this thing's incredible

The Best Standing Desk Is Actually a Workbench Meant for the Garage

The author’s home office. Photo: James Lynch

I expected a lot of issues when I transitioned to full-time WFH near the start of the pandemic. Spotty internet? Sure. Existential dread? You bet. Feeling weird about my bed being in the background of Zoom calls? Constantly. The thing that surprised me the most, however, was the awful pain in my back.

To be fair, this was my fault: I had bought the cheapest chair I could find on Amazon, and all the sitting at my desk was wreaking havoc on my lower back. I tried switching to a nicer, hipper desk chair a friend gave me for my birthday after hearing me complain about my back, but that didn’t work either. In a moment of desperation, I even sat on a wooden crate for a spell, since it was the only other seating option I had. Surprisingly, it was better than the chair, since it forced me to sit up straight, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable. That’s when I decided to give up on chairs entirely and switch to a standing desk.

At my last office job, the two or three people who had switched to standing desks were constantly talking about how great it was, but I wasn’t ready. I didn’t like the idea of forcing so much of myself into the peripheral vision of the person in the cubicle across from me. But when my former track coach suggested it as a possible solution to my pain, I decided it was finally time to give it a try. Now that I was at home, without an office mate across from me, the only person I affected by standing up would be me.

As you might have inferred from me buying the cheapest chair on Amazon, I wasn’t looking to spend a ton of money. Most of the standing desks and the contraptions that sit on top of desks to turn them into standing desks cost $400 or more, even the cheaply made ones. So when a friend told me about the workbench he’d been using as a standing desk, I decided to check it out.

A workbench may not sound like the perfect WFH solution, and yet it is now where I do all of my work. I have the 52-inch-wide version, which is perfect for setting up a monitor, some speakers, and whatever else you keep at your workstation. (Although the 52-inch desk is currently sold out, it also comes in 46-, 62-, and 72-inch-wide varieties.) And the 24-inch depth is similar to any office desk I’ve ever used. Since it’s designed to be used in a garage or workshop, the surface is made of solid wood. It’s durable, not at all like a lot of the other inexpensive desks I considered, which are made of plastic or particleboard — cheap materials with cheap veneers that bubble and peel the moment your coffee cup collects a single drop of moisture. It’s designed for the bumps and bangs of hammering, drilling, and sawing, so the occasional mashing of your keyboard will hardly make it flinch.

The rest of the frame is equally sturdy, with square metal legs that are reinforced with a bottom crossbeam that can be situated across the back to allow you to slide a chair in. (If there is one caveat with this desk, it’s that it takes a bit more assembly than others. Mine went from boxed to built in about an hour and 15 minutes.) Those legs make the desk feel rock solid, and it is. This thing is rated to hold 300 pounds. You’d have to stack a lot of MacBooks on here to push it to its limit. There are adjustable padded feet or, in a nod to its actual workbench intentions, locking castors, in case you find yourself needing to frequently rearrange your setup.

As useful as all of those features are, they’re superfluous when compared to my favorite feature, the hand crank. It’s supremely easy to raise and lower the desk from its top range of 42 inches high to its lower limit of 26. All you have to do is turn the small crank on the right front corner and it smoothly raises or lowers the desk by any incremental amount. When you get to your ideal height, there is no complicated locking procedure. Just stop cranking. The desk is ready to go.

Although every reason I bought this desk is related to function, it also has an impressively handsome form. You can choose between white or black legs that pair with the wood top to give the desk a modern aesthetic. It doesn’t look out of place in my room and doesn’t call attention to itself as a utilitarian blind spot I have to choose to ignore. In fact, the light desktop keeps the room feeling bright.

After two months of using this work table every day, turning that hand crank to periodically shift between a seated and standing position, my back pain is nearly gone. If I ever am back in an office environment, it’s going to be hard to leave this thing at home.

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The Best Standing Desk Is a Workbench Meant for the Garage