saw on TV. Goldman sat on a dining room chair in a room sprinkled with kids’ toys, her laptop propped up on a matching chair itself on top of a coffee table. The photo epitomized how, when it comes to working from home, we’re all just trying our best.
A new solution from Amsterdam-based product design studio Waarmakers is meant to make your work-from-home space more flexible, comfortable, and, notably, custom-built for you. It’s called Ingrid, and it’s a built-to-measure seat and standing desk.
You can get the desk three ways. There’s a free, open-source blueprint for handy do-it-yourselfers with access to a laser cutter. Or you can provide Waarmakers with your elbow height seated and standing up, along with the height of your table, and they’ll precut pieces you assemble for about $200. Or you can buy Ingrid completely assembled to your custom specifications and ready for 9 to 5 for about $530.
I know this looks like an overpriced milk crate, but there’s more than meets the eye. Because it’s custom-built for your height and surroundings, it’s likely more ergonomical than your average work-from-home setup (see Gretchen Goldman’s example above). And sure, that $1,200 vintage desk might be the envy of your most design-savvy friends, but it can still give you carpal tunnel if you’ve commandeered one of your dining chairs to use it.
Remote work has become the new reality for office workers around the world. For those who hadn’t expected to be a remote worker for the long haul, this new way of working has been shown to test productivity, cause serious burnout, and, depending on what “office” solution you’ve MacGyvered, even physically hurt.
Maarten Heijltjes and Simon Akkaya of Waarmakers worked on office furniture design pre-COVID-19 (like this zero-waste lamp and a full campus), and Ingrid became a WFH translation of their work. Before the pandemic, Heijltjes and Akkaya were already working on ergonomic office designs that encouraged people to switch it up between sitting and standing. “We had already done a lot of research and had a clear idea on how we would want to encourage people to work,” says Heijltjes.
Though Ingrid is perfectly measured to your elbow height (which ensures better posture and that you’re seated with your forearms parallel to the tabletop), Heijltjes says that without a backrest, you might start to slouch after sitting on it for about an hour. That’s the point—and your cue to stand, he explains. “The idea is that Ingrid helps you to work healthier from home by offering the simplest way to change your posture and stay active [and by] lowering the threshold for switching positions,” says Heijltjes. “But you need to be aware that this is healthy behavior, and that you are the one that has to act.” (Worth noting that they also offer a cushion.)
They also designed Ingrid to be flexible to adapt to limited space and so that it can have a second, post-pandemic life. “After the pandemic hit, we realized quite quickly that successful working-from-home furniture also needs to function after working hours,” says Heijltjes. Don’t just think of it as your office chair or standing desk. It can also be a step stool, fruit basket, or whatever you want it to be depending on the time of day. “Our children and partners—and we too—found many different ways of use outside of work hours,” says Heijltjes, “which I guess is a prerequisite for bringing furniture in our homes.”