There’s a current craze emerging for standing desks, literally desks that you stand at while working. Having spent the last five years as a self-employed freelance writer who spends most of his days sat at a desk, I’ve experienced back problems as well as instances of the seemingly unavoidable repetitive strain injury. Perhaps a standing desk is the solution to my problems.
Unfortunately standing desks cost a small fortune, and I had neither the means or the desire to buy an overpriced piece of furniture that wasn’t guaranteed to do me any good. So I turned to the Web and found several cheaper alternatives, including the one settled on by Bakari earlier this year. In the end I settled on a cheap standing desk from Ikea, and what follows is a guide on how to build one for yourself, and my experience of using it.
It was while trawling the Web looking for standing desk solutions that I chanced upon this article on Colin Nederkoorn’s Blog. After looking at all of the ready-made adjustable standing desks on the market and concluding they’re just too expensive, Nederkoorn built his own using his existing desk and a few extra bits and pieces bought from Ikea.
It cost Nederkoorn just US$22 to build his cheap standing desk from Ikea. Which is cheap enough to allow anyone to test the idea out for themselves. I decided to take the plunge and build a standing desk based on Nederkoorn’s plans. It ended up costing me a little more than $22, but it was still a lot cheaper than the $500-$1,000 needed to purchase a good quality standing desk from elsewhere.
Before embarking on this mission it’s important to figure out what you have and what you need. So I took a trip to Ikea in order to look at the options open to me before deciding what to spend my money on.
It was at this time I realized I may as well buy a new desk rather than use my existing one, so I added a table top and four legs to the shopping list. The only change I made to Nederkoorn’s plan was to buy a smaller shelf for the keyboard and mouse – his was 28cm deep, while mine was 18cm deep. This also meant lowering the size of the brackets the shelf sits on.
NB: If you decide to follow my example and build this standing desk, you need to decide for yourself what size of shelf you’d prefer and buy accordingly. You may even be able to spend less money on one than I did. Also, if you have a suitable desk that you plan to use as the base for your new standing desk you can immediately remove the table legs and the table top from your shopping list.
During a second trip to Ikea I purchased the following items (the prices in brackets are what you would pay for the same item in the U.S.)
VIKA ADILS Table Legs X 4 = £10 ($14)
VIKA AMON Table Top X 1 = £9 ($11)
LACK Side Table X 1 = £8 ($10)
EKBY VALTER Brackets X 2 = £4 ($6)
EKBY JARPEN Shelf X 1 = £8 ($10)
Total Cost = £39 ($51)
For less than £40 (or just a buck over $50) I picked up a new standing desk that can be converted into an ordinary desk by merely placing the standing desk components to one side. Now all I had to do was build it.
NB: The small gray brackets in the picture above were something I already had and which I envisioned using to attach the LACK to the desk. But in the end I didn’t use them. Anyone with young children or boisterous pets may want to secure the table to the desk for added peace of mind. Not doing so is entirely at your own risk.
Ikea furniture comes in flat pack form but is generally easy to put together. Thankfully, as I’m not the most practical of people.
The first job is to build the main desk, which is a simple case of screwing the four VIKA ADILS legs into the underside of the VIKA AMON table top. The result is a sturdy, minimalist desk that does the job it’s intended for.
Next up is building the LACK table, which is an even simpler affair. The double-headed screws provided are wound into the bottom of each of the four legs, and then the legs are screwed into the square top. The result is a small side table.
The picture below shows both the sitting desk and side table built and ready to use. While you’re about to ruin the LACK by screwing brackets into two of its legs, the sitting desk remains untouched and therefore able to be used on its own should the need arise.
The picture below shows the side table on top of the sitting desk, and it’s at this point that you’ll start to get a feel for the result of your labors. When finished this desk stands at a height of 118cm, so a laptop will need to be raised slightly for the majority of people to use comfortably. Those who are shorter than average have the option of cutting a couple of inches off the bottom the legs of the LACK table before mounting the brackets to them.
NB: The LACK is 55cm by 55cm, so in order for this standing desk to be an option your existing desk needs to have at least that same surface area.
Now comes the tricky part. You need to first decide at what height you want your keyboard and mouse to sit. The general rule of thumb is to position them at around elbow height to lessen the strain on your wrists. If in doubt get someone else to hold the shelf at various heights until you find one that feels comfortable.
It’s then just a case of marking out where the brackets will sit on the legs of the LACK, drilling starter holes, and then screwing them in place.
NB: Use screws with flat heads so that the shelf can sit flush against the brackets.
I picked up the FIXA set of screws while at Ikea, but most of you will probably already have the four screws needed to attach the brackets to the side table at home waiting to be used. You’ll also need a drill or at least something to punch a hole into the legs of the LACK to give the screws something to aim for.
Screwing the shelf to the brackets is entirely optional, and I chose not to do so in order to give myself the maximum opportunity to adjust the set-up as I saw fit. Instead I merely put a ball of adhesive putty under the shelf where it meets both brackets in order to both level it and keep it roughly in position. This removes a step in the process should you wish to then move the position of the brackets, and also makes it easier to move the table off the desk should you wish to return to sitting.
After the first day of using the desk I realized I needed to raise the height of the shelf so that my wrists weren’t at such an acute angle when using the keyboard and mouse. Consequently I’d advise everyone to properly ascertain the right height for them before screwing the brackets to the table.
After spending a couple of hours putting it all together (I’m
meticulous slow) my cheap standing desk from Ikea was ready for its big debut. So I moved it upstairs to where it was going to live, put my laptop in position, and then added the keyboard, mouse mat, spotlight, and speakers that I would be lost without. The cup of coffee was a later (though no less necessary) addition to the set-up.
NB: The footstool sitting underneath the standing desk in the pictures isn’t part of the set-up.
It’s now been 10 days since I put my cheap standing desk from Ikea together, and I’ve used it every single day. On some days I’ve used it for just a few minutes, while on others I’ve used it for several hours.
When I’m standing my productivity levels increase massively, which means I get more done in less time. I put this down to the fact that standing is naturally less relaxing, so your brain insists you get on with work rather than wasting time on Facebook and Twitter. I also find I stand straighter when at the desk, which should help with my posture.
Unfortunately countering those plus points is the pain in my knees which occurs after prolonged periods of standing. I didn’t know previously that I had bad knees, but the simple act of standing still seems to bring it on. This won’t be a malady experienced by everyone, however, and my aging knees may just need time to get used to the new way of working.
I’ve found out that using a standing desk at all times isn’t for me. Instead, I’m someone who needs to have options, and the ability to move from standing to sitting to lounging and back again as I feel like it and as my body dictates. I’m really pleased I took the time and trouble to build this standing desk in order to test the theory, because committing to buying a bespoke version would have led to regret and a much lighter wallet.
This standing desk from Ikea is a great idea: it’s cheap, it’s aesthetically-pleasing, and it has the capacity to be converted back into a normal desk for sitting on if it turns out standing isn’t for you. I’m keeping it, though I will likely adapt it to my personal needs as time passes. The whole process has been a positive one, making me evaluate how I work, and answering all of the questions I had concerning standing desks.
Standing desks clearly aren’t going to be for everybody, and I urge anyone considering switching to using one full-time to do a test-run first. I also think this particular standing desk from Ikea has the potential to be a great alternative for offices where hot-desking is practiced, providing a ready-made workstation for anyone and everyone to use as and when the need arises.