ErgoExpo Expedition 2015

December 9, 2015
ErgoExpo 2015

The National Ergonomics Conference & ErgoExpo, the largest ergonomic event in North America, takes place annually at Caesars Palace in sunny Las Vegas. Over the course of three days ergonomists, manufacturers, and institutional buyers gather to learn how to build an ergonomics program or maximize an existing program. To do this, attendees listen to talks given by leading ergonomists and walk the rows of the Expo Hall where companies dedicated to making products that enhance workers’ health, wellness, and productivity showcase the latest and greatest they have to offer. Naturally, we explored the expo to bring you the most up-to-date news about office fitness products and the companies behind them. Here’s what we found.

More People Want to Stand Up at their Desk

Healthy Desk Standing Desk with Drawers
Healthy Desk Standing Desk with Drawers

Stand up desks continue to rise in popularity. We found more companies displaying adjustable height desk solutions than we have any year previous. Veteran base manufacturers like Linak, TiMotion, Jiecang, TCT Nanotec, Swedstyle, and Sundesk all exhibited, and representatives from ROL ERGO and SPFE Scandanavia roamed the show floor as well. These base manufacturers typically sell their standing desk bases to be paired with tops made by another manufacturer. The fact that so many base manufacturers continue to attend ErgoExpo is a sign that the demand for adjustable height desks remains strong.

Of course, a more telling sign that the demand to stand is rising is the number of companies showing full stand up desks targeted towards end users: both companies and individual buyers. In this arena, we saw many companies showcasing products for both individual users and institutional buyers. Healthy Desks, a newer manufacturer, displayed bases paired with stained bamboo tops. HealthyDesks is known for their “desks with drawers”, an adjustable height desk that comes fully pre-assembled with left and right drawers built in under the main work surface. We’re looking forward to getting a demo unit into our labs.

iMovR, another company that’s been making a splash in the standing desk market, exhibited at ErgoExpo for the first time. They had configurations of their ThermoDesk Elite, ThermoDesk Ellure, Upsilon, and Omega Olympus standing proudly, as well as one of their sit-to-stand Synapse Conference Tables. Ergoprise returned to the show this year with several of their Uprise desks on view, and at the ErgoDepot booth we saw both the popular Jarvis desk and new Jarvis Jr, a smaller version of the Jarvis desk designed to accommodate tops as small as 26” wide by 26.5” deep.

Veteran contract furniture manufacturers like Kinnarps, SiS, and Humanscale were in attendance as well. Each displayed a variety of adjustable-height workstation solutions aimed at the corporate office. Some such configurations were fairly straightforward, like two standing desks with acoustic panels opposite each other and sharing cable management, while others were more experimental. For example, we took a look at a large, square workstation in the SiS booth that was divided into four, equal-size, trapezoidal worksurfaces. Each worksurface can be adjusted to an individual height via a quick and quiet counterbalance system similar to the kind used on the Humanscale Float Table. The rising tide of desks in these manufacturers’ booths is a sure sign of the growing demand among institutional buyers for customizable, standing solutions for their workforce.

Oddly, VersaTables had booth space with some of their new Zero Gravity Tables on display in a prime location, but we didn’t see anybody on hand to staff the booth, nor did we see any booth signage. This is especially peculiar after their showing at the NeoCon Office Interiors show in Chicago earlier this year.

Sit Stand Workstations

Ergotron Rear-Mounted Workfit-S
Ergotron Rear-Mounted Workfit-S

Of course, some people either can’t or don’t want to give up the fixed-height, sitting desk they already have. For the potential standing worker in this category, or for an organization looking to retrofit their desks as an interim standing solution, sit stand workstations are a popular answer. Also known as desktop workstations or desktop risers, we saw plenty of old faces and some new ones at this year’s Ergo Expo.

Ergotron, a massive presence in the ergonomics industry, displayed a variety of monitor arm and “hot desk” products. Among these solutions, Ergotron also devoted a good chunk of their booth space to their WorkFit line of sit stand workstations. While there were no completely new products, we did see updates to their current line. For example, the WorkFit-T has been gaining popularity; enough that Ergotron has decided to release a version with a larger worksurface. The WorkFit-TL has slightly higher weight capacity, five more square inches of work surface, and just under five square inches more keyboard tray.

Ergotron also showed a new, rear-mounting version of the WorkFit-S desktop riser, likely a shot back at Humanscale’s Quickstand. Humanscale released the Quickstand last year. It functions much like Ergotron’s WorkFit-S with the exception that it mounts at the rear of the desk instead of the front.

Ergo Desktop, makers of the Kangaroo family of sit stand workstations, had some developments to show. They’ve introduced a new version of their manual Kangaroo desktop riser equipped to hold three monitors side-by-side. This development is an interesting, if not groundbreaking, improvement. It certainly caught the attention of the Expo goers; the new three-monitor Kangaroo won one of the Ergo Expo Attendees’ Choice Awards.

Ergo Desktop also showed us some early prototypes of an update to their electric Kangaroo riser. They’re working on moving the up/down controls to a small, flush-mounted disc in the left corner, closer to the user. Currently, these controls are on an unsightly appendage that juts out from the lifting column at the rear of the riser, forcing the user to reach anytime they want to change height (see our review of the Electric Kangaroo). If Ergo Desktop can get this new solution to work, it will represent a material improvement on their current offering.

Varidesk Cube Corner
Varidesk Cube Corner

ESI, makers of the Climb and Lift sit stand workstations we first saw at NeoCon earlier this year, exhibited at the Ergo Expo as well. We got the chance to talk again and examine the Climb and Lift risers some more. We’re looking forward to seeing these two risers in our labs soon to give them a full evaluation.

Of course, no conversation about sit stand workstations is complete without a discussion of Varidesk. The massively popular desktop riser displayed in a large booth. In addition to their core Varidesk, Varidesk ProPlus, and Cube series of risers, they also showed a new option targeted at small spaces. The Varidesk Soho is positioned as a solution for workers who don’t have much work space, and is advertised as a mobile solution as well. The riser collapses down for sure, but we’re not sure it is light or streamlined enough to be a truly portable option.

Treadmill Desks and Ergonomics Research

By far, the most exciting booth this year as far as treadmill desks go was the iMovR booth. They set up a full treadmill desk workstation with an Omega Olympus standing desk, new matching mobile file cabinet for those who miss their drawers, and of course, the new ThermoTread GT Office Treadmill. We saw many people enter the booth shaking their heads, vehemently denying the benefit of treadmill desks, only to leave an hour later, shaking hands with the iMovR booth staff after trying the workstation.

In fact, this trend points to iMovR’s position as the one organization pioneering research into standing and walking ergonomics. All ergonomists are well versed in sitting ergonomics, but few have had any formal training in evaluating the new surge of stand up desk and walking workstation setups. iMovR’s research in these areas enabled them to show the Expo’s ergonomists how to capture all the benefit of a treadmill desk without introducing the common ergonomic mistakes surrounding them. Chiefly, iMovR’s office-friendly, smartphone-like desktop console combined with the ThermoTread’s near-silent noise signature and the Omega’s built-in SteadyType keyboard tray won the affection of many an ergonomist jaded by the imperfect treadmill desks of yesteryear.

LifeSpan's Ergo Expo BoothLifeSpan Fitness returned to the show to exhibit their office treadmill line and accompanying desks (desks we might add which helped create the misconception that treadmill desks cause more harm than good). There were no new innovations here, something of a disappointment from a company that has, for several years, been the only name to pay serious attention to in the world of treadmill desks. Company representatives confirmed that no new enhancements have been made since the line was introduced in 2011, and none are planned.

As in previous years, Rebel Desk, Exerpeutic, and Tread Desk were no-shows. Office interiors giant Steelcase also did not exhibit, yet more evidence for the hypothesis that they have no intention of updating their vintage Walkstation and Sit-to-Walkstation treadmill desk products.

Don’t Forget the Keyboards!

They’re easy to overlook, but your keyboard is probably the piece of your workstation you are in contact with the most throughout your day. We stopped by the Matias booth, makers of the wonderful Ergo Pro mechanical keyboard. We found another keyboard in their booth that may be a boon for keyboard tray users: the Mini Quiet Pro. Available in both a wired and wireless version, this keyboard omits the num pad seen on most keyboards. When working on a keyboard tray, where the existence of num pad often moves the center of your typing space to the left, this keyboard will keep you centered with your workstation. Matias also showed us new, colored wrist rests for the Ergo Pro, a nice personalization option.

Goldtouch is a keyboard company we’ve kept our eye on for a while, but haven’t written much about recently. That’s about to change. They’ve been busy, as we saw in their booth at Ergo Expo. The product we’re most interested in is their new Go!2 Mobile Keyboard. This keyboard follows the same design as their full V2 Adjustable Keyboard, namely, two panels joined at the top center by a ball joint that allows you a large range of customization in the tent, tilt, and cant of the two keyboard halves. As the name implies, the Go!2 Mobile Keyboard is slimmed down so that you can carry it with you on the plane or to your local coffee shop. A demo unit is en route to our labs, so look for the full review in the coming weeks.

Kinesis returned to show their admirable split-panel keyboard, the Freestyle2. Apart from that, and their relatively recent Bluetooth version of the Freestyle2, there wasn’t much new to see in their booth.

Active Chairs for Your Sitting Break

ErgoExpo Back App Booth
A Bevy of Back App Chairs

It’s clear to most people by now that we sit too much during the day. And while most of our effort is rightly behind the push to get people standing and walking at their desk, it remains true that a healthy workday includes some sitting time in between your standing and walking sessions. The best chairs are ones that allow you still get some movement, and aren’t so comfortable and adjustable that you want to spend more time than necessary in them. This makes finding the best seating options tricky. They need to provide rejuvenation without completely putting you into rest mode.

We love the Back App 2.0 for this reason. The Scandinavian chair does an excellent job of providing a stylish seating option that supports you when you need it and lets you continue some movement while seated. So we were quite pleased to see Back App USA exhibiting at Ergo Expo for the first time. We hope to see them in coming years as well.

We found another eyecatcher in the Ergo Depot booth. The Ongo Stand is an active chair similar in design to the Muvman or Focal Upright’s Mobis. It is more stool than chair, designed for you to lean against it and take some of the weight off your feet and legs without putting you in a completely seated position. The Ongo Stand has a seat shape that provides excellent support, while its base and column allow for a wide range of movement while sitting. We can’t wait to get a demo unit into our labs so we can put out a full report.

Until Next Year

ErgoExpo is the best place to take the pulse of the ergonomics industry. Increasingly, that industry is focusing on office workers and finding solutions that reduce sitting disease. The industry is growing, and more workers and companies are standing up for their health by standing up at their desk. For our part here at WorkWhileWalking/WorkWhileStanding, we’re thrilled that we find more support than ever for people and organizations looking to make a positive change in the way they work. We can’t wait to see what the show looks like in 2016. In the meantime, subscribe to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss any of the upcoming reviews on products we saw at ErgoExpo.

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