Reinventing the Workspace

I’ve been sneaking away from my actual desk to do work at every and any opportunity this past year. My office has been feeling cluttered, cramped, and… not a space I’ve wanted to be in. Some of that is natural, I think, the usual desire to vary the space in which I’m working. I like to escape to a coffee house, for example, and find the hum of random noise in which to work, and grab a good beverage or snack to accompany the task at hand. Even with the noise, the distractions seem fewer most of the time than when I’m working at home.

But outside escapes also tend to work better for certain kinds of tasks, and with summer’s arrival I’m ready to reclaim my office. And I’ve also decided it’s time for a make-over of my home workspace too.

This year I’m trying a significant experiment: a standing desk setup. I’ve had friends endorse these, and have mostly nodded at the mention of standing desks but kept a distance. This past year, though, I’ve been finding myself with increasing back and shoulder problems. I’ve also seen a plethora of reminders that sedentary professions are unhealthy (e.g., here and here, for starters.) So I’m giving the standing desk a go.

I’m starting it with an inexpensive Ikea hack to see if I like the arrangement first, before investing in something more permanent. I created a standing desk following mods of this model, all for something in the range of about $25-30. I also added a cushioned floormat to help my legs and back, which seemed essential. These go for anywhere from $35-100, good and lasting ones probably about $50-60 and up. I have a monitor on top with a keyboard, and my laptop, peripherals, speakers, scanner, etc. all rigged with a universal docking station.

Also got the rest of the desk in an “L” shape for other kinds of work. My plan is to keep both options open — sitting and standing — and leave it so I can alternate easily. Stand a few hours, mostly for email and lighter tasks, sit for the heavier work of translation or hard-core writing. I’m finding already that this also help separate out distractions: email tasks and the inevitable surfing the ‘net seem further separated, both in time and on separate monitors & spaces. So perhaps this will have multiple payoffs in terms of both health and productivity.
We’ll see how it pans out… In the meantime, here’s an image of my setup. I’ve used plastic cables at the moment (rather than bolts and washers, etc.) to fasten the shelf arms to the desk. I did this in order to keep the height settings flexible for the moment, in case I need to make adjustments (yes, waiting for potential aches and pains, as the old gal I am.) The cables are doing an excellent job of holding things tight, though, which is good to see.

Top image: my favorite spot to escape from work, years ago in Taipei… Image by M.G. Chang, who spent a good deal of time there himself.

4 thoughts on “Reinventing the Workspace

  1. Congratulations and welcome to the world of vertical office spaces! I have had a standing desk (on wheels) for at least two years and have not regretted that choice in the slightest. My assistant got one two and slowly we are converting the folks in our building to considering this as a viable workspace option.

    I don’t always work in my office, so having a set up on wheels was a good choice… I can push my desk from room to room or to class and not have to worry about re-setting up my laptop etc.

    This is the model I got from Amazon (and now I see Target carries it too!) You can put stuff in the compartments down below (books, water bottle, lunch) which I have found to be helpful.

    One thing I would encourage you to consider buying is a pad to stand on. I bought an “anti-fatigue” chef’s mat (it cost as much as the desk, about $50) and it has been well worth it. My knees and ankles and feet still thank me for thinking of them.

    I look forward to hearing more your workspace innovations!

    1. Hi Barbara! Many thanks for sharing your experience — and the link to the desk on wheels! Love the idea of a desk in motion. I did just acquire a pad to stand on too, just in time. I noticed in the first few days that it doesn’t take long without one to start feeling it… Amazing what a difference a good mat makes. I’m also glad to hear that the long-term results of a standing desk hold up, and that it’s not just the fad that it might seem (for some) to be?

      Just saw another report, thanks to a friend, that suggests there are good reasons to switch:

      Next innovation? Toying with the idea of an inexpensive, home-made whiteboard for the wall…

  2. I have a standup/adjustable monitor in my work office. I love it. I want something new at our house as well. But come upstairs in the fall and see my fancy pants set up.

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