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Standing Desks: One Desk, One Girl, One Journey (and a lot of Cardboard Boxes)

June 17, 2015


by Katie Nelson, Research Associate

As a qualitative researcher, a big part of my job is trying to figure out why people feel the way they do. It sounds pretty simple, right? In theory, yes, but even with unfiltered access to my own thoughts and feelings, I am still left guessing at my emotions.

A few years ago, I found myself in a difficult position. I was fresh off the boat from college, working in my first “big girl job” and I was slowly going mad. During the first few weeks of gainful employment, I felt physically and mentally drained when I got home (in theory, my energy reserves should have been near full since I had barely moved all day.)

At work, I was frequently distracted and constantly having to monitor and regulate myself to stay on track. One day, a coworker asked me why I was incessantly rocking in my chair (which is code for “please stop doing that, it's annoying.") When asked that, I had been in the zone, in a state of flow, immune to the distractions of every pigeon that flew by the window…call it what you will. My body was active, but my mind was at ease. Interesting. After some reflection, I realized that in joining the workforce, I had unintentionally adopted the sedentary lifestyle that came with it. It didn’t seem natural to sit in one place, looking at one spot, all day. In doing so, I was burning through my stock of self-control trying to sit still all day.

According to *close sources, I am the poster child for ADD.



 my psychology/sociology major college roommate (who was obviously the resident expert on nearly everything) and the entirety of the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles administrative staff. *Sources include: my psychology/sociology major college roommate (who was obviously the resident expert on nearly everything) and the entirety of the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles administrative staff.  Image source: Parks and Recreation

Being such, I was obliged to develop many ADD coping mechanisms to see me through my education. However, when I transitioned into the workforce, I quickly realized that I would need to rethink and revamp my “strategies for success.”

After a bit of googling and a dash of reflection, I started wondering if a standing desk might be the answer. I wanted to stand, but there wasn’t a precedent for doing so and I was too nervous to ask for a standing desk and risk looking like the office princess. So, I went the DIY route, becoming the “Goldilocks of cardboard boxes” in the process. I could often be seen rummaging through the contents of our company recycling bin and remixing my standing desk setup using random bits of furniture in my attempts at ergonomic office life. There were many iterations (see one of the later stage prototypes below)….





Katie's journey to finding the perfect desk Katie's journey to finding the perfect desk

One day, unprompted, our office rainmaker (AKA Sachs’ operations and community manager) plopped a StandStand on my desk. I was thrilled at the prospect of a legitimate desk setup; however, upon using the StandStand, I quickly learned that its one-size-fits-all approach wasn’t a great fit for me, at least in comparison to my home-brew desk setup (which was custom-tailored to fit my measurements). I offered up the StandStand to another coworker who had expressed interest in having a standing desk and saddled up to set out on a quest to find a standing desk that: a). Would fit me and b). Wasn’t prohibitively expensive. Eventually I stumbled upon the READYDESK, a Kickstarter gem that allowed the user to adjust both the keyboard/mouse holder and the computer/monitor shelves.

With a properly fitting standing desk—whether home-made or store bought—one thing was pretty clear: I felt much more relaxed and much more focused. I’m not sure why this is, because when I’m standing up working, I’m almost constantly moving in some way. One would think that would be distracting, but for some reason, I find it soothing. When standing, movements are slow and subliminal. When sitting, I suspect that oftentimes, I am actively fighting the urge to wiggle, slowly siphoning off my daily supply of self-control and leaving less attention for the task at hand.





Katie standing at her new desk Katie's "just right" READYDESK

During the past two years, I have made many adjustments to help me adapt to the demands of office life…it is still very much a work in progress. Though it might seem far-fetched, one of the most effective weapons in my arsenal in the crusade for focus has been the standing desk.




Do alternative desk set-ups interest you? Pull up a chair and check out our past article on "active desking."



Designs By Lisa Vissichelli, Digital Designer and Adel Brihmat, Digital Design Assistant



Edited By Gina Gioldassis, Executive Assistant to the CEO



Social Media by Janine Walsh, Operations & Community Manager


TAGS: Kickstarter, Prototype, Qualitative Research, ReadyDesk, sachs insights, standing desk, StandStand


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