As many of us have come to learn quite vividly over the last couple years, working from home has many advantages. More flexible schedules, more time with our loved ones, less time spent commuting, less awkward banter by the coffee machine.
But the WFH life also can have some distinct disadvantages — in particular, when it comes to working environments. Offices, at the very least, are designed for work — pretty much by definition, they have desks and computers and all the other paraphernalia needed to accomplish an office job. Your home, not so much. Even if you had a proper desk or home office before March 2020, odds are good you didn't have enough home office space for two full-time workers to spend 40-plus hours a week at — and with home prices the way they are nowadays, good luck finding a bigger space that has enough room.
So when the pandemic caused me and my partner to both have to work from home — home being a New York apartment that only has room for one office chair — for what's now going on two-plus years, we were forced to adapt in one of two ways: either our bodies would bend into a chiropractor's dream from sitting poorly, or we'd have to make our bad chairs better.
Not surprisingly, we chose the latter. We picked up a set of cushions from the big brains at Cushionlab: the Back Relief Lumbar Pillow and Pressure Relief Seat Cushion. After several months of testing, here's what we discovered.
What's good about Cushionlab's pillow and cushion
First and foremost, there's no denying that the Pressure Relief Seat Cushion lives up to its name. The butt support is downright spectacular, cradling your tuchus in perfectly sculpted memory foam. It's like a Recaro racing seat had a baby with a Casper mattress.
The Back Relief Pillow is less revelatory — but part of that is because the cushion is just so good, it cants your torso uprights and forward in a way that prevents you from being lazy and leaning against the back of the chair.
Still, when you do shift to a position that lets you take advantage of its capabilities, it's equally pleasant to lean against, offering a wonderful mix of support and suppleness. After years of using substandard office chairs that leave my lumbar looking for help, this pillow was a welcome change of pace.
And unlike, say, that fancy Herman Miller Embody you've long had your eye on, these cushions — especially the seat one — can bring their added support pretty much anywhere. You can drop the cushion on the driver's seat for long trips, plop it in 23C for that Delta flight across America, place it on that POÄNG you use as an incidental chair in the living room when your kids sprawl out over the whole couch while you're all watching Avengers: Infinity War for four hours on TBS. It's delightfully portable.
What's not ideal about Cushionlab's pillow and cushion
On the flip side, however, the Cushionlab system isn't particularly stable. Other than its grippy rubber base, the cushion has no way of securing itself to the chair, so it slides around with your body weight — causing you to constantly correct, which is a bit awkward. The back support pillow, meanwhile, does have an elastic strap to hold it fast — but on the slick wooden back of our dining room chair, it couldn't find enough purchase to hold the pillow up at the ideal height.
And good as the cushion and pillow are, their helpfulness is ultimately restricted to some degree by the seat they're on. A good office chair doesn't just provide back and butt support; it also spins and wheels around, enabling you to move as needed to make the most of a desk space. Your repurposed dining room chair doesn't offer any of that — and with the cushions mounted to it, it's not as easy to pivot your Y-axis left and right the way you would on a stool or other naked chair.
Cushionlab Back Relief Pillow & Pressure Relief Seat Cushion: the Verdict
Of course, at less than $160 for the duo together, the Back Relief Pillow and Pressure Relief Seat Cushion are much cheaper than a good office chair. (Indeed, more than once I've considered using them to improve my cheap, college-leftover rolling chair once my partner has to return to the office.)
The bottom line: if you're working from home in front of a computer constantly, there's no substitute for a proper office chair. If for whatever reason that won't work for you, though, Cushionlab's power duo can make life a good bit more comfortable.