I’m going off-message this week: nothing to do with WAN Optimization, Application Acceleration, Virtual Appliances or CLAN. Instead I’m going to talk about upright desks – you know, desks where you stand up to work. Just after Christmas one of our developers brought in a strangely mutlilated table, put it on his desktop and proceeded to work standing up. Now given that this same developer has a ponytail, an orange folding bike, and has spent three years creating a rubber band ball that’s now the size of a melon, we don’t necessarily rush to copy him, but this time we were intrigued. Not least because within a few days there were reports in the New York Times, the London Times and on TV about the health benefits of working standing up. It’s a bit of a stretch to say that our strapline “work anywhere” compels us to explore working in a variety of positions, but we like to think our door is always open to Mr Improvement, so we kept a straight face and considered the possibilities.
A bit of online searching found many references to upright desks and some DIY designs. One of these was based on bits from Ikea, so given that it takes me longer to walk through Ikea than it does to get there from my house, I went shopping. And found, after two miles of weaving back and forth, that they didn’t have the table I required. But no matter, as the rest of the team will tell you, my attic and garage are an endless source of “stuff” so I started from scratch and came up with my own design.
Since I didn’t know who (if anyone) was going to use the desk I needed it to be highly configurable – so I based it on spur shelving. Two spur rails, 6 spur brackets, some wooden struts to hold the thing together and make it rigid, and a couple of pieces of MDF covered in vinyl for mouse-friendly shelves. The only inventive parts were: (a) realising that I needed to saw off the ends of the rails so that I could use two of the brackets upside down to create the “feet”.
(b) gluing/screwing dowel roads to the bottom of the shelves so that they would sit snugly on the spurs without having to screw them down, and thereby allowing them to slide back and forth as needed
The result: the Moorhead Mark I upright desk was a success. I’m now on Mark IV, but they’re all pretty much the same – they mainly differ because the “stuff” from my attic is somewhat varied. In Mk 1, the rails alone acted as the uprights – but it was a bit too bouncy. In Mk 2 I added additional uprights, separate from the rails, for more rigidity. In Mk 4 I just built a rectangle of wood and screwed the uprights on to it. Both approaches work well.
What’s the conclusion? – well too early to say perhaps. The regular users claim more energy and alertness, but also some foot pain (so we’re trying foam mats). Most folks are alternating periods of standing with periods of sitting and the design allow for this pretty well – stick your laptop underneath for when you’re sitting and use an external monitor, keyboard and mouse when standing. I’ll let you know in a few months whether it’s a fad or the office furniture of the future. The only problem is with our daily stand-ups. We’re already standing up. Doh!
p.s. an orange folding bike is not a bike that can fold oranges. that technology has not yet been invented.