Healthy Workplace: 10 Ways to Make a Cheap Standing Desk
I’ve known for a while now that finding a way to stand more often while I work at the keyboard would reduce my back pain. In fact, reducing the amount of time spent sitting each day by 66 minutes can reduce upper back and neck pain by as much as 54%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What I did not know, and am now completely freaked out about, are the additional health risks that come with prolonged sitting for those of us who earn our living as desk jockeys. While exercising at your desk and hitting the gym or jogging during your off hours is certainly as good for you as it ever has been, it apparently has no significant impact with regards to offsetting the increased health risks that come from sitting too long while you work.
These risks are far from trivial.
According to the Mayo Clinic, those with greater screen time have a 125% greater risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease, such as chest pains or heart attack. Another study noted that the gene for preventing blood clots literally shuts down within hours of seated activity, regardless of how fit a person is.
For those who make their living from a seated position, the message is pretty clear. Spend more time on your feet.
To help you do that without flattening your bank account, here are 10 cheap ways to make your own standing desk, suitable for a wide range of DIY skills. (See also: 10 Cheap Ways to Make Your Own Bookshelves)
1. Strategically Place a Shelf
The folks at Apartment Therapy score with this dirt cheap solution. They create a standing desk out of a set of basic brackets and a premade shelf mounted to the wall. It’s placed over a storage unit for work supplies and uses one of those narrow spaces so common in rentals carved out of older buildings.
2. Repurpose a Bookcase
This simple bookcase desk project from Off Beat Home is perfect for those who are DIY challenged. It creates a standing desk from a basic bookshelf. I think this idea could be easily adapted for use with armoires and old television entertainment centers as well, at least for those with slightly more advanced skills.
3. Design One With a DVD Cabinet
I’ve gone on record before about my favorite Ikea deals and why I like to shop for certain types of things there. So this standing desk that uses a wall-mounted DVD cabinet from the same store caught my attention. The door drops down to provide a daytime work space and closes up to hide cords and peripherals at night. Pretty slick.
4. Get Serious With Sawhorse Brackets
This basic desk project from the Mint Design Blog requires minimal skills and has a fun look for those who favor rustic, eclectic decorating choices. Placed by a window with a plant or two, it could make for a charming standing desk solution.
5. Build a Box
This minimalist wall-mounted box desk from Shelterness does require some basic carpentry skills, but it doesn’t look exceptionally complicated. I love the way the modern design of the piece blends in with what is clearly a more traditional room and makes vacuuming a breeze.
6. Creatively Use a Core Door
This project from Instructables shows how you can build a desk into a corner using a core door and ready-made table legs. Not a bad way to go for those who prefer a larger work space.
7. Borrow a Bureau
I’m a huge fan of creatively using old bureaus around the home. They blend in easily when used in hallways as impromptu linen closets, make great DIY kitchen islands, and would work quite well as DIY standing desks. Storage space is easily handled with the built-in drawers, and you have the option of choosing a size that meets your needs.
8. Roll With Metro Shelving
Long-time readers who are familiar with the many reasons why I love industrial shelving will hardly be surprised that it once again came to my rescue when I discovered how critical it was to start standing more while I work. Why did I choose this option? Well, it’s something nearly anyone can do with a rubber mallet, and the shelves are easily adjusted in small increments, making it easily customized to fit anybody’s height needs. I’ve included some pictures of this finished product below, along with some basic notes on the minor enhancements we made.
We had a set of shelves in the garage that hadn’t made its way to the storage unit yet, so we lugged it back upstairs to the office to begin the project. Next, I held my arms at a healthy angle for doing my work and we made a note of where that was along one pole. From there, it was a matter of attaching the grips at that same point on all four poles and securing the shelf with a rubber mallet.
Next, we took apart a large cardboard box we had on hand and cut it to fit the shelf using our handy MacGyver tool. This provided a cost-free way to block the spaces between the rungs and avoid losing my pens and pencils among all of the reference materials stored below. Finally, because I had put off coming up with a standing solution for so long, my back was in sorry shape, so I knew I needed some sort of anti fatigue mat. Not wanting to spend a hundred bucks on the Cadillac version until I knew whether or not it was a solution that would provide any relief, I headed to my nearest Home Depot.
They had individual gray foam mats that were textured to look like diamond plate metal. They cost roughly $17. Alone, it wasn’t quite enough extra support. Double stacked? Perfect. So I came home with two. In the end, that $34 was the only money I spent to provide myself with a workable solution. Granted, I had the metro shelving on hand to use as the basis for my standing desk. I recall only spending approximately $75 on the shelves when they were new, however, so all in all it’s still a workable solution for the average person.
9. Craft One With Clamps and Pipes
This standing desk idea from Simplified Building was one of my faves. Basically, you create an adjustable work station with a telescoping pipe, a cross pipe, a board, and a few clamps. I love the look of the steel against the brick wall and the built in ability for a business to use this idea to create spaces that easily adjust for shift workers and rotating staff. If we didn’t go with the metro shelving idea, this might have been what we chose. It’s that freaking cool.
10. Buy a Raised Laptop Stand
These can be added to your regular desk if lifting it by way of bed risers or concrete blocks leaves you just short of your desired height. This particular raised laptop stand featured on Lifehacker will only sink you about eight bucks.
While I’m completely in love with my new work setup, I also realize that standing for too long can also bring its own issues. That’s why I’m opting for a mixed situation where I spend part of my keyboard time seated and part of it standing. That being said, I do now try to make sure the periods I spend in a chair are limited to shorter time slots and mixed in with other activities like standing or taking a break to toss something in the laundry.
Have you tried working from a standing desk? What was your money-saving solution?