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Started: 2021-02-04 22:21:20

Submitted: 2021-02-05 00:20:57

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator upgrades to a standing desk

Eleven months ago, at the leading edge of the pandemic when Google encouraged me to work from my house rather than coming into the office, I started working on an Ikea desk we had laying around the house: a wooden tabletop sitting on two tripod legs. It was fine, but I knew I could do better, but for most of the last eleven months I wasn't quite sure what I really wanted in a desk (when I wasn't worried about the imminent collapse of civilization or consumed by the logistics of getting a job in California and then moving there).

Office in Wallingford
Office in Wallingford

Then last week I was doom-scrolling when I saw an ad for a standing desk. This kicked off some research to figure out what I could get in a standing desk, what I wanted in a standing desk, how much it might cost me, and whether I could get any discounts through my current tech employer. I asked for recommendations on a social Slack channel one of my now-former colleagues invited me to, and someone there mentioned Uplift. Their Uplift Standing Desk V2 is not the cheapest desk I could get, but it seemed solid and dependable and came with all of the bells and whistles I wanted: a memory keypad and a large selection of desktops to choose from (complete with a lengthy PDF discussing each material in detail, with a full-page color picture of each material for color-matching).

The one feature I knew I wanted in a standing desk was a chamfer on the front edge so I wouldn't keep scratching myself on it. This was the result of my experience moving into Google's shiny new South Lake Union campus in Seattle, which had been entirely outfitted with a fleet of brand-new very beautiful motorized standing desks with a fatal design flaw.

The desks looked like they had been designed in a wind tunnel, with a bottom edge that angled upwards to meet the top surface at a sharp angle lacking even the slightest chamfer to soften the edge. If one could maintain perfect posture all the time it might have been ok, but if one slouched even a bit one's forearms would rest against the sharp front edge of the desk, and then if one slid in any direction the edge would scratch. At ops review a few weeks after moving into the building, someone asked how we were getting along with the new desks and most of the people around the room, myself included, held up our arms to check for scratches.

Tickets were filed and facilities responded inconclusively, suggesting that maybe they couldn't do anything because sanding or filing down the front edge of the desk might affect warranty coverage. We were less than totally impressed by this and employed a variety of solutions to try to mitigate the sharp edge, including filing it down ourselves (the laminate was too tough for us to make much headway), cutting a pool noodle lengthwise and feeding the sharp edge into it (crude, but effective), and the solution that finally worked for me: a thin layer of fabric first-aid tape over the edge, which softened the edge and felt ok against skin as my arms rubbed across it, and wasn't quite as ugly as the pool noodle. (Facilities finally came up with their own solution which was a half-step up from the pool noodle: an inch-thick foam pad that wrapped around the front edge of the desk to soften the edge, looking more like a bumper for baby-proofing a dangerous coffee table than something that belonged in an office. But by that point I'd deployed the fabric tape and it was fine so I didn't need to pick up the foam pad.)

I skimmed the reviews and no one was complaining about the sharp front edge of the desk (and it didn't look like the edge was all that sharp, to whatever extent I could actually see that in the pictures I saw), so I took the plunge and ordered an Uplift desk.

Jaeger's sitting desk
Jaeger's sitting desk

The first three parts of the desk — the frame and accessories — arrived on Sunday afternoon in a FedEx van that drove all the way up my driveway to deliver the boxes. The desktop itself didn't arrive until Monday afternoon, when FedEx sent a two-person team in another van to deliver the 53-pound desktop. I waited until the evening to dismantle my old desk, assemble the new desk, and move it into position in the corner of my bedroom. (Someday I hope to have an office that isn't also my bedroom.)

Standing desk under construction
Standing desk under construction

So far I've had the desk for three days, and I like it. I've spent a good chunk of time (several hours each day) standing, partially because it's new and novel, partially because I feel like I want to get my money out of the desk, and partly just so I can have a minor change of scenery while I'm working (to the extent that standing moves my head higher than it was while sitting). I've attended meetings standing, I gave an entire interview while standing, and I wrote most of a technical document (which I've been putting off for months) while standing. (The only problem I've run into so far is that the plastic mat for my rolling office chair is a bit too hard to stand on, so I borrow a bath mat that mostly works.) I didn't use my standing desk at Google all that much, but I expect I'll spend at least some of my time standing each day, as I work from home now and (ideally) some of the time in the After Times.

New standing desk
New standing desk
Having rejected DOS, we're paranoid about anything that isn't
"user-friendly," that requires some adjustment on our part and a
commitment to meet the technology halfway. It's as if Henry Ford rigged
a bridle and set of leather reins to his Model T instead of a steering
wheel and clutch, and to this day we were still driving our cars the way
a 19th century groomsman would handle a horse and buggy.
- Jonathon Keats, "'You Send Me' by Patricia T. O'Conner & Stewart
Kellerman", Salon.com