Finding healthier ways to access Second Life

The Brody WorkLounge is available in various finishes and configurations, some of which include a foot rest
The Brody WorkLounge is available in various finishes and configurations, some of which include a foot rest. Photo by Steelcase.

Innovative office furniture designer Steelcase just released a new desk / chair unit that might be what some virtual world and gaming enthusiasts have been waiting for, but should we really be finding better ways to sit?

Before answering that question, let’s start with a poll:

The Brody WorkLounge is aimed at blocking out visual and auditory distractions while offering a secure space for maximum concentration. While the chair is being marketed as a new kind of comfortable cubicle for office workers in open plan offices, I couldn’t help but think of how such a chair would improve immersion in virtual worlds.

The chair can be joined with additional chairs to save space. Photo by Steelcase.

Cutting out distractions

According to Steelcase, a typical office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes. After an interruption, it takes roughly 23 minutes to get back to the same level of concentration and focus before the interruption.

The chair can combat these issues with an enclosed design, a privacy screen that cuts out distractions that occur when we see something in our peripheral vision. One might imagine feeling more psychologically safe in such a chair, where you can settle down to focus, safe knowing that no one will walk up behind you.

This posture doesn’t look very ergonomically sound to me. Photo by Steelcase.

In addition to privacy, the company claims the workspace is designed to ergonomically provide back support while eliminating the ‘lumbar gap’ found in common office chairs – in what the company calls an ‘alert recline’ posture. The tray swivels out for a laptop, wrist supports, there is a small space for work-related items (like hot beverages and mobile devices), and of course, a tidy power socket.

Priced at $2,700 USD, this chair will be out of the market for most consumers. Still, I can imagine competitors arriving on the scene offering less expensive versions that might attract those of us who dislike the stiffness associated with using virtual worlds at a desk, or the ergonomically dangerous approach to spending too much time on the couch.

Improving sitting posture

When it comes to sitting posture, I’m more interested in finding a better posture approach to using my computer, than privacy per se. To me, people seated at the Brody WorkLounge don’t appear to be seated in an ideal ergonomic posture.

Sadly, however, I haven’t been one to point fingers.

When I use Second Life, my habit has been to sit on my (ever-softening) couch with my Belkin Laptop Cushtop on my lap, under my 17″ MacBook Pro. The Cushtop is a grippy fabric covered, hard foam pad with an empty slot in the middle to create an air pocket between the hot laptop and my lap. Priced at about $30 (when it was available on Amazon), it’s an affordable solution that allows me to sit on my couch without toasting my thighs while on SL.

My normal seating arrangement with laptop on Belkin Cushtop
My normal seating arrangement with laptop on Belkin Laptop Cushtop

The drawbacks, however, are that this posture is terrible for my wrists, and my couch provides next to zero back support. My forearms are angled way above the recommended 90 degree angle for keyboard typing, with my hands pointing upwards instead of down. There is no wrist support apart from the hard edges on my laptop that tend to dig into my wrists cutting off my blood circulation to my fingertips. When I first sit, my back starts off in a reasonably good position (for a couch), but soon sinks and slopes into a C-curve position that puts way too much pressure on my lumbar and coccyx (instead of the more ideal seated S-curve that most ergonomists recommend).

As I wrote the earlier part of this post, I was seated at my desk. While natural for blogging, I find such an arrangement somewhat formal and unrelaxed for spending leisure time in SL. Further, I work at a desk all day long, and I like a postural difference when I’m on SL, as well as a psychological one. Still, I think I’m going to have to get off the couch – if I’m to avoid long-term pain and discomfort.

Shouldn’t we really be standing?

Evolution of Man

Recent research examining the effects of our sedentary lifestyles suggests that I’m going about this all wrong. Far better than finding a better chair or posture to sit in, what I really should be doing is standing, or maybe even walking.

If you’re a desk worker by day and a Second Life resident by night – you might be sitting for up to 12 hours a day. That’s half your day spent seated, with probably about 8 hours spent sleeping – leaving only 4 hours spent in the position that in large part defines who we are as a species.

Just today, an SL friend with a different perspective reminded me of how fortunate we are to be able to stand and walk on two legs that work as they were intended. Given this opportunity, I feel it might be scandalous to not take more advantage of this gift than we might otherwise do.

As it turns out, sitting, research shows, is terrible for you:

“Your job is killing you. If you sit at a desk for more than four hours a day, you increase your risk of death from any cause (my emphasis) by nearly 50 percent and boost your risk of heart problems by 125 percent.” – Wired: Get a Standing Desk

I’ve dabbled with a standing desk for a while, and I now going back to that arrangement, because my back, elbows, and wrists are beginning to join forces in protest at my horrendous seated posture habits.

My new standing desk setup
My new standing desk setup: Two Furinno Adjustable Vented Laptop tables

Until now, I have been lucky to be relatively immune to aches and pains as a result of sitting posture. But now, I’m getting tingles in my lumbar, numbness in my elbows and even burning in my wrists. Repetitive stress injuries are something I’d really rather avoid, and I fear my prolonged sitting posture while on SL (in addition to sitting at a desk all day long at work) might be a major contributor to this.

The set up I have pictured here isn’t cheap. This configuration is possible with two Furinno Adjustable Vented Laptop tables, one holding my laptop with the other holding my wireless keyboard and trackpad. They are available on Amazon for £95 each plus shipping. I know that sounds like a lot, but even two of them are cheaper than most good quality desk chairs. Also consider that this is a setup that I can put on any table – not to mention the many health benefits on which one cannot put a price.

What about walking?

I’ve also considered the idea of getting a treadmill desk, where I can walk while I work or use Second Life. How awesome would it be to be active while enjoying the psychological and mental stimulation that the virtual world gives? It would no doubt be more physically advantageous, but I’d imagine it might interfere with concentration. That’s a much larger investment than a standing desk, so I’m keen to hear more about people’s experiences with that.

On paper, a treadmill desk sounds amazing. Apart from being new and trendy, claimed benefits of walking while using a computer include productivity boosts, improved metabolism, increased longevity, a healthier heart, improved focus, a brain boost, back pain relief and a general sense of well-being and  happiness.

Where and how do you sit when you access Second Life? Do you care much about privacy when accessing Second Life in your own home? Do you consider ergonomics when seated? Are you suffering from any aches and pains associated with less than ideal typing posture? Would you consider standing, or even a treadmill desk? What would be your ideal virtual world access set-up?

And in case you skipped it above, please remember to complete the poll at the top of this post.

9 thoughts on “Finding healthier ways to access Second Life

  1. Great post Becky! I actually have made myself a treadmill desk and love it. Now I just need a stronger laptop for SL. I always use SL at my desk since my desktop is a better machine than my laptop, and I make myself get on the treadmill desk to do other online things like my gradwork and teacher stuff (inputting grades, preparing lesson plans, etc).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, making a treadmill desk was rather simple and inexpensive and I figure that would have to do with what sort of treadmill a person has. Mine has flat handles so I was able to go to Lowe’s, select a finished shelf (for a bookcase) and some clamps and I was done. I think the whole project cost me about $20 USD.

        I usually walk 3 – 3.5 mph at most (it increases the more I do it), and at a slight incline (I adjust this as much as I can as well w/o being unsafe). I loose track of time quickly on my treadmill desk and have learned that my treadmill stops on its own at 100 minutes. Sometimes I just start it up again and keep going, and sometimes I take that as a sign that I have done enough walking.

        I manage walking and typing just fine and would totally be on it more if I had a better laptop and be on SL too. I have had plenty of friends tell me they could never type and walk, so I know it isn’t for everyone, but I sure am glad it works for me. I think it is a great way to do what I enjoy and be active at the same time.

        Thanks for bringing this topic up Becky, it reminded me that I really need to get a better laptop so I can be on my treadmill desk more! I do quite a bit in SL and I haven’t been on my treadmill as much as I should! 😉

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Great topic and not only applicable to SL!
    I sit at a desk, when in Second Life. Main reason is that I use SL on a desktop machine, with a large widescreen – making it a tad awkward to drag that all to my sofa or bed.
    When I use my laptop, for work only, I prefer sitting at my desk too – or when I feel all wild and adventurous I may sit at the dining table instead of in my office.
    Reason I am a desk-sitter is that I have had RSI a few years ago, to a point I woke up one morning and had so much pain in my elbow and shoulder I was convinced it would be best to get rid of my right arm.
    Not good.
    Turned out I had been working – and playing – for years and years at a too high desk and chair. With help from an ergonomist and a therapist, my workplace and desk at home were adjusted to my height and body and how I should be sitting. Making the pain initially even worse, that was normal as I had to be adjusted myself.
    After 2 months the pains were gone and I am totally used to the positions of the chair and desk (which seems ridiculously low, but it made sense after all). It is why I am not a fan of sitting on the sofa with a laptop and even sitting at the diningtable is not comfortable for longer than an hour.
    The furniture in your post looks fancy and cool, but I would not want to sit like that for a long time.

    The treadmill..mmm, I don’t know, I am sporty – active- and do fitness in a gym away from home and away from the computer – I think that is best for me :).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good approach. It’s easy to forget to move, I’ve even used a timer to remind me. And getting up to get a drink of water is a great way to remind yourself to move and stay hydrated as well – one-two punch!


  3. I also have made a DIY treadmill desk. However, I have issue with the smaller laptop keyboard and the smaller monitor. I have gotten too used to having my large monitor. Also, my laptop doesn’t have the same graphics as my PC, so much of what I do has to be done on the PC.
    I have also started using my tablet while walking on the treadmill, so that I can catch up on feeds, emails, etc., but don’t have to do a lot of actual typing.
    I still find that when sitting at a desk, my mindset is much more focused than using a laptop on the sofa or while on the treadmill. I have also started using a timer to remind myself to get up and move around every 20 minutes.


    1. Laptops and SL can indeed be a match made in hell. The Macbook Pro I’m using is screaming at me to stop using it for SL and leave it do what it does best – which is serve my needs at work. As I’ve considered what my next machine for pleasure might be (and it has to come quick), I’ve steadfastly assumed it would be another laptop – but that I’d have to spend a premium for one that could handle SL properly.

      With my new standing arrangement however, I’m less inclined to spend more on a souped-up laptop and instead invest those funds into a likely much more powerful desktop with a larger screen (my iMac, sadly, just won’t deal with SL either).

      So, that’s good news for what I might get for my budget, but bad news for my treadmill plans. I’ll continue to use a wireless keyboard and trackpad of course, but propping up a desktop monitor at the recommended eye level is another issue altogether. If I can manage it at all, I’ll probably have to face a wall somewhere, which isn’t great either, because I love to have space in front of me to refocus my eyes on distance from time to time.

      It’s not a simple thing to get everything one wants, is it?


      1. I’d love to be able to upgrade my laptop and PC both, but other necessities take precedence. So for now, I’ll stick with the PC and using the laptop on the treadmill. I use a wireless keyboard and mouse with the PC, but I ran into the same issue with the monitor trying to make a standing desk.
        For now, I’m happy with my current set up. When I’m no longer paying college tuition, then I will hopefully be able to splurge on the high-end graphics computer I covet.


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