Do Your Back a Favor, Get a Standing Desk

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June 30th, 2011 | 54 comments

A New York Times article titled, “Is Sitting A Lethal Activity?” came out several weeks ago that sparked a lot of conversation around our workplaces. Could it be true that all this sitting is slowly driving our bodies to an early grave? That familiar stiff feeling after a few hours of work seemed to validate the argument. We started thinking about the way we work and designed a custom standing desk to help solve the problem.

…on average, people who sit too much shave a few years off of their lives. (From Is Sitting A Lethal Activity? by the New York Times)

wood-standing-desk-text .

standing-desk Update 7/11/2011: We just finished building our first table! Here’s how it looks.

The Problem With Standing Desks

Most people we know hack together a standing desk. It’s not hard. You find some cinderblocks, install a shelf on your wall, or why not – put a chair on your desk. When you’re short on time, you do what you gotta do. While we love seeing people getting involved in DIY projects, these aren’t exactly good long term solutions, which made us wonder, “Why don’t people just buy standing desks to begin with?”

standing-desk1 standing-desk2
standing-desk3 standing-desk4

(Photos from: Spilling Coffee, Sean Wolter, Instructables, and Kenny Meyer)

google-shopping

A quick search on Google Shopping gave us plenty of good reasons as to why people aren’t buying standing desks:

  • They’re overcomplicated. If you’re looking for just a simple standing desk, you’re out of luck. Sure, you can find them with wheels, a built-in swiveling bookshelf, and one too many adjustable knobs. It’s almost impossible to find a standing desk that is just a desk.
  • They’re either too small, too big, or not structurally sound. Large standing desks are difficult to design, because they need extra stability. This is why most standing desks are small computer stands, which need little support, or large drafting tables, which are too deep for most office situations. We found a few large (and ornate) wood standing desks, but they don’t make sense aesthetically unless you live in Sir Arthur’s castle.
  • They’re expensive. The prices of standing desks are outrageous. They cost much, much more than regular desks for just a little more material. Which is usually flimsy.
  • They’re outdated or just plain fugly. Most ergonomic furniture looks like it’s straight out of the 90′s, because it probably is. According to Wikipedia,

    “The dawn of the Information Age has resulted in the new ergonomics field of human-computer interaction (HCI). Likewise, the growing demand for and competition among consumer goods and electronics has resulted in more companies including human factors in product design.”

    That explains why ergonomic desks are oddly shaped, and available in every drab shade from perwinkle blue to greyish-beige. The only thing you’re missing are some shoulder pads and a stack of CD-ROMs.

It wasn’t hard coming up with a great solution after taking a quick look at what’s out there. No one wanted to go through the trouble of building their own desk. No one wanted something expensive, complicated, wobbly, or plain ‘ol ugly. Which left us with one goal in mind:

We wanted to design a custom standing desk that was 1) simple 2) stable, and 3) affordable.

Goal #1: Simplicity

Most standing desks come with a variety of complicated adjustable features, and a textbook of instructions to go with it. That way anyone can buy the same desk and adjust it to their liking. Which is kind of the problem – it’s made to fit everyone.

The best ergonomic standing desk that you can have is the one that’s made just for you. It takes out all the complexity that comes with standing desks – all the guessing and adjusting that goes into setting up (and readjusting) a standing desk.

standing-desk-ergonomics-v2

We looked into standing desk ergonomics and the biggest factor that we need to be aware of is your elbow height. The table should be at or slightly below your elbow when it’s at a 90 degree angle. But just to be extra precise, we’re installing adjustable feet pads that attach underneath the table legs which adjust the height of the table 1-2 inches of what you ordered. They also double as floor protection and help compensate for uneven floors.

And instead of designing a table that can transform between a sitting and standing desk, we designed crossbeams that act as a footrest if you want to decide that you want to sit in a high chair. Simplicity wins.

standing-desk-ergonomics-sitting

Goal #2: Strength and Stability

wood-standing-desk-back-straight Due to its height, a standing desk is prone to wobbles. Thick, sturdy legs and cross beams create the foundation for our Custom Standing Desk. The crossed tension rods keep the desk rock solid when writing, typing or sketching. The rods and construction bolts can be tightened over time to keep things at optimum performance.

Back Camera One of the drawbacks to a standing desk is the heightened visibility of messy cords.

wood-standing-desk-detail The optional cord guide attachment gathers cords to a common point as they wrap under the desk. The guide attaches under the desk and can be positioned along any side. A cleat below the desktop allows excess cord length to be wrapped around it before descending to the floor. The cleat and guide are made from strong, flexible plastic that allow cords to snap in easily.

wood-standing-desk-front
The natural wood top is finished with polyurethane. This finish will stand up to normal daily use, but can be susceptible to staining from prolonged exposure to things like wet cups. A durable laminate top in several colors is available as an optional upgrade.

wood-standing-desk-laminate

Goal #3: Affordability

The toughest part about designing this desk is trying to make it affordable. Anything that’s hand made or custom made comes with a high price. This desk may not be considered fine furniture, but it’s a one-of-a-kind piece that’s functional and serves as a long term solution for your health.

In all honesty, we’re just trying to get others to use standing desks as a way to promote healthy work habits. Even if you don’t buy a desk from us, we hope we inspired you to create something that changes the way you work.

standing-desk The Custom Standing Desk is a little different from the other items available in our store. Because of its size, we are starting out just selling it locally to people in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The images shown in this post are prototype renderings of what the desk will look like. Small details are likely to change, but the overall design will be what you see here. We welcome feedback so we can make improvements, so please leave a comment below.

The Custom Standing Desk is available now for pre-order

  • http://www.tinkeringmonkey.com Tinkering Monkey

    Hi Thomas,

    We do have one in the studio. It’s custom sized (a little smaller than standard), but looks essentially the same. If you’d like, we can schedule a time for you to come by. Just send us an email: hello@tinkeringmonkey.com

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  • Venu

    Hi!
    The desk looks great, but I have one doubt. I use a 26″ LCD monitor as well as my laptop beside it. Now, my larger screen does offer some adjustments to its height. But it is limited. In order to not keep my neck at a downward incline all the time, I would love if there is a mini platform on the desk so that I can place my monitor and laptop on top of it. This helps me to have a straight line of vision. Any thoughts?

    Also, how many days would it take to deliver after I order it?

    Please let me know.

    Cheers
    Venu

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=706734282 Robert Tobys

    Fantastic. I think I will build one for myself.

  • Anonymous

    Very nice but very spendy. Putting a small table on an existing desk is all that’s really necessary.

  • http://twitter.com/robertfinley robertfinley

    Brilliant stuff. Agree about needing to rest the paws from time to time.

    But I’ll offer a few things to think about.

    Adjustability of the desk height adds complication and cost, and almost certainly reduces durability. Keep it simple and get a tall chair. An ancient solution that works.

    I’ve been standing at work now for about five years. I might take breaks and sit for, at most, an hour out of the day. I started doing this because of knee and back issues, and, apparently paradoxically, have had almost zero issues with those since I started standing. I also don’t find myself going into snooze mode midafternoon. Bonus.

    I might die younger, I might not. This is about being more comfortable and effective in the now, which is, to me anyway, a better reason to stand than the promise of a longer stint in a longterm care facility.

    Love your desks, TM. I got platform envy.

  • http://twitter.com/robertfinley robertfinley

    Brilliant stuff. Agree about needing to rest the paws from time to time.

    But I’ll offer a few things to think about.

    Adjustability of the desk height adds complication and cost, and almost certainly reduces durability. Keep it simple and get a tall chair. An ancient solution that works.

    I’ve been standing at work now for about five years. I might take breaks and sit for, at most, an hour out of the day. I started doing this because of knee and back issues, and, apparently paradoxically, have had almost zero issues with those since I started standing. I also don’t find myself going into snooze mode midafternoon. Bonus.

    I might die younger, I might not. This is about being more comfortable and effective in the now, which is, to me anyway, a better reason to stand than the promise of a longer stint in a longterm care facility.

    Love your desks, TM. I got platform envy.

  • http://www.tinkeringmonkey.com Tinkering Monkey

    Thanks, Robert! You said it better than we could.

  • http://twitter.com/AngryCustom Angry customer

    I am actually looking at this desk because I have lower back issues and sitting for long periods of time exasperate the situation. So, my “Geek Rally Cry”, is really my back hurts and this could be a viable solution. I think you may have some anger issues you need to work on before you buy a new desk as well.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jeanmarie.todd Jeanmarie Todd

    It seems like a very reasonable price for custom furniture! For now I’m going to put something on top of my existing desk, but I can definitely see buying one of these in the next year. Bravo!

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