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My Quest for the Perfect Standing Desk

06/01/2015 05:50 EDT | Updated 06/01/2016 05:59 EDT
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Are you sitting down as you read this? If so, then good luck because you are going to die. Soon. According to a whole whack of journal articles, sitting is the new smoking. "But I worked out today!" you say. Doesn't matter. If you hit the treadmill this morning, but yer in a La-Z-Boy now, you might as well recline and never get back up again.

But maybe you already knew that. Maybe like me, you've been sufficiently terrorized into investing tens of dollars repurposing your heirloom Ikea furniture into a homebrew solution. I took my coffee table, and placed it on my desk, and voila... PÖSTVTUR DĘSJK. If you would like step-by-step instructions on how to make your own, just re-read that last sentence.

So here's my problem. I adore my standing workstation, but I rarely work from home. For example, I'm writing this while sitting in a cramped Denny's booth off the I-5 interstate -- and even now I feel my chi waning like Moons Over My Hammy®. Usually, I carry around this Tabletote portable desk.

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I actually like this solution quite a bit. It slips into my shoulder bag, and even has a built in document holder consisting of a radio antenna, a plastic rod and a bulldog clip.

Now maybe off-the-shelf parts are good enough for you. But me? I'm a Japanese-Canadian hipster techie with an image to maintain. So every time I pull out that little bulldog clip to hang my laminated Successories motivational placemat, my inner effete aesthete dies a little.

Also, contrary to the company's assurances, this table isn't tall enough to use as a standing desk in my opinion. To achieve proper standing height, you'll have to commandeer another table. Look at my old set up. It's so slovenly, whenever I used it I ENDED UP WRITING IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE THAT IS HOW MUCH I STOPPED CARING.

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Hospitals aren't the most conducive writing environments either. My dad has been in intensive care quite a lot this year. Not to get self-pitying, but have you ever tried being productive during a bedside vigil? Nurses need to do something every 15 minutes. According to Gloria Mark at the University of California, Irvine, once interrupted, it takes 25 minutes to return to the original task. At this rate, not only am I not getting any work done, but work already completed actually becomes UN-DONE.

If you own a standing desk, then you're already familiar with this ergonomic configuration's advantage: the ease with which you can step away and come back. It doesn't take 25 minutes to refocus, because you can walk away mid thought, come back and complete that thought. My father's brush with mortality helped me realize how much I needed my own portable standalone solution.

That's how I found Plunk Desk. Plunk Desk is the creation of product designer, Erin Strater. It's entirely handcrafted by a team of artisans in Los Angeles. It has three components: a beautifully finished, curved plywood top covered with a real wood veneer, an adjustable aluminum support pole, and a sand cast aluminum base. It just over 8 lbs., quick to assemble, and requires no tools. It's also expensive. A mid-range desk, coupled with a bespoke carrying case will set you back just under a grand.

Mega Compact

As soon as Plunk Desk arrived in the mail, I had buyer's remorse. In the cardboard packaging, it looked huge and my place is tiny. What was I thinking? But as I began to use it, something unexpected happened. My place actually began to seem roomier. How could that be? For anyone who uses their laptop as much as I do for work, entertainment, assuaging existential loneliness, etc. it's on all the time. When I'm not at my standing workstation, my laptop sits on the dining room table. Until I got it permanently evicted, it never occurred to me how a laptop and all its accessories can easily monopolize half your dining surface like an unwanted houseguest. Now my table is just a table once again. And my laptop practically floats wherever I want it to.

The Case for the Case

I opted for the carrying case. Big brassy zippers, chunky metal carabineers, it is beautiful. But I don't use it very much. It's a little too large to carry on mass transit during rush hour. It's like lugging around an old timey suitcase, not heavy, but big.

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The carrying case is the perfect size for a car though. So now I have designs on being optimally productive at friend's houses, the beach, and the mountains. Plunk Desk is ready for nearly any environment.

Personally, I use a 15" laptop and the desktop has just enough room to use a mouse, but little else. If you don't use a mouse, the 20" x 15" surface can handle a 17" laptop. Theoretically, you could mount an additional keyboard or mouse tray off the support column or the surface itself, but this is such an elegant design, you may be inclined to change the way you work rather than interrupt its beautiful lines. Sir Jony Ive would approve.

Portable standing workstations tend to be dangerously unstable. Conversely, Plunk Desk is rock solid, and extremely adjustable. Anyone from a 6'5" NBA player to a small child can instantly lock in their ideal height. These are my kids hard at work preparing for their future as stock photo models.

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The World is my Office

Up here in Vancouver, sunlight is at a premium. With Plunk Desk, not only can you follow the sun around your house, but you can also toss the desk on your shoulder like a hobo bindle, and head outdoors. The luxury of working any place where you can stand cannot be underestimated. In fact, the other day it was actually sunny enough for me to start working on my tan -- WHILE STANDING! Who says there are no more human frontiers left to explore?

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Tabletote

PROS: It's cheap and it works.

CONS: To use it as a standing desk, you'll need another table.

It's unstable. No one will mistake you for 007. Ever.

Plunk Desk

PROS: It's a stunning, functional piece of art that will improve your productivity.

CONS: If you're not already sold on the standing desk lifestyle, this is an expensive way to experiment.

Conclusion

Plunk Desk is one of the more spendy things I have acquired. According to social scientist Marsha L. Richins, materialistic consumers are willing to go into debt because they believe future purchases will transform their lives. Richins explains that the mere prospect of acquiring coveted products can promise to "enhance the way they feel about themselves, enable them to have more pleasure in life, and allow them to carry out life tasks more effectively."

I'm sure Richins is right. We all have way too much crap. But take a look around you. If you're like me, amidst the detritus ARE a couple of things that really have changed your life. Check out my biceps. This gun show was made possible by PowerBlocks. SuperMemo? Don't even get me started.

Now added to the pantheon of All-Time-Best-Money-Ever-Spent is Plunk Desk. The more I use it, the more I love it. And the next time my dad goes into the hospital, I'll be so ready to tell you about this other latest gadget that has enabled me to improve my relationships with other people.

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