When Covid-19 hit corporate America back in March, I was one of the many workers scrambling to put together a comfortable home office. I missed my colleagues, the machine-brewed coffee and — never thought I’d say this — I missed my desk. More specifically, I missed something I used to sit on (no, not my ergonomic office chair): the Gaiam Wobble Disc I relied on to help my posture.
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Like most modern humans, I’m often tethered to my computer — in my case, a laptop — for the entire work day. I’ve also spent the entirety of my working years battling the effects of bad posture in the sedentary realities of a desk job. Yoga and strength exercises increasingly became a part of my daily routine to contend with that. At one point, I even printed out a sketch of a healthy spine and taped it to my computer monitor as a reminder to sit up straight. That’s around the time a friend recommended a strange-looking addition to my chair.
The Gaiam Balance Disc is an inflatable plastic device designed to rest on top of the seat of any chair. Its broad oval shape helps it fit snugly on your seat. It feels a lot like sitting on a balance ball at the gym, but the disc has a flat base, allowing it to enter your workstation. Because it wobbles underneath you while seated, the disc engages your core muscles and supports proper sitting posture. In turn, it’s built to offer physical relief from stagnant work postures that might lead to tight muscles and other health issues.
With relatively affordable risk, I jumped on the recommendation and spent just over $20 to add it to my regular chair set-up. What I love about it most is the built-in, subtle cuing to stop my slumping and sit up straight. When I lean too far to the left, whoops, I feel I lose balance and work to recenter. Crossing my legs? Not possible without slouching. If I fall into a general hunch, the Wobble Disc helps me notice it and make a correction. If anything, that’s one of the main values of the disc: It communicates to me silently that I’m in a bad spot.
Admittedly, the disc looks a little weird at first, as I mentioned above. It’s an addition to the top of your chair of a pillow-like structure with slight slope over the top, so not really what we expect from normal chairs. But its function made the form well worth it (and more than tolerable). Sitting on it during work — or wobbling, rather — did take some time getting used to, a few weeks, I’d say. The only real downside is the disc’s materials: plastic. It can make some goofy sounds if you move around on it in just the right way. It might not be noticeable in your home office, but definitely created an awkward moment or two when I was in an open office environment — I don’t think it’s a dealbreaker, though.
If I get tired of it at any point, I can just take it off and resume life as it was before. But in the year-and-a-half of using the disc, I’ve never wanted to.
The Wobble Disc was a small tweak for improving my work posture and it is a solid work-around for what would otherwise be an expensive purchase: a new office chair. As working from home during Covid-19 stretches into the long term for some workers, having the right ergonomic set-up — for your chair, keyboard or mouse — is increasingly important for general wellness. Attended to properly, your workstation can allow you the freedom to move and the postural support for a healthy spine — even after a long day at work. Overall, though, the Wobble Disc was an affordable, low-stakes addition to my desk chair. If I get tired of it at any point, I can just take it off and resume life as it was before. But in the year-and-a half using the disc, I’ve never wanted to. And there’s one extra perk to get behind. While many gyms and in-person workout classes remain off-limits, the wobble disc can double as a workout tool. Gaiam has a few special exercises they recommend trying, like putting the disc behind your lower back and taking a stretch over your chair.
Other wobbly ergonomic options
Gaiam’s got more than the Balance Disc to help us remote workers. Here are some of the brand’s other offerings.
Similar to the Wobble Disc, this product looks like a chair but equips an entire balance ball in place of a seat. It has four wheels and offers some spinal support with a short backrest. The brand recommends it for people no taller than 5-foot-11 — it supports up to 300 pounds and comes in a variety of playful colors.
Enjoy all of the benefits of the rolling ball chair but without the back support. Ideal for users who prefer not to have a backrest or those who desire more freedom to move around while seated.
3. Balance Ball Stool (limited availability)
The stool is basically the Wobble Disc on wheels. Unlike the other ball-chair options, this one is height-adjustable, the brand boasts, and allows for swiveling in a 360 degree range of motion.
This option from Gaiam is for the worker ready to completely ditch the traditional office chairThis stability ball is popular in gym settings for balance exercises. Substitute for your office chair entirely by sitting directly on this ball. It supports up to 300 pounds and comes with a base to keep the ball in place. Like the wobble disc, you can also fit it into your fitness routine. It comes with a pump for easy inflation. Yes, this is similar to the one Dwight brags about in a memorable scene of The Office.