Before hitting grad school, I spent some pleasant months doing tech support at a call center for Norway’s largest internet provider. Back then, my minimum wage and a 31% income tax still left me with a living wage and four weeks paid vacation in one of the most expensive countries around, so I had very little to complain about.
Perhaps my favorite memory of that job, besides deciphering Norwegian dialects and slowly developing stereotypes about the people who stood behind them, was using the lone convertible standing desk in the office. Pressing a lever with your foot caused it to slowly rise, or allowed your hands to easily press it down to regular sitting height again. I came in early for each of my shifts to claim it. I spent most of my day standing, but loved the ability to quickly convert to a sitting position when I wanted to rest my legs and back. Surely this was the future, I thought back in 1999, and all office workers will have a desk like this in the next millennium!
More than a decade later, we are still mostly sitting down as we work. Here at ProfHacker, Ryan has been leading the charge to get us to stand up. For me, the sheer expense of getting a really good standing desk like the one I had in ’99 has been prohibitive on my grad student and now postdoc budget, but even more difficult since I move so often that shipping the thing around wouldn’t make much sense. This past fall, however, I moved into an apartment which just happened to have two stacked wall shelves at almost the perfect height to become a standing work station and I have gotten back into my old standing habit. When I was told about a kickstarter project last year to create a truly portable standing desk, I was very excited. By Christmas the Ninja Standing Desk was in full production. Note: I was given one of their standing desks to review.
The Ninja Standing Desk
I’ll list a few of the things I like and some of the shortcomings with the desk below, but the bottom line is that I love this thing. I think it is priced reasonably for a newly designed product out of what seems like a smaller company, it is genuinely portable, and it works more than well enough for my needs.
At its most basic, the ninja standing desk really comes down to some velcro straps, four boards wrapped in two heavy cloth enclosures, four foldable metal tent poles, and some metal loops and hooks to mount it on a door or in a dry wall. The materials appear unremarkable, but it works. As the picture above attests, it comfortably holds, a laptop, an iPad being used as an external monitor (with Air Display app), a keyboard, a cat, and a mouse. The gallery here shows the standing desk in use with larger monitors.
There are some shortcomings mostly due to the tradeoffs made in the design process. Space is limited on the shelves, as you would expect for a portable desk like this. Obviously, you won’t be able to have a pile of papers spread out alongside your computer. And don’t expect a pop-up umbrella. Setting it up makes you wish you had an extra hand, but by the second time, I was able to put it up in less than four minutes (see the official assembly video here). When you unfold the two boards, they sometimes slightly overlap, so you have to do some manual jiggling. The metal bars that give the boards solidity are kept within a sleeve under the boards and look like they may eventually wear down the surrounding cloth after many repetitions of take-down and reassembly. Memories of the fate of my velcro sneakers in the 1980s makes me wonder how long the velcro straps will retain their adhesive characteristics in the long term. Finally, the lower shelf is a little on the loose side.
None of this has bothered me so far. The stability of the standing desk as a whole has pleasantly surprised me. I have used it on a variety of doors and was surprised that, unless you like to swing the door open wildly, it can even use it on a door that is in fairly regular use without things tumbling off the desk. Overall, it is great for what it promises: a very light and portable (comes with a simple traveler bag) standing desk with two shelves that can be customized to the height that works for the user and for a variety of places it is attached. If you have one office to rule them all, then a nice solid standing desk that can be fixed to multiple heights is probably the way to go, but this works great for those of us who often find themselves on the move.
Have you tried any other portable and affordable solutions for standing desks? What’s been your experience? Please let us know in the comments.