Throughout our Workplace Timesavers week, Lifehacker's editors are going to get geeky about the most useful, beloved and otherwise cool things in their office. In this case, it's a cheap-ish letter tray serving as a kind of poor (wise) man's docking station.
I came across the letter-tray-as-laptop-stand idea in a Flickr photo set, linked from Gina's roundup of 10 DIY laptop stands. I didn't think of it much at first — then my neck started hurting like all get out.
I'm six feet and two inches (188cm) tall, so when I sit at my simple slab desk, my head is pretty far up, even with the office chair at its lowest level. I'm also a fan of dual monitors, but too cheap not to use my laptop as one of them. That meant that for the longest time, I was moving my head up a few inches, then over a few inches to switch between my main monitor and my laptop screen, and both of them were below my normal sight line. That doesn't make for a healthy workspace, and after a while, I was spending an hour pathetically horizontal on the couch every night, acting like I'd lifted logs all day.
So my laptop needed to come up. At the same time, I didn't want an elaborate, perfectly aligned solution, because I'm frequently grabbing my laptop and heading out the door. Finding myself at my local office supplies store one day, I spent some time looking through the letter trays and desk organisers. Eventually I found it: a black steel mesh letter tray with tiered slots.
Click on any images below for a larger view.
Why was this perfect? I didn't even fully get it until I got home and put it in place. First, it's just deep enough laid on its side with the openings facing me that the laptop is lifted to a more neck-friendly level. That elevation also helps with USB plugs, by the way — some plugs are very hard to jam in when a flat notebook is flush with a table. I'd also guess that elevating my ThinkPad off the table and providing a little mesh breathing room underneath helps keep the system heat down, but I've never really measured.
Next up, you get some free, easily accessible desk storage. I mostly use mine for cords that I frequently use, along with sundry things like mints, pens and a reporter's pad when it happens to be there.
But the real computer geek benefit to a letter tray stand is tucked in the back. Because the inbox slots are elevated, there's a small space you can tuck items into. In my case, I keep a USB hard drive back there with a short plug, so I can easily hook it up to my USB multi-port for backups. I also shove my power brick into that space, sometimes tidily, often not, so there's not a cord running across my desk.
It's not exactly pretty back there, but you can't see any of it from the front, due to the black mesh metal and elevation.
So there you have it — my elevated, storage-friendly, clutter-hiding, possibly hardware-saving laptop stand that's actually a semi-cheap letter tray. If you find this little guy or another like him or know of another great makeshift laptop stand, you know we welcome the link in the comments.