Thursday, August 7, 2014

Our latest IKEA hack: DIY standing/sitting desk

In my recent account of our anniversary IKEA binge, I noted that one of the items we picked up was a little Lack side table, which Brian planned to use to modify his work desk so he could use it in either a sitting or a standing position. He even decided to spend the extra $2 on the "birch effect" version, rather than plain white, so that it would match the rest of his cubicle furniture. (Side note: I see from the IKEA website that if we had waited until this month, we could have picked up the same table for $5 instead of $10 with our IKEA Family discount. But oh well—it wouldn't have been worth postponing our anniversary trip just for a $5 savings, and it certainly wouldn't been worth making a separate trip later for the table, since gas and tolls would have eaten up the whole $5 savings and then some.)

Anyway, I couldn't report right away on the success of this experiment, since he needed a new, longer cable for his monitor in order to set everything up properly. But now that he has everything in place, I thought you might like to see how this cheap and easy desk hack turned out.

First, here's Brian's workstation in its "seated" configuration. He uses a back-friendly kneeling chair (picked up at the big town-wide yard sale two years back), and the Lack table sits stowed away beneath the desk to the left.

Next, here's the "standing" configuration. The monitor, keyboard, and mouse all hop up onto the desktop, the chair is nudged aside, and everything is at eye level. (Of course, that's Brian's eye level, which is nearly six feet off the ground. A shorter person trying to use the same setup would probably have to shorten the legs of the Lack somewhat.)

He can also leave the monitor and peripherals where they are and use the standing desk for working on his laptop. Or, if for some reason he needs to use use both the laptop and the other computer, he can bounce back and forth between sitting and standing and get some healthy workplace exercise.

It's certainly not as fancy as other standing desks, like this $330 convertible Alekto model, or even these more complex IKEA-hack standing desks featured on Lifehacker. However, I personally think it has distinct advantages over all its competitors, including:
  • Flexibility. The standing desks in the Lifehacker article are for standing only; you can't sit down at them when your feet get tired. The Alekto can be configured for either sitting or standing, but it can't really go back and forth between the two; you'd have to unplug and rearrange everything on the desk, which isn't something you want to do multiple times during the workday. With the Lack hack, by contrast, it takes only a minute to switch from sitting to standing and vice versa.
  • Ease of assembly. The other IKEA hacks have difficulty ratings from easy to medium. The easiest one requires only "assembly of main desk and platform with a screwdriver," but this Lack doesn't require even that; just screw the legs into the top by hand, set it under your desk, and it's ready to go.
  • Cost. The Alekto costs $350, and even the "on the cheap" IKEA hacks range from $140 to $245. Adding this Lack table to an existing workstation, by contrast, costs only $10 (or $5, if you do it this month). 
  • Looks. The $350 Alekto is, in my opinion, downright ugly. Some of the IKEA hacks are quite nice-looking, but they would definitely stand out if you plunked them down in the middle of an existing office where everyone but you had the same standardized furniture. The little Lack, by contrast, blends in quite unobtrusively. (Brian's coworkers particularly appreciated the fact that he chose a birch finish to match the desk, so that was two dollars well spent.) And with 14 colors and finishes to choose from, there's sure to be one that will blend in with your office decor as well.
Bottom line: if you're not sure whether a standing desk is for you, dropping $10 on one of these little Lack tables is probably the cheapest and easiest way to find out.
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