Working from home, ergonomically & economically

Since leaving Google in June, I’ve been working solo from my home office. One of my first tasks was setting up an ergonomic work space on par with what I had at Google.

Google spends a lot of money supplying their employees with the very best equipment, including office furniture. Standing desks are fairly common, even fancy motorized ones that can alternate between sitting and standing height. I became accustomed to standing at my desk, and I had no intention of ever going back to sitting all day.

When I started looking at reviews of standing desks, it became obvious that replicating my Google work space would not be cheap. Quality adjustable-height desks start at around $700, and go up from there. Too expensive for my bootstrapped business. I decided to find a cheaper way, and I did.

I was able to put together an attractive and functional standing work space for $333. Here it is:

The desk came from the local IKEA store, for just $200. The table top and legs are sold separately. I chose the Hilver bamboo top, which looks great and has smooth, beveled edges. There are cheaper laminate options available if you’re really on a tight budget. If you do opt for bamboo, the chrome-plated Gerton legs are a great match. By the way, I’ve linked all the products at the end of this post, in case you’re interested in any of them.

The assembled desk is sturdy and spacious. One caveat: I’m 5'11" and I have the legs nearly fully extended. If you’re over 6', you’ll probably need something taller than the Gerton.

Having a standing desk doesn’t mean you have to stand all day. In fact, you really shouldn’t. Ergonomic experts recommend taking frequent sitting breaks throughout the day. If you use a fixed-height standing desk (like mine), you’ll need a tall chair to go with it. There are dozens of drafting chairs on Amazon, but very few have solid reviews and an affordable price. The Alvin Griffin ($139) is one that does, and I’m happy with mine. It’s not going to win any design awards, but it’s well-constructed and tall enough to provide a comfortable and ergonomic position at the desk. Armrests are not included, but you don’t really need them anyway.

Whether you’re sitting or standing, you’ll definitely want to elevate your monitors. Ideally, they should be centered around eye level. I purchased a $50 mount with dual adjustable arms to support two monitors. This configuration lets you maximize your available desk space. Of course, you can also just put your monitor(s) on plastic risers or even stacks of paper. It’s more important that you get them up to the right height, not how you get them there.

Don’t forget about your feet! If your office has hardwood or concrete floors, do yourself a favor and get an anti-fatigue floor mat. And don’t underestimate the importance of good shoes. I wear a pair of Nike running shoes that provide great support while standing at my desk. As a bonus, they’re lightweight and perfect for doing Insanity workouts, too!

My office photo includes a few products that are not necessary for working ergonomically, but you might find them useful anyway.

The white cable on the left is a 10-ft micro USB cable from Anker. It is, quite simply, awesome. Get one and you’ll be hooked. No more being stuck on a short leash while charging your phone or tablet. Or, in my case, having a phone plugged into the computer all day while developing Android apps.

If you use your phone a lot at your desk, the elago m2 stand is worthwhile. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s high quality and superb at doing just what it was designed for: holding your phone at a comfortable angle, in either portrait or landscape orientation.

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