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So You Want To Get A Standing Desk? Here’s How I Did It


So you’re looking at standing desks. You think they’ll be better for you and your posture. I’ve been doing this (off and on) for two years. When I wrote my first post about standing desks, I was using a very stock solution from Ikea. They don’t even have those desks for sale anymore.

Eventually though, I needed more space and opted for a sit down desk that could be converted later to a stand up one (also, that other desk was crap). So I’ve been sitting since I moved to my new place this spring. After seeing this post from Lifehacker yesterday, I decided to adjust the desk back up to standing height. You can see what my workstation looks like to the right (I did not clean, nor do any ultra-retentive cable management obviously).

Before I tell you how to do this, a couple fair warnings about standing desks:

You look like a dweebus

There is no way to make this look semi-cool. I saw the ultra-premium desks and they look fine until you put them in an office with a bunch of people sitting and you’re standing around all day.

I don’t care. I work from home. But you aren’t going to ever look cool doing this. That’s fine, right? Of course! Until…

Your feet, legs, back and whatever else suck

Don’t tell me how great of shape you’re in. Do you stand for 8–10 hours a day right now? No? Then prepare to feel the pain. Standing all day is different than running, walking or lifting. I’m not saying more difficult, I’m saying different. A couple things will help:

  1. A stool. You can get a barstool or whatever. But you’ll need it. Especially initially. Don’t listen to all of the people that say stools will make your adoption slower. I can’t confirm it but I think anyone who says they didn’t use a stool to start off with is lying. Get something that might not be the most comfortable if that will help you stay on your feet.
  2. Good shoes. Again, you’re going to look like a dweebus. Comfortable shoes are a necessity. Everything starts in the feet.
  3. Get a comfort/anti-fatigue mat. You can get these all over the place. WIll help add a couple hours to your standing almost immediately.

Working and typing is going to be slow going for awhile

I write a lot of words a day and every time I come back to standing, I forget how to type. If you’re a touch-typer, it will take a little while to adjust to typing on your feet. But you will get used to it. That being said, sometimes it is hard to concentrate while standing (especially by the end of the day). So save your big pieces of writing for a block of time and if you are tired of standing, grab that stool and slam through the more intensive stuff.

It takes time to adjust

Like anything else, the change doesn’t happen overnight. When you’ve been sitting and typing for over a decade, you’re not going to beat that in a day. That being said, paying attention to where your monitor is at (your eyes should naturally meet the screen at about a third down drom the top), where your keyboard is at (your arms should hang to the side in a nice relaxed posture with your elbows at about 90 degrees) and your back (stand straight!) will help again.

And get an adjustable desk, not a standing-only one

Convertible desks are super duper easy to get or make. I sat at this desk for about three months before I jacked it up to height. And if I get tired of it, I can put it back down in about 20 minutes. And there are a lot of contraptions that you can put on your existing desk to convert it to standing that you can take down later.

So how did I make this thing?

I mentioned I got my old one at Ikea. Well, it wasn’t exactly the best or most stylish (even for a dorky desk). Plus, I converted to two monitors and needed extra space.

I still went to Ikea though when I built this second desk. I took a more industrial route in making this (though, in reality, it wasn’t that much more difficult than putting together some of the impossible things Ikea makes). It turned out a better quality, huge desk for nearly the same price. Here are the ingredients:

Drill the legs into the table (you may need to get some 3/4″ wood screws rather than the ones that come with it). The screws they provide kind of suck, even with the pre-drilled holes. Then adjust the height of the desk to what you want. After that, attach the Capita legs to the bottom of the shelf (I came in 8 inches on both sides so I didn’t have to get a support leg). Add in the bar stool and boom: your own simple, convertible standing desk for about $200.

I love the look and feel of it and it is sturdy enough to lay on if you wanted to. I’m going to stain it but even a pretty simple oil treatment is fine. I like the butcher block looking top. But the great thing is, there are all kinds of table tops, leg configurations and shelves you can add to it to make it work the way you want. If you go with adjustable legs though, you’ll be able to go back to sitting if you’ve decided standing is not for you (and have a pretty nice desk to boot).

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

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