DIY Standing Desks

On the off chance you missed the memo: Your chair is killing you!!1!

The tl;dr goes something like this: Human bodies are really ill-served by sitting in a chair for periods longer than ~30 minutes; it tangles up your digestion, causes problems all up and down the spine, and if you are typing at a keyboard is also pretty hard on your blood circulation. Also, “resting” this much strains the heart, as we’re evolved to use the big muscles in our legs to help circulate our blood, thus relieving stress on the heart. We evolved to move around a lot–mostly walking from place to place–not sitting super still while moving our fingers super fast. If you prefer this sort of thing as a totally excessive infographic, the canonical one is to the right.

Anyway, over at the Workantile–which is populated by folks whose jobs are to sit very still while their fingers move very fast–we talk about the health ramifications of our sedentary jobs *a lot*. One of the easiest solutions–in addition to mandating regular perambulations–is to add a standing desk to your office. Our space includes a couple of high cafe tables, as well as one of these bad boys:

This is one of the best store-bought standing desks I’ve seen, because:

  1. It has an adjustable monitor mount: Many folks choose standing desks because looking down at their hands all day is screwing up their necks and backs–looking straight ahead is much more comfortable
  2. It’s convertible: The whole thing can raise and lower so that you can take periodic sitting breaks; shifting from sitting to standing (and being able to sit in multiple different postures) is ideal
  3. It’s flexible: This fella clamps to a wide variety of existing desks, and is really quick and easy to set up

I’m 99 percent sure this particular model (which a member donated) is an “WorkFit-S Single HD Sit-Stand WorstationErgotron WorkFit-S Sit-Stand Workstation,” which costs several hundred dollars.

For those on a budget, their are *tons* of ways to rig up a workable (if, let’s face it, ugly as hell) standing desk. This is a project that’s totally responsive to Roosevelt’s Law of Task Planning (aka Akins Law #34: Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.) Here’s mine:

(The sheet is just there to aid visibility; otherwise it’s hard to see the damn thing against all the clutter hung in my cave)

Yes, this thing–the Fool’s Swing–is ridiculous. I originally hung it up as a platform to test different standing-desk heights in order to determine what I wanted to build (it’s next to my sit-down desk–in ancient, dented Steelcase monster I bought for a dollar–so I can readily shift between sitting and standing). But I discovered that the swing–which took all of five minutes and no dollars to construct–was a good solution for me. Part of the reason this works is that my neck and spine are in great shape–looking down all day doesn’t bother me (also, I touch type, and frequently look away from the screen and just stare into space in front of my as I write); I use a standing desk because working a sit-down job wrecked up my digestion pretty badly (a hereditary thing, as it turns out). The other advantage here is that the swing pushes away from me. I have a tendency to put too much weight on my wrists and lean into them, and the swing doesn’t let me do that. My wife constantly predicts that this arrangement is going to end in a computer-dumping disaster, but it’s been a year and some change, and I’ve never even had a close call. Seeing as how it is basically the same structure as swings I’ve hung–which have put up with much greater weight and abuse without collapsing–I’m not that worried.

Another member of our workspace has this rig, which I love:

Totally ad hoc, but it allows him to pace while working, which is brilliant. Again, zero-cost, and under 30 minutes to build.
Another option is just to boost your desk as a whole. One thing I envy here is that he has an entire raised workspace; when I’m revising (which I do on paper) at home, I generally have to sit at my desk; on book projects, this can mean full days seated, which gets pretty miserable by mid-morning. Although this method requires a lighter desk to begin with (my Steelcase would crush those milk crates), it’s another no cost/quick build solution:

Finally, here’s a link to the canonical $22 Standing Desk from Stock IKEA parts. No one I know has built one, every standing-desker I know has been inspired by it.

FYI, if you’re going to shift to standing and you have a hard floor (mine is vinyl tile on concrete), invest in an “anti-fatigue” gel mat. I got a “Martha Stewart” branded one for $20 at the hardware. Your feet and lower back will thank you. (These are also great in the work room and, if you cook a lot, in front of the sink.)