Turn your normal desk into a standing workspace in 3 steps

There has been a lot of talk of a "standing desk" movement in the media in the last six months, people who are getting rid of their chairs and doing all their work while standing up. For people who spend all their time in front of a computer (i.e. most of the tech industry) this topic has garnered quite a bit of interest of late.

Men who spent more than 23 hours a week sitting, according to one widely circulated report, have a 64% greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who reported sitting less than 11 hours a week.

Or, conveniently translated into Web Newspeak: Sitting all day will kill you. You're going to die if you don't use a standing desk.


I've been standing at my desk since February, but it's not to lengthen my life or improve my circulation or anything like that. The truth of the matter is that the desk in my home office just isn't comfortable to sit behind no matter how I try to change things, and the damn thing is too heavy to move.

Tim's standing desk for lazy people

Yes, I'm using a standing desk because I'm too lazy to make my existing desk comfortable enough to sit behind.

So in the spirit of laziness, I'm going to give you a three-step solution for turning your current desk into a standing desk with as little work as possible.

Get an adjustable lap desk

Cheapo adjustable lap desk

Lap desks for eating breakfast in bed or using laptops while recumbent are perfectly suited for turning your normal desk into a standing desk. If you're a laptop user or keyboard/mouse user, it works equally well. I've actually set mine up to handle both.

The benefit of using one of these is that you have a pretty vast selection of types to choose from, most are very cheap, and many offer additional benefits like built-in cooling fans, built-in drawers, or on-board lighting. Some of the more expensive models are highly configurable, with ergonomics as their top priority.

Set your height

While improving the circulation in your legs, you don't want to simultaneously give yourself carpal tunnel syndrome, so an important thing to remember when using one of these desk extensions is that your elbows aren't going to be resting on anything.

Since everyone is built differently, and everyone's desks are different heights, I cannot offer a single mathematical formula for figuring out how high your lap desk should be. The one piece of advice I can offer is that you should wear shoes when gauging the height of your setup. You need to work in shoes when at a standup desk.

Place monitors wisely

The angle and tilt of your head may seem subtle, but it has a crucial effect on the alignment of your spine, and this ultimately dictates how comfortable you're going to be when standing up. The lap desk solves this problem for users who want to keep their eyes on their laptop's screen, but for users with external monitors of any sort will have to do some adjustment.

Depending upon your current desk situation, you may already have a place to put a monitor at an appropriate height. If not, you have two options: and easy way and a hard way.

The easy way: look for things to stack up and place the monitor atop. It could be something as simple as a pile of books or reams of unopened printer paper, milk crates, blocks of wood, whatever is handy.

The hard way: Replace your monitor's current foot with an adjustable stand or mounting.

For being "the hard way," this isn't even that hard, and it offers tons of options for fun monitor mounting. Most commercial monitors you'll find adhere to the VESA standard. Simply stated, this means they'll have four screw holes in the back so they can be attached to aftermarket mounts of all storts. Everything from the cheap $99 no-brand monitors to Apple's Cinema display have VESA mountings.

A particularly fun option is something like 3M's adjustible mounting arm, which gives you a swiveling, pivoting, rotating mount for your monitor that does not have to be drilled into the wall or your desk. It simply attaches with a clamp, and it can be purchased for under $100 dollars.

3M swiveling monitor stand

I don't look at a standing desk as an option that must be considered for long-term health, and I don't feel I've yet reaped any immediately appreciable benefits, but it has given me another opportunity to re-examine the way I interact with my computer hardware, and think of less typical ways to use commercial equipment based around my immovable behemoth of a desk.

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