Since the beginning of December, I've been working at a standing desk in the Allure Media office in Sydney. While the health values of standing desks are much-discussed, the biggest benefit has turned out to be in a more unexpected area: the way I collaborate with others.
Standing desks have been a longstanding subject of fascination here at Lifehacker. Our US founding editor Gina is a firm advocate of them, and our night editor Elly set one up in her home office as well. But we've never had one in the Australian HQ — until now.
The kind folks at Ergonomics Now offered to send us a review unit, so I decided to go all out and test the Mobel Posture Desk. This is a proper electric standing desk, so you can adjust it to the exact height you want, and even lower it to regular sitting level if that's what you need later in the day. We got the full-sized model (it retails for $1045), which measures an impressive 1800 by 800mm. That turned out to be important, though I didn't realise it at the time.
From the minute the desk arrived unassembled, it stirred up interest in the office. Multiple people volunteered to test it out, and our lead tech guru Ben White was so taken with it, he actually assembled it before I had a chance to do so myself. Ben's verdict? It's fairly easy to put together, though you're definitely better off following the recommendations and using a drill or a powered screwdriver if one's handy. One tip? Assemble it in place — it's big and heavy and hard to move if you don't have assistance from someone else.
At Allure HQ, our desks are permanent fixtures, so I couldn't put the Mobel where I normally sit. Instead, it went in the middle of the "tech pod" (the area I share with my fellow Lifehacker Chris, Kotaku's editor Mark, Gizmodo's editor Luke and our publisher Danny). That meant we no longer had a meeting table, but in truth we hardly ever used that for meetings anyway: it was a repository for recently unpacked technology and leftover items of food.
It's common for new standing desk users to find the experience quite painful for the first couple of days, and I was no exception. At the end of day one, my feet ached and I slept like a baby. However, after that period of adjustment, I'm now a big fan. I sit down at my old desk to eat my lunch and do telephone interviews (since moving my phone into the middle of the pod won't work), but other than that it's standing all the time.
What's really interesting though is that I'm not the only one using it. Chris Jager regularly uses the desk in the mornings (until either his legs or his laptop give out), and Luke from Gizmodo sometimes stands at it for writing stints. Even our CEO pops down occasionally for standing work sessions. This wouldn't have been possible with the smaller model, so I'm glad we chose the larger size.
The standing desk has also become our meeting venue of choice for team chats. Meeting at a standing desk is far more efficient: you remain focused on the task at hand, rather than slouching back lazily in your chair and surreptitiously checking your phone.
As well as formal collaboration, standing up means I can now see what's happening in the whole office, rather than staring quietly into my corner. I like that, though I realise some people wouldn't. Having a sense of what's happening across the office feels much more sociable and sensible.
The one challenge? Setting the desk to the right height. It's no problem when I'm the only one using the desk. However, I'm a little taller than Chris, so there's often a not-so-subtle battle of changing the desk height surreptitiously as soon as one of us leaves the room. (Yesterday, Luke lowered the desk to normal height for a frenzy of Christmas gift wrapping.) We've fixed the switch to control the height on top of the desk, so it's easily done.
The verdict? A definite thumbs up. Indeed, we might need to order a few more if anyone else starts joining me regularly to take a stand.
Thanks again to Ergonomics Now for the desk.