My Standing Desk Experiment

Last week I setup an affordable standing desk solution. A colleague and I had ordered some supplies from IKEA and made Home Depot run with intention of setting up “A standing desk for $22” as seen on http://iamnotaprogrammer.com. This setup uses your existing desk and adds simple, but good looking, tables on top of it to get the standing desk effect.

Ergonomic Bliss

The pieces had come via FedEx and been sitting around my office a few weeks, but after spending a Monday-Wednesday hunched over working on spreadsheets, my shoulders were calling for better desk solution. I spend about 45 minutes setting it up the next morning. Ergonomic bliss was had thereafter.

Hardware

The article I was using suggested use of the IKEA Lack side table ($7.99), of which I ordered two since I run a two monitor setup (Macbook Pro & external VGA). One would sport the keyboard shelf and the other would just act as a platform. Since IKEA does not ship all their products via internet order and since Iowa has no IKEA stores in-state, my colleague had tracked down an alternate shelf than suggested for the keyboard and mouse and workable mounting brackets.

The Setup

Standing Desk 2The setup instructions were provide in the article, which made it easy. Plus, the setup is not really brain surgery anyway. The Lack side tables’ construction was very easy with simple double sided screws attaching the legs (albeit taxing in the wrist by the time you reach the fourth leg of each table). Adjusting how tight the legs were attached also allowed for some height control on slightly uneven surfaces (like my desk at work). The real trick of the construction was choosing, marking, and getting level the shelf for the keyboard/mouse. The goal was to have my elbows at a 90 degree angle (or slightly below 90 degrees) when my hands rested in the keyboard. Since I did not have level in my office, I used a desk ruler and pencil to measured and mark off equidistant points from the top of the table. Since it was a pretty simple setup, the final result came out more or less level. I did add the width of the keyboard shelve (in my case 1/2 inch) to ensure my elbow angle was just right. After some simple screws into the particle board Lack tables and shelf, I was ready to try it out.

Tweaks

IMG_0444The main platform with shelf attached looked great and was just the right height for my hands, but when I put my laptop on it the screen was still too low. I added back my, previously used, 3M Monitor Stand to get just the right height (with top of screens just below eye level). I did the same with the external monitor on the second platform. Lastly, I added some foam floor tiles left over from some past company tradeshow efforts to give a bit of extra cushion to the feet.

Tip Warning

Surprisingly, the main platform with shelf seemed stable despite the fact the keyboard shelf itself was heavy and, one would think, would tip the platform forward. I was nervous because my $1000+ laptop was sitting atop of this setup. I decided to test the weighting a bit more by lightly pushing on the edges of the platform and keyboard shelf. It was then that I found, if you leaned on or pushed too hard on the keyboard shelf, the main platform (with Macbook Pro perched on top!) started to topple forward. No disaster took place, but I did quickly find a heavy object in the office to sit on the rear of the main platform to assure no tipping could happen. A simple solution like a brick would do the trick or you can add mounting brackets from the platform/Lack table to the desk itself. Either way you would be secure.

Using A Standing Desk

It has now been about a week since I started using my standing desk. I was curious as to a) if I could stand all day and b) if this setup would lead me to be more focused/productive/energetic.

Standing Desk 4As to if I could stand all day, amazingly it appears I can. The first few days I did not notice any negative effect on my body. I did choose to take off my dress shoes a bit the first day, but after a few days I brought in my running shoes to use when I was planning to stand and work for an extended period. I just switched back to my dress shoes when it was time for meetings. However, on day six or seven, I did start to notice my ankles got sore. I ended up sitting and using my side desk a few times on those days to give my body a break.

The upside was throughout my first week standing while working, my energy level and focus while doing was improved. This was especially seen in the afternoon hours when I tend to crash from a busy morning and lunch settling in the tummy. I also noticed when people came into my office to speak with me, the conversations seemed more engaging with us both standing and shorter because we seemed to get to the point faster. Plus my ergonomics were in better alignment leading to less body strain overall.

I did notice, around the same day six or seven when my ankles ached more, my overall energy level seemed to go down a bit. I am thinking this was just due to a number of days in a row of using the standing desk (not to mention my busy days and too short nights). My belief is in time, and with adjustment to the new way of working, my ability to stand all-day and all-week will increase. Already, I barely notice I’m upright when focused on working.

I’m Loving It

Overall, the standing desk seems to be working out great. If I continue to enjoy it over the next month or so, I am thinking I will probably get two more (with this setup so cheap anyway) for my home office and co-working location. It seems to be an easy way to gain some focus and energy, while avoiding being stagnate at your desk. We all spend so much time sitting, so why not join me and give it a shot?

If you try out this or another standing desk solution – let me know in the comments. Happy standing.

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Comments
  • Nate Holler

    Thanks for the post Josh — enjoyed reading about it.
    Nate

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