Hardware

Review: Herman Miller Envelop Desk

The Herman Miller Envelop Desk is designed for computer users and looks to resolve posture problems that ergonomic chairs have not been able to fix.

The Herman Miller Envelop Desk looks to make the desk an integral part of ergonomics. It is designed expressly for computer users and looks to resolve many of the posture problems that ergonomic chairs have not been able to fix.

Note: This review was performed with a unit that the author paid for personally.

Specifications

  • 32 percent recyclable and manufactured using 53 percent recycled content
  • Dimensions: height: 25.5 - 33.5 inches, width: 45 inches, depth: 30.75 inches
  • Cost: About $815 as tested
  • Additional Information: Product Web site
  • TechRepublic Photo Gallery

Who's it for?

The Envelop desk is designed for people who use their desk almost exclusively for working with a computer. People who need to do a lot of paperwork will either want to pass on it, or look into having a secondary surface in their work area.

What problems does it solve?

If you watch someone use a computer, even while in an ergonomic chair, you will see them hunched over much of the time. The problem is that the typical desk keeps the keyboard/mouse and monitors too far away, forcing people to lean forwards. In addition, the sitter's hands are usually unsupported, resting their elbows on the chair's armrests and having the edge of the desk cutting into their wrists. The Envelop desk is designed to alleviate these poor sitting habits.

Standout features

  • Options: The Envelop Desk comes in a wide variety of frame colors, desk surfaces, and feet types to suit anyone's sense of style and needs.
  • Adjustability: The Envelop desk is extremely adjustable, and the surface can come forwards and down quite easily.
  • Style: The Envelop desk looks great.

What's wrong?

  • Workstation, not a "Desk": The Envelop is practically useless for anything other than using a computer; there are no drawers or filing cabinets, and the work surface is too small to put many of the usual office tools on it.
  • Cost: The cost is fairly expensive, considering that you will still need a file cabinet, drawers, and a secondary work surface if you often do paperwork.
  • Adjustability: It took a few weeks to find the right combination of desk height, surface adjustment, and chair adjustments to have the setup work well for me.
  • Leg Adjustment: It's great that you can adjust the leg height, but unfortunately, you need to turn it upside down to do so, hardly an option for most people.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

There have been other approaches towards desk ergonomics, notably desks with lowered surfaces for keyboards and height adjustable desks, but none that are as extreme in their designs as the Envelop. The Envelop desk is centered on computer usage, to the exclusion of other kinds of work.

While the desk seems large in pictures, as you will see in the image gallery, it is actually very small once you put a monitor on it. That being said, Herman Miller recommends that monitors be mounted on arms (sold separately) and the arms attach to the back of the desk, which frees up some workspace. However, even then, the design of the desk would prevent you from using much of it.

Assuming that you can get past the need for additional storage, possibly springing for monitor arms, and the high upfront cost, the desk works as advertised after a few days or weeks of making adjustments and getting used to them. By bringing your body into the desk, the angled front surface allows your arms to be 100% supported by the desk, providing a ton of relief from arm fatigue, and keeping the wrists off of the desk edge. Once you can easily reach the keyboard, leaning back into your chair and taking full advantage of its support becomes much more natural, and the posture really improves after a few days of acclimation.

The surface easily slides forwards and down to provide a custom fit. The legs are adjustable through a great range of heights, but it is a shame that you need to flip the desk over to make the adjustments. The different feet choices allow you to fit the desk to your environment, and the style options (the front of the surface cannot be customized, though) allow you to pick out a desk that fits your décor.

If you are looking to help ease your computer usage related aches and pains, or want to get the full benefit of your investment in an ergonomic chair, you may want to consider the Envelop desk. If you need to do a lot of paperwork or have storage needs, expect to purchase auxiliary furniture as well.

User Rating

Have you encountered or used Herman Miller Envelop Desk? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.

Read our field-tested reviews of hardware and software in TechRepublic's Product Spotlight newsletter, delivered each Thursday. We explain who would use the product and describe what problem the product is designed to solve. Automatically sign up today!

Next Page (Photo Gallery) >>

About Justin James

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox