Standing Desks

A while ago, I got an Ergotron WorkFit-S sit/stand monitor mount. I love it, and have talked about it to plenty of people. Yesterday I joined a Hacker News discussion about standing desks, and it left me with some thoughts that I'd rather share here than there, so here goes.

Some people have suggested a drafting table plus a high chair as a cheaper alternative. I did consider that approach, but I don't think it's so much a direct alternative as a fundamentally different thing. I don't just want one big flat surface. I have a desk already, which wraps around slightly and has a pedestal on one side (nominally for a printer but also served quite well as my original standing-desk solution). It even has things like doors, drawers, and shelves. Likewise, I don't want to sit on a high chair. When I do sit, I like a full-height back and feet on the floor; a wrap-around bar doesn't suffice. I also like to swivel a bit, and that can be downright dangerous on one of those. Buying a new desk and a new chair and a new separate drawer unit would almost certainly cost more than my current setup and still be less comfortable. When the cost of the things I already have is subtracted, the cost difference is even larger.

Speaking of cost, the HN thread also included the absurd claim that a motorized desk would have been cheaper. Maybe that's true in a sense, but here's a basic fact: adding a motor to something never made it cheaper. If motorized desk X is cheaper than manual-adjust desk Y, it's because X is inherently cheaper than Y by enough to offset the additional cost of the motor. That's reflected in cheaper materials, cheaper construction, missing features, and so on. The WorkFit-S consists of machined metal, welds/coatings where appropriate, and high-density wood composite for the hinged keyboard tray. Sure, you can spend less for something made of thin untreated metal and plastic held together with screws, but that's apples to cherries. Everything I looked at that was at all comparable in terms of build quality cost 2-4x as much. They were also all in the drafting-table category, with all of the other drawbacks noted above. Really, this option only makes sense for the disabled. Anyone who's just too lazy to raise and lower their monitor manually should stop making stuff up to rationalize their choice.

If you're building a home office from scratch, and you prefer a different kinds of setup than I have, that's great. Comfort is important, so even if it costs a little more you should go for it. On the other hand, if you already have a desk/chair that work for you and don't have a clear preference (based on experience) for the drafting-table approach, I really would suggest ignoring those who just want you to follow the fashion. I definitely don't recommend going straight from a sitting setup to a standing-only setup. That was the problem with my original ad-hoc approach, and the adjustability makes even more of a difference than had led me to the WorkFit in the first place. Two modes are better than one.

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