How I Created a Standing Desk IKEA Hack

My standing desk IKEA hack

It’s official – I now work at a standing desk in my home office. I love walking right up to my computer instead of plopping down in a chair. And it’s not just any standing desk, either; my desk is an Ikea hack. It’s fashioned from IKEA bookcases with a keyboard tray added on. It looks sleek and pro, allows me to sit and stand, and cost less than $300.

It’s early yet – I’ve only had my new desk a few days. I admit I’m a little excited-scared about working standing up – will I get fatigued? Will I be able to concentrate as well? What unforeseen aches and pains might it cause? These are questions I’ll be able to answer soon.

If you’re considering a standing desk, check out why I chose this option and how to do it yourself. I’m hesitant to even call this desk a hack because it looks so good!

My standing desk in actionWhy I Choose a Standing Desk

I’ve always felt slothly when sitting at my desk for hours. Although I exercise six-plus hours a week, apparently that’s not enough to ward of the negative effects of sitting. Studies have shown that:

  • Women who sit for more than six hours a day were about 37% more likely to die during the course of a 14-year period than those who sat fewer than three hours per day. Men were about 20% more likely to die [1].
  • Over time, the extra calories burned by standing up do add up! Check out this calculator to see.
  • Standing requires more energy as you tense your legs and core and use small stabilizer muscles to stay upright. Standing gives you a better opportunity to use good posture because you’re not dependent on an ergonomic chair.
  • Sitting all day is a major cause of inactive glutes, tight hips, rounded shoulders, and low-back pain.

Lots of storage space in this standing deskAll of these reasons and more convinced me I should give standing up a try.

Of course, you don’t have to stand up all day to benefit from less sitting. You can integrate more standing into your day even if you’re chair-bound by walking or standing every 30 minutes or standing more in everyday activities (waiting in line, talking on the phone, watching TV).

After much reading I also believe a combination of sitting and standing at work is ideal. I now have both options.

My IKEA Hack Standing Desk

Have you ever seen store-bought standing desks? Unless you want to spend a small fortune, most look about as utilitarian as it gets. I was inspired by this video explaining how to make a standing desk from IKEA bookcases. I love the look, plus it has lots of storage space. It consists of three IKEA Expedit bookcases (one 17 3/8×72 7/8″ unit and two 31 1/8×31 1/8″ units).

Since I want to sit and stand, we installed a second monitor on a separate desk which can be used with the same computer. All I have to do is grab whatever applications I need with the mouse and drag them onto the second screen. Then I move my wireless keyboard to my desk to sit down to start working (see top picture). It’s really quite simple!

Keyboard Tray

The main obstacle with a hack standing desk is ensuring you have a keyboard tray that’s ergonomic. In our case, we bought this 3M adjustable keyboard tray and ended up installing it upside down to make it work. I’m on the short side (5’2″), and if we’d installed it from the top as it was designed, it wouldn’t have been low enough. Even now it’s only the right height when I’m wearing my Dansko clogs. So we’re looking into an anti-fatigue mat that might add an inch under my feet.

You'll need to add an adjustable keyboard

Know the proper ergonomic heights for you and measure carefully for a keyboard tray that adjusts to the right height. Most trays don’t move up or down more than about 5 inches.

We also used plastic tubing from IKEA to hide cords and some wicker baskets for storage.

Other Considerations

  • Everything I’ve read says to sit as well as stand to avoid mega fatigue. It’s worth it to try and wrangle this.
  • If you have leg or foot problems, assess whether you can handle long periods of standing.
  • Buy an anti-fatigue mat with foam or gel. I haven’t bought one yet so I don’t know which is better.

Things to Watch Out For

  • Slouching while standing. Don’t lean on one leg or prop an elbow up on the desk. Bad posture while standing defeats the purpose of a standing desk and can cause new problems (neck, hip, or back pain). Stand straight and tall, shoulders down and back, abs pulled in. Keep your chin tucked towards your chest so you’re not looking up at the monitor.
  • Ergonomics. Your keyboard height must put your arms at a 90-degree angle and your eyes should be looking directly at the middle of the screen. Check out this calculator to learn more.
  • Trying to do it all too fast. Think of standing up like converting to barefoot running. It’s a process that takes adjustment and is best done slowly. You may never stand up all day, but I know people who do!

I’m excited about this new setup! Let me know if you have a standing desk or whether you’ve considered hacking your own.

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