Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Standing Desk Experimentation

I've noticed lately that standing desks seem to be popping up everywhere I look.  I first spotted them in the background of the "Makerbot Mystery Build" videos, then I saw a couple of articles on twitter discussing the pros and cons of sitting vs standing.  The idea was quite appealing as my current set-up is uncomfortable and not really working for me, so I thought why not have a go myself?

Standing Desk Prototype
Standing desk add-on

I didn't know if I'd be able to adapt to standing at a computer, so I didn't want to dive in head first and get rid of my current desk, all I wanted to do was build an ad-on that elevates my laptop to a height suitable for standing.  I had some plywood offcuts laying around that were perfect for the job.  A few cuts and a couple of screws later and I was up and running.

Standing Desk Prototype
Add-on resting on the original desk

The first feature that was vital was some way to keep the rig slipping off the back off the desk if I leaned on it.  The offcuts already had some cut outs that would do the job, so I based my design around these pieces.  They simply hang over the edge of the desk and prevent the rig moving.

Standing Desk Prototype
Back piece to brace unit

One of the pieces of ply I had was just the right size to use as a back brace.  This stiffens the unit up and makes it more stable.  This piece also doubles as a lip for the top shelf.

Standing Desk Prototype
Keyboard and mouse platform

Having my laptop at eye height is all well and good but it makes typing a little tricky.  To get around that problem I put a shelf in a bit lower to put my keyboard, mouse and other USB devices on.

Standing Desk Prototype
Work platform and laptop platform

You can also see that the laptop platform has a small lip at the back to prevent anything from slipping off the top shelf.  You really don't want your laptop falling off the back and dropping 5 feet.

Standing Desk Prototype
Cable retention system

To make managing the peripheral cables a little easier, I cut some holes and slots in the ply.  They allow me to feed the cables up though the large holes and move them along the slots to the edge.  Once the laptop is in position, the cables can't move back towards the centre and fall through the hole.

Standing Desk Prototype
Microwave door cooler stand

 To make sure the airflow to my laptop is unobstructed I use my microwave door cooler stand.  This also helps to keep the cables in place.

Standing Desk Prototype
Space under add-on

If I need the space there is plenty of room underneath the stand for temporary storage.

Standing Desk Prototype
Illuminated work platform

At night a small usb powered light comes in handy to see what your doing.

Standing Desk Prototype
Working at night

The light from the work area isn't distracting and doesn't interfere with laptop screen.

Standing Desk Prototype
Standing desk in operation

The conclusion

It took a while to get accustomed to standing at a desk, but I think it was worth it.  I can't be sure but I think that my posture has improved, and less strain is put on my back.  As this was thrown together quickly from things I had laying around the place, it's not how I would do it if I were to design and build it from scratch.  First of all, both platforms are probably about 10 cm too low, this isn't a major problem but it's something that needs to be tweaked.  The other problem being the width, it's just too narrow.  Once again easy to fix.

The other main problem that I've had to overcome, is trying to convince people this isn't the final stage of my decent into madness.  Nearly everyone I've told thinks that I'm out of my mind, but I figure it's worth a shot.  My back has to last long time, and I don't mind looking a little strange if there's a long term benefit.  After all, if you're considering this, you're probably a little quirky to start with.

Although I've become accustomed to standing, it's still nice to sit down occasionally, and with this set-up I just can't do it.  I think maybe a raised chair set at the right height would work well.  That way I could switch between standing and sitting.  Ideally what I want is a bench about 1.1 meters high instead of a desk.  This would be used for the mouse, keyboard, and other office tasks.  A small shelf about 40 cm above this would be used for the laptop and any other monitors.  A set up like this would allow me to do any task sitting or standing.  For now however this will have to do as I don't have the room or time to build a better desk.  I think the next step for this arrangement is to get an anti-fatigue mat, just to make standing for longer periods a little more comfortable.

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