Stand and Deliver

I spend a lot of time working on a computer.

I don’t mean ‘eight hours’: eight hours would be a remarkably light amount of screen time for me on any weekday. Given that I get up around 6 am (or earlier; thank you, Zoe), don’t head to bed until around 11:30 pm, and spend all but about 2 or 3 hours of that time looking at some kind of LCD… yeah. It adds up.

It has, as the kids say, always been thus, and after some near misses with serious repetitive stress injuries in college, I devoted more than a little thought to ensuring my (potentially) sixteen daily hours of computer work didn’t cripple me. Different keyboard and mice styles at home than at work — that sort of thing. Lately, my smartphone has taken up about fifty percent of the casual, look-it-up browsing that I do at home (more out of the necessity born of need-an-answer-while-holding-infant than it being an especially good replacement), and my Macbook Air is handling at least 70% of my serious at-home computer use (because it is an especially good replacement), but none of that addresses the real killer hiding behind that much time sitting at a desk.

The actual sitting.

I’d pondered the idea of a standing desk for a long time, but it simply wasn’t something I could start doing at home – there are too many times when I’m already at the computer and suddenly need to do that and (say) hold a kid in my lap.

So I turned to my day job work environment, and the question of how I could incorporate a standing desk. I tried several solutions that didn’t stand (heh) the test of time, but the current iteration is both one I’m very happy with and something I believe is cheap and easy enough to recommend to nearly everyone (assuming you’re within driving distance of an Ikea). I’ve been using this set up for a little over two years, and I find it helps me focus, increases my energy levels, and (very important) keeps me from dozing off after a long night of toddler wrangling.

Sitting is killing you, after all, so maybe this will help.

Start with your basic cubicle. You’re going to be working with the “long” side of the cubicle (on the right, in this picture), which should measure roughly 48 inches long and about 23 or 24 inches deep, give or take.

Grab two Linnmon table tops from Ikea. You can use the version that is 39″ long (which cost about $6 each) or (my preference) the 47″ versions. Both lengths are the same 23.5″ depth, which fit most cubicle dimensions perfectly.

(If you don’t have an Ikea around, just check out the website, see what I’m talking about, and go look for something similar – they are very common dimensions for table and desk tops.)

Buy two four-packs of Capita legs from Ikea. They come in 4″, 6″, and 8″ lengths. Remembering that the desk tops themselves are 1″ deep, you can add leg height to desk thickness to figure out what combination will bring the top of the desk even with your elbows, once the whole thing is sitting on your cubicle desk. Someone who’s shorter may only need one desk top and a single set of legs.

(Example: I am six feet tall. My cubicle desk is 28.5″ high. I purchase one set of 8″ legs, and one set of 4″ legs which, combined with the two desk tops, and stacked one atop the other, makes a standing desk ‘addition’ that’s roughly 14.5″ high or, when added to the cubicle, 43″ from the ground.)

If you want to get fancy, get one more set of capita 4″ legs and mount them to a spare bookshelf shelf – use that as a riser for your monitors.


With this, I lose no desktop space (rather, I gain considerably more easy-access storage for whatever I’m working on at the moment) move the laptop dock out of my way, and create a spot where I can comfortably stand for six to eight hours a day (what I do), which is apparently the equivalent yearly calorie burn of running 20 marathons (which I will never do).

Works a treat, costs 40 to 60 bucks total, you don’t have to justify it to your company’s budget people, and you can take it with you when you leave.

4 Replies to “Stand and Deliver”

  1. Do you do anything special for the flooring? I know a lot of people who work on their feet all day and suggest special foam or rubber flooring, so I was wondering if that made much difference in the transition. Also, do you work your way up to it – like a ratio of starting with x hours a day, move up in y increments?

    1. I don’t do any kind of floor mat, though I can understand why people would.

      Instead, I have one of these little footstools halfway under my desk:

      I put one foot or the other up on it from time to time, to shift my weight and so forth.

      I didn’t really ramp up to a full day – I knew the first week was going to be pretty hard, so I just dove in full time and went for it, reasoning it would be easier to dial back once I’d established the habit than it would be to slowly add more standing.

      And I don’t always stand all day – sometimes I’m just not feeling like it, so I sit for an hour or something and working on something like a first draft of something longer. Or maybe my foot is just sore or it’s late in the afternoon and I’m kinda beat. I’ll sit.

      That said, I’ve set up the desk so that I’m MOST productive and have the best tools to get stuff done (dual monitors, etc) when I’m standing. At least one coworker tried something similar, but set it up so that the standing desk was the sort of secondary, less productive option, and after a week or so it was clear she was never going to actually use it and it just became storage.

      1. [nods] I moved to one of those great big “yoga” balls for a chair at work, and it cured headaches I’d been having for years, and I’d been told to take transition time. Instead, choosing to go full-throttle meant I didn’t relapse. But, it was still *sitting* so I’ve been wanting to try to take the next step. Thanks for all your advice on the topic – I really appreciate it!

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