Setting up a Standing Desk
review office

Preamble

Over the past 18 months I’ve been working on a plan to upgrade my home office. I’ve collected personal ideas, advise from friends, snippets from blog posts, and product literature to make the most educated decisions possible for my new office setup. My redesign was precipitated by two things:

  • The recent reports that sitting is apparently killing us
  • My newly acquired back stiffness from 8 plus hours of sitting per day

What follows is a description of the standing office setup that I configured and some of my initial impressions with changing to a standing desk. I’ve been working in my new standing office for two weeks and the difference between my old and new setup is like night and day. I have no back stiffness and my productivity is through the roof. If your considering switching to a standing office, I highly recommend doing so.

The Setup

My home office setup started with first deciding on a standing desk solution. The decision was much harder than I anticipated. There seems to be two factions regarding standing desk solutions. Group 1 takes an entirely home-made solution. Group 2 opts for a high-end approach with desks such as the Details Series 7 Workstation, which carries a colossal $2000 price tag. Call me crazy, but I felt that the optimal solution was somewhere in the middle of Group 1 and Group 2. I considered building various contraptions on top of a sitting desk, buying an industrial work bench, using saw horses, purchasing a cadaver cart, or just buying a moderately expensive pre-existing solution such as the Geek Desk or an Anthro Cart à la Dan Benjamin’s setup. Ultimately, I felt that each of these solutions failed in one way or another. Some approached seemed too flimsy or hard to engineer, while other pre-built options were too expensive or not extensible enough for a standing desk.

I was starting to think that a viable solution for a standing desk didn’t exist, but then I stumbled onto the idea of using a drafting table. Drafting tables are used by artists and technical drawers who need to stand while drawing to maximize working with large media. These tables happen to be superb work surfaces for standing desks because they are extreme sturdy, resistant to shaking, have adjustable heights, come in many dimensions, and are inexpensive.

Before purchasing a drafting table, I stacked books on my sitting desk to achieve variable heights and experimented with different standing conditions. I am a little over 6 feet tall and I decided that a minimal surface height of 46 inches was necessary for proper ergonomics. I ultimately purchased the Alvin WorkMaster drafting table mainly because Alvin is a well respect drafting table manufacturer, this model can extend to a height of 46 inches, and is relatively inexpensive. Here is what my current setup looks like:

My Standing Desk

After setting up my desk, I proceeded with the usual chores associated with changing any office. The work surface of my desk measures a giant 60 x 37.5 inches, which is perfect for my dual external displays and MacBook Pro. My headphones fit perfectly out of the way under the main surface, which is awesome. The secondary shelf is also a nice additional feature for holding a number of reference books, external hard drives, and other peripherals off the floor.

The second shelf also helped me tame my archenemy - cable management. Wranging cables is not easy, but thankfully there are clever people who have already thought of solutions. For my setup, I used a combination of cable ties and a door hanger similar to this.

Field-testing

At first I was apprehensive about changing to a standing desk, but the transition wasn’t difficult. After the first week my feet were a little bit sore, but I have since adjusted and now I don’t have any problems. I could easily write an entire additional post about how awesome it is to work while standing, but I just want to confine this post to the setup process. If you are on the fence about switching to a standing desk, I think you owe it to your health and productivity to give it a try.