Standing Desk Jockey: Eric Ragle

Photo (2)

Boing Boing reader Eric Ragle says:

Hey Mark, thought you might like to take a look at my stand-up desk. It's an adjustable desk I found in the office. I turned it around and brought the top shelf high enough to put the keyboard at a comfortable level. I put the monitors in the commonly agreed upon "hunter-gatherer" angle.

I decided to give this a go after reading some of your posts on stand-up desks [See "Previously" below -- Mark]. I did some research and apparently there is some health benefits to those of us who suffer from back problems. The first two days I decided to spend half the day standing and the rest sitting or walking to people's offices, (I fix computers at a hospital). 

My feet, calves, lower back and neck really hurt in the beginning. So much so that I thought I might be doing more harm than good. By the third day I was feeling more energetic and the pain was gradually easing up. I had kept this lingering anticipation about when I would  allow myself to sit later on in the day, but now that was gone as well. I'm able to bounce around my little office now and not be so lazy about getting something out of a drawer across the room or stepping over to a co-worker's office if they need me. All in all, this is a positive thing. I don't see myself returning to a sitting-only situation. I do plan on investing in a gel mat to stand on and if I can find some, I'd like to get some dressy shoes that are easy to slip on and off but aren't obvious when I'm walking around.


  1. Thanks for posting Mark. MooseDesign, you are the first person to get the point of that sticker since I put it on there. The internet never disappoints!

  2. I really need to do this. I have a knee injury that has turned into a back injury because I’m now all lopsided.

    The problem is that if I stand too long my knee hurts but my back feels good but if I sit my back tries to kill me while my knee feels great.

    There must be a solution.

    1. Sit on an exercise ball. When your abs help support your spine, it’s a wondrous experience. You can also put your knee at whatever angle is most comfortable.

  3. But does he use soap?

    I need to know into which region of the Venn diagram to place him.

  4. Dansko clogs. Slip on, slip off. Supremely comfortable and durable. There’s a reason all the nurses in the hospital wear them!

  5. Looks like it would be a pain the then neck after a while. Wall mount those monitors, it’s not expensive.

    1. I placed them there on purpose, otherwise I could have just left the desk facing the other way. From what I’ve read, you’re suppose to be looking slightly downward since that is the angle we’re accustomed to from an evolutionary standpoint.

    2. @7
      It’s a common misconception that the monitors should be 90 degrees out at eye level. When I’ve done ergonomic assessment, lowering monitors is one of the most common thing I do. 15 to 50 degrees down is easy to remember. Lower down is usually more comfortable than people think. If yours are at 90 degrees, try lowering them and see which you like better. Having them wall mounted limits your ability to move them around, and a change can be almost as good as a rest.

      Not just my opinion, have read studies on it:

      Besides neck and back comfort, also potentially an issue for folks with dry eyes. In a mirror, look at your eyes when looking straight out 90 degrees, and when looking down 45 degrees. Your eye is more protected/moistened by your lids when you’re looking down.

      My work here is done.

      1. Apologies, I hadn’t seen you had in fact posted links in this article when I referred to your comment to that other article. I will go and read them now.

        1. Everyone’s built different, and some of the research is based on what’s most comfortable for a couple dozen folks. I don’t expect the average comfort range to trump your experience. You are absolutely right in trying both and doing what’s more comfortable for you.

  6. The thing to remember is that standing still in one place is as bad as sitting. So the whole point of this is to give yourself the opportunity to move around. Its much easier to move around from standing, than from sitting. Ok everybody, be careful out there.

  7. The “hunter-gatherer angle”? I didn’t think hunter-gatherer computers even had monitors…

  8. I’ve been inspired by these posts to make my own standing desk. After a couple of weeks, I really like. It feels more energizing to work there.

    The only downshot is my cube is right outside a conference room. So I’ve sealed my fate as being the office weirdo (Dvorak keyboard, longboard to work, decafe coffee.)

    So far, I get asked a lot about my desk.
    “So wait, you just stand there? All day?”

    “yep. That’s the idea. If you work retail, you stand all day. Not so odd.”

    1. That’s my exact story – just to see how it felt before committing to a furniture buy or a build, I’ve got a jury-rigged standing desk. It’s made of several stacks of files and some full envelope boxes standing on their side, topped off with a 24″ x 36″ dry erase board calendar that no one was using.

      It’s been about a month for me, and while I enjoy it, I am still getting plenty of weird looks and comments from co-workers. “You’re STILL doing that???” So the productivity in the initial phase is not optimal, given how much explaining I have to do!

      I’ve always used a headset for my work phone – I tend to pace around my work area as I talk, and now I have a surface at note-taking level if I need to jot something down during the conversation. For my writing and computer work, I do feel more focused and productive, and if I get stuck on something, I’m more likely to take a walk, get some water, and come back with an idea on how to move forward.

      And for bigger projects where I need to spread out (to compare printed spreadsheets, documents, etc.,) I have a small table where I can sit.

      My next doctor’s appointment is at the end of this month, so hopefully I can report back that my cholesterol levels are starting to get better – but I’m not sure if two months is enough to show marked improvement…

  9. This looks likes a desk where no work gets done.

    Its small barely no room to even write something. I see a pen but no paper what couldn’t fit it on the desk?

    I get the standing thing but I’m not down with it… The people I’ve known with standing desks are all worthless douchbags male or female.

    You know what happened to all the standing desk type stuff in my office? All gone in favor of nice classy standard office furniture. Same with all the ergonomic crap. Oh and all those employees are gone too. I can’t emphasize how much better the office vibe is!

    1. I don’t write any more. Not everyone has to do paperwork on their desk. I have to sign documents, that’s why I have a pen. Though I lose them often and swipe them from my receptionist.

      I don’t think you get the standing thing. People are built and wired very differently, and it’s important to be kind, as you never know what’s going on with someone.

      1. StAlfongzo’s comment was so ridiculous, that I’d like to believe it was a troll. Something tells me it wasn’t, though.

        Here’s a relevant question for Mark: what about standing conference tables? Why were we all sitting at the meetup earlier? I feel as though this is something to look into for the next meetup – it should be easy to make table leg extenders or something.

        I don’t use a standing desk (just haven’t tried it yet, I’d consider it) but I *like* sitting. However, I really *don’t* like sitting with other people. Sitting around by myself is great, but sitting around a table or in a classroom or anything (especially at restaurants) is really uncomfortable. Therefore, we should all stand at the next BB meetup.

  10. I recommend tattoos of dressy shoes on your bare feet. Make sure you choose something unlikely to go out of style, as having them lasered off is not always practical.

  11. Eric, what brand is that desk? I like the turnitaround design that will let me turn it into a full-sitting desk if i don’t like the standing desk experiment. Alfongzo, sounds like they are enjoying a better vibe away from you at their new jobs…

    1. orielbean, I have no idea. It was in the corner of our office nest buried under old servers. It doesn’t have any markings whatsoever. It was MEANT to be turned around and used as a regular desk.

      Once I spied that it had adjustable legs, I immediately starting thinking of how I could make it work. I started with it turned the other way, just raised really high. That didn’t work. My monitors were too high and my keyboard still too low. Once I settled on this configuration, it was perfect.

  12. I just use an Ikea bookcase. I had it there anyway so just set up the computer on a shelf set to the right height for me to stand. If you want to you can make the shelf slope slightly by dropping the front lug by one or two notches.

  13. If you’re at a hospital ask them to give you a COW. Or a straight wall-mount. Tell them you can’t fix their dumb embossers or DYMO printers unless the get you some pro gear.

  14. My own adventures in prehistoric ergonomics have led me to a similarly interesting discovery. I have always had trouble with smudges, fingerprints, and fly specks of splashed pho (a cool soup!) on my monitors (though I have graduated from the bifocal setup shown here nine that approximate honeybee vision).

    A course of experimentation revealed that the perfect solution for cleaning my monitors is my own warm, human urine! It helps that I have forgone soap and foods that have touched metal, so YMMV, but a cottonball full of this elixir is enough to treat an entire monitor and leave is as pristine as the stuff itself.

    I told my girlfriend it was just an antiseptic solution, and she used it to treat the acne around her nose and mouth. It worked wonders, and she is finally presentable. I daren’t tell her the truth, however, as she is one of the normals who would not understand us paleotechnicians.

    1. And I here I was thinking I was the only person who used urine to clean his monitor! Glad to see someone else has found out how surprisingly practical this method is.

  15. All the stand-up desks I’ve seen are missing a foot rail, like at a saloon bar. It is quite comfortable to put a foot up and switch between while standing. It takes some load off the lower back or something.

    1. Au contraire – the reason we have such big butts (compare the size of human butts to gorilla butts, you may be surprised) is so the butt muscle can hold up our upper bodies; i.e. to STAND.

  16. Agree, or a large heavy book, possibly duct taped shut. Portable, more forgiving than bricks. Possible tripping hazard. They make an “ergonomic” footrest, but the angling wobbly type seems to be more trouble than they’re worth. Most people who have one eventually get annoyed at the instability and shove it to the side.

    Similarly, for people who have back pain with brushing teeth, doing dishes, or cook prep, if you have a cabinet drawer you can open and rest your foot on the floor of the cabinet, may also ease your lower back.

  17. A piece of advice from another standing-desk person: LOWER YOUR KEYBOARD. There’s no use raising your arms like that all day, it’s going to give you bad neck & shoulder problems, either in the short term or long term.

  18. Google-foo failing….

    What the heck is the “hunter-gatherer” angle that’s so commonly agreed on?

  19. Standing desk seem to be the new hipster way of being more hipster then the other hipster.

    All I read is “oh it feels so better”, “I have so much more energy”. I would love to have a proper study. But I guess the result will be the same as for sitting. If you do not move for a long time, it is bad for your body.

  20. I would like to congratulate you on being initiative, and you have designed this table for comfort. Has your table been certified by the W.H.O. “Hunter-gatherer” does not make a sense, how about using vantage point.

  21. Great idea, but the space looks too limited. If I had my druthers, I’d have a table 9 feet wide at a height of 44 inches, and it wouldn’t be against the wall. It would be nice to look out a window.

    Be nice to your feet: get 3/4 length custom molded orthotics. I put mine in beach shoes.

    I always like to keep and exercise ball nearby. It works well for an exercise break without having to walk around the block.

    For some reason, telephone conversations work better when you’re standing.

    I like the idea of the standing restaurant or for any other kind of meeting or get together.

  22. Im not native to Denmark but I have been working here for 2 years now. From what I understand motorized adjustable desks are mandatory for everybody which works in an office environment without exception. They even have the gall to complain about “slow” tables.

  23. Of course, it’s well known that issues of pain, back pain, etc, are never associated with the placebo effect.

  24. Re: The hunter-gatherer reference

    As we evolved as humans, it was our habit to watch the ground as we were walking for signs of animals, or to spot wild edibles. The head therefore, is in a quite natural position when looking slightly downward when standing. It takes for more effort to look straight-on than it does to look slightly downward.

    1. I didn’t coin the phrase, I’m sure I’ve read it before, and think I have heard it in a lecture/seminar? I may have introduced it to BB. There is easily googled research on ergonomics/monitor viewing angle and reading angles. There is no archeological ergonomic research going to the pleistocene era in my knowledge, but is an assumption that we, as a species, spent more of our history looking either at our hands doing a task, at the ground we’re tilling or hunting than up 90 degrees at a screen.

  25. Does nobody work a food service job here? I get how harmful sitting all day can be, but come on. Standing at a dish-sink for 8+ hours is terrible. I WISH I could sit at work.

  26. Yeah, hm. I’m still not convinced by the “hunter-gatherer angle” (as recommended here “citing” “research”, to which I’d love to get a reference). I have been standing for the past month or so, with the top of my external monitor at eye level while my laptop screen is within your hunter-gatherer range. Far more pleasant to be looking straight ahead, which also doesn’t encourage hunching over like using the diagonal angle does. I now use my external monitor as much as I can, more so than when I was sitting.

  27. There is no way in hell I would ever work standing up.

    It’s essential to my role as a manager that I demonstrate to my underlings why they are inferior to me by leaning back in my chair with my feet up on my desk, asking them, “Are you happy here?”

    1. Ah, but when you’re at your desk with your feet up the inferiors are standing above you.

      Wouldn’t it be better if you were on a raised platform, glowering down upon them as they cower before you?

  28. I’ve been standing for about 3 weeks now after reading about its benefits here on BB and I can vouch for it being a great change. My work pace is increased, and I think I actually lose weight because of it.

    My advice is to get a cushion to stand on, I’m using a cheap bathroom mat folded over twice because that’s all I have around.

    To make my desk I stacked an end table on top of another low table (i live in a hotel room) and it works perfectly. my arms are out to my keyboard at a 90 degree angle from my body and i look down to my laptop screen and it seems perfect. Sometimes I do 14 hours standing at a time. I even watched a movie standing the other day, and if my internet is slow to load pages (in a developing country here) I knock out a few push-ups.

  29. Ikea used to have a desk setup with electrical operated legs that could significantly raise or lower the desktop. I believe that they would go far enough to accommodate either sitting or standing.

    I really wish I’d bought the setup when it was available, because there have been plenty of times I’d like to work standing up, but there are other times I like to be in a chair.

    Does anyone know of adjustable systems that aren’t significantly more expensive then their non-adjustable versions?

  30. Several years ago, we bought a corner-style desk from Ikea. It has two little buttons with an arrow on each. Push the button for up and the desk lifts up. Stand, sit… anytime you want. So with the 6yo wants to play games on daddy’s computer the desk goes down. When the tall dad wants to program standing up all day, the desk goes up. I don’t see it on their website anymore, sadly. It’s a great desk.

  31. I’m not convinced that the hunter-gatherer thing is sound thinking. Hunter-gatherers in the forest are as likely to look up as down (scanning trees for edible plants, animals, hazards, etc). Hunter-gatherers on the plains are as likely to scan the horizon for signs of water or animal life. Is there any science to back this up, or is this based on a set of assumptions?

    As for the standing desk thing, I’ve tried it with mixed results. It’s clearly less painful for my back, but I haven’t gotten the keyboard or monitor at the right levels and angles, so I’ve experienced sore neck and wrists. I’m going to dig into this more and build myself something.

    1. Totally set of assumptions. When I hunter/gather, I’m generally looking down though. I recognize edibles on trees often by leaves/fruit on the ground, then I look up. Found mulberries yesterday that way. Hunting birds even, generally easier to do so if they’re resting on the ground. You’re mileage may vary.

    2. Actually, if you’re looking at 90 degrees out when you hunter/ gather, that may explain your moniker. Try looking down, and see if you can sign back in as well-fed joe.

  32. I removed stand/legs from my sitdown L-desk and replaced them with 6 Ikea VIKA BYSKE max length 42 1/8″ table legs. It is quite solid with one side against wall.

    Desk surface is at 43″ .. I am 6’1″ .. so this is just about perfect. Might get some table leg carpet protectors to get it to 44″.

    I got an Ikea bar stool that i use to sit on occasionally, but also to put foot up on.


    Photo of desk setup:

  33. I’m envious of those who actually have a choice in their work-space. How many people realistically have a choice? Most of us don’t. I work in a crappy call center (thanks to being laid off from a fairly well-paying job last year), and I have ZERO choice in my work-space. I get to sit in crappy, mostly-broken chairs behind crappy tables-used-as-desks, for 8 hours, every day. I can’t even pee without asking permission first, let alone change my work-space.

  34. Research so far:

    Electrically actuated desks are popular in Europe, but they’re either not available or crazy-ass expensive in the US.

    They’re usually really small, too. I have three monitors (not all that unusual anymore) and none of these could even handle 2.

    Also, they have fairly small weight limits, usually around 100 pounds or so. 100 pounds may seem like a lot if all you have is a laptop, but based on what’s on my desk at the moment I’m already over that limit. Of course, about 1/5 of that is my very large cat sleeping peacefully under the monitor.

    Amazon has a couple of reasonably priced hand-cranked desk mechanisms, but they don’t come with tops (easily rectified) and also have ~100 lbs weight limits. Actually, the lack of a top is a plus, I could put whatever on there, say a hollow core door, and have plenty of room for multiple monitors.

    Conclusion: I’m going to have to build something. Awesome!

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