Spark by Ergodriven: A Better Way to Test A Standing Desk

When I first started experimenting with a standing desk, to see if it would work for me personally, I used odds and ends of household furniture two create two setups for test-driving standing desks.

But the Spark by Ergodriven is a much better option. It’s a flat-packed sturdy cardboard temporary lift, meant to be placed on an extant table or desk and thereby convert the furniture you already have to a standing desk. The Spark comes in threes sizes, allowing you to choose a desk suited to your height. It’s made out of surprisingly sturdy corrugated cardboard, and it’s pretty easy to assemble.

It’s also dirt cheap. Small Sparks for people under 5′ 4” or Medium Sparks for people 5′ 4” to 5′ 11 are $20.00 from Amazon; Large for people over 5′ 11” are $25.00. And because it’s flat-packed, it strikes me as something to consider if you do a lot of consulting that involves working from hotel rooms. You could have Amazon ship the Ergo Spark to your hotel, or stash it in your luggage and assemble it there. Most hotel rooms have a desk or table, and you can use the Ergo Spark to allow you to adjust your position from cramped and hunched, to standing.

Standing Bird Desk

Currently I do most of my writing on my MacBook or a Chromebook, while sitting on the couch. I do some work standing up using an older iMac, but I really hate the Apple A1048 keyboard so I don’t use it as much as I might. I use the Chromebook a lot for writing-on-the-go in places like the library; it’s lightweight, extremely portable (as long as their’s WiFi) and it runs a very long time on a charge; longer even than my iPad 3 with the Brydge keyboard, by two or three hours, depending on what I’m doing (the iPad runs out of juice long before the keyboard).

I’m pretty sure I’ll be buying an Ergo Depot Jarvis Junior. I’ll probably wait until I’ve moved to an iMac as my principal computer, and that move depends in part on how long I can see well enough with my spiffy high-end reading/writing glasses to use a laptop.

We’ve recently put up two bird feeders, at two different windows, and that’s got me re-thinking how and where I write.

One of the bird feeders is attached to a window in an alcove that has lots of natural light. It’s a super spot for a bird feeder. It got me thinking about a way to write standing up where I can see the feeder (and the birds!), which is a bit more difficult for me to do at the other feeder near the couch where I write a lot, because I can’t really get quite close enough to the window to see the birds clearly (there’s a reason they don’t let me drive . . . ).

So I’m trying a different standing desk experiment; one that has me rotating on a regular basis to writing in front of the window with the bird feeder. I’ve created another ersatz standing desk; this one involving a small plastic set of drawers resting on top of a low table, previously used by a sleeping cat and houseplants. I’m looking at this page for ergonomic guidelines about height and standing desks and this site’s nifty standing desk ergonomic calculator.

I’m mostly using the Chromebook; it’s a good way to continue looking at how much of a difference writing in the Cloud will make when it involves not only short form writing, like articles and blog posts, entering data in Google Sheets, and web-writing in general, but what it’s like working on long-form writing in the Cloud. I’m also using my iPad and Brydge keyboard (mostly, using Pages and Google Docs; I’m avoiding Microsoft Word unless a publisher requires it).

I could use it with my MacBook, but likely won’t. I’ve been using my bird feeder desk since March, and so far, it’s working better than I expected. Frankly, the birds are a huge motivation for me; they help me remember to shift, so I’m not standing rigidly, and they help me change my focal length, which is particularly important for my specific vision issues.

One thing I learned about my previous experience with standing desks: standing on hard floors isn’t fun, and dated carpet doesn’t count. I’m definitely buying a mat; a good one. The one my friends recommend is the Imprint CumulusPro. They’re now making the mat in a smaller 20″ x 30″ inch size, which makes it much more affordable; c. $45.00 rather than c. $72.00 for the 24″ x 36″ size. I note that The Wirecutter also favors the CumulusPro as a standing desk mat.

I’m contemplating wearing clogs or running shoes, because extra arch support makes a huge difference when you’re standing, though shoes/shoeless depends on the feet in question. Right now, I’m wearing a pair of Merrill hikers I bought for working with horses, and it’s made a huge difference over bare feet.

Mostly though the bird feeder is a super addition; it gives me an extra incentive to use the standing desk, and it helps me remember to change my focus from the computer screen to the window on a regular basis.

Standing Desks Part II

I first wrote about standing desks four years ago. I couldn’t find the kind of standing desk I wanted then under $500.00. At that point, I was looking for a standing desk in the purest sense; one that was used only when standing. So I opted for a couple of ersatz standing desks from repurposed bookcases, instead of buying a desk that wasn’t quite what I wanted.

So I’ve done due diligence in trying before buying; I know I want to use standing desk, and I want to alternate between sitting and standing.

Since then we’ve learned a lot more about using standing desks. First, sitting and standing in alteration is a much better option, long term; hence the phrase “sit-stand desk.” Moving around, instead of sitting or standing for long periods, being able to switch between sitting or standing, or adjust position while standing, is important. Mobility is key; it’s not the standing that’s the issue, is that I’m not just sitting.

Now, I’m looking for a more permanent solution, one that will continue to work in the future. My MacBook is approaching end-of-life, and I’m increasingly having problems seeing beyond the ability of adaptive tech or glasses to compensate, hence looking at a larger screen iMac for the future.

There are do-it-yourself standing desk solutions; like this $200 do-it-yourself convertible standing desk designed by a friend at Instructables. There are a number of Instructable-do-it-yourself standing desks; this one is an Ikea Standing Desk Hack or this one that is electronically adjustable. For those of you who have a desk or table already, there are options like The Standesk 2200, a $22.00 IKEA hack.

ergo_depot_jarvis_juniorI’m not all that handy (being able to see strikes me as a positive in terms of using hammers and saws) and don’t currently have a desk at all, other than my converted bookcases, so I’m looking at pre-made standing desk solutions, and preferably, ones that are adjustable (I’m short) and that can switch between sitting and standing.

I’m resigned to the fact that a durable high-quality adjustable sit-stand desk is going to be in the neighborhood of $700.00 to $1000.00.

The Wirecutter, my go-to site for reliable, thorough reviews, likes the Ergo Depot Jarvis Bamboo. I do too (especially the bamboo top!), but it’s c. $700.00, which is really not an option for me. Ergo Depot sells the Jarvis frame separately, as well, but honestly, I’d likely be putting something like the Bamboo top on it in any case.

Ergo Depot also makes a smaller version, the Jarvis Junior that is awfully tempting, Just the frame is $499.00. If I add the Bamboo top in the medium size (36” x 27”) $25.00, the digital memory switch to raise and lower the top (and remember settings, so it can be easily used by more than one person, standing and sitting) is an additional $35.00, locking canisters (so it can be moved to different locations) are $29.00, a solution for wire and cable management (we have a cat) is $39.00, and a pencil tray (cat) is another $29.00. The total, before tax (shipping is included) to $656.00. If I go with the largest top available on the Jarvis Junior (42” x 27”)  that brings it to $680.00 before taxes (I’m pretty sure I’d be fine with the medium 36” x 27”; that’s a lot of space even with an iMac, keyboard and trackpad/mouse).

That’s under $700.00, with either configuration, and not bad, particularly given the high quality and warranty. At this point, that’s a target for me, so I’m going to be trying a different temporary standing desk, one that comes with a birds-eye view.