The $20 Convertible Standing Desk for Remote Workers and Freelancers
We all know that you should be working from a standing desk. To be fair, there are numerous health benefits to doing so: it prevents cancer, improves your posture, alleviates back pain, and generally just make you feel like less of a bum.
But like many things that are good for you, standing desks are hellaciously expensive. The number-one pick from Wirecutter is the $685 “Jarvis” standing desk. While this isn’t all that terrible a price for an entire desk, especially for one that stands, it is quite likely that, as a remote worker, you already have a desk you sit at. Or at least I hope you do.
That leaves us with convertible standing desks, which start at around $400. For a freelancer, that’s a small fortune, even with the tax deduction. And for a remote employee, it’s an expense that is not always easy to swing by the boss. But if you’re cheap like me, don’t mind a low-rent aesthetic, and have a lot of faith in the power of cardboard, the Ergodriven Spark is the standing desk for you.
The Basics of Spark
The Spark is a $20–$25 standing desk that is built completely out of cardboard. You can choose from three sizes: small, medium, and large. Each size correlates with how tall you are, with Ergodriven giving guidelines on its product description page. It also weighs just short of nothing.
And that’s about it. It’s literally what it is: a cardboard standing desk that’s cheap in the way cardboard tends to be.
Assembling the Spark
Of course, the Spark is not put together with nuts and bolts like other standing desks. It is put together in various folds, bends, and the appropriate nudge or two. The directions, romantically, come in paper form, although the AutoCAD-rendered directions were not particularly easy to follow for people who were never a big fan of geometry. (Is the square a rectangle, or is the rectangle a square? Who knows, lovelies.)
But thankfully, there are also video directions. And although the video quality was YouTube B-star quality, it did the job. And in general, the process was simple. My one real complaint about the assembling process was only some of the parts were pre-bent. To resolve this issue, I laid a book against the line where the bend was supposed to be. You can see the cuts of the line in the cardboard, no free-hand folding necessary. (Note: The book thing was probably overkill. But the satisfaction from creating a good crease was needed, especially since it is supporting some expensive equipment.)
The directions also recommend building the Spark in an open area; I agree. That all said, overall, the process of building the Spark was quite pleasant. And in a weird origami-like way, the build process could even be considered peaceful. Or in the words of New Girl’s Nick Miller:
Using the Spark as Your Standing Desk
If you are worried that cardboard won’t support your super-awesome equipment, you can be assured it will. The Spark supports up to 25lbs safely, but it has been tested to hold up to 100lbs.
And because I’m a wild man who believes in random people on the Internet, I put these stats to the test. Upon assembling my Spark, I put my 27″ iMac Retina, which weighs in at 22lbs, on top of my ErgoSpark. And it, sort of shockingly, held perfectly. I completed most my work for a day with the below setup:
The books weren’t there for support in any way; I just needed a place to put my books for this subpar photo.
The Spark did not appear to give in any way to the weight or size of the iMac, and it was more stable than some other standing desks I’ve used with similarly weighted monitors or all-in-one computers. To get the Spark to shake in any way, I had to either strike the keyboard very aggressively (imagine Paul Bunyan typing) or physically shake the Spark myself.
Although the Spark held the iMac just fine, I eventually moved on from this setup. Staring at that huge screen while standing proved to be overbearing on my eyes. Instead, I cleared way for my laptop, which turned out like this:
This system proved to be much more manageable, and it is now my day-to-day setup. I can also pick up the Spark and move it under my desk to access my larger computer sitting behind the Spark.
In general, I have been content with the height and general proportions of the desk. The keyboard tray is quite roomy, and on the far left-hand side there is enough room for a moderately sized coffee cup. The open space under the Spark is also useful to compartmentalize other computer accessories.
Importantly, the Spark has stayed rigid, and I don’t anticipate it will break down any time soon. The surface on which your laptop or monitor sits on is very flat and stable. And both my magic mouse and my cheap Logitech mouse work on the cardboard surface without any issues. In short: I feel safe putting my expensive money maker on nothing but cardboard, which is a big mental hurdle for Spark to have overcome.
Notably, I do not have a dual monitor setup. While the Spark team has plans to make such a thing, it’s currently not for sale. There is a bit of a hack for the lack of dual-screen support in the meantime, though: buy two Sparks for a total of $40-$50. While it takes up room, Matt Baumann, who works at Rolf Prima, has made it work:
On whether Baumann keeps this setup going or not, we’ll keep you posted.
Buy the Damn Thing
If you work from home, you need a standing desk. Hell, if you work in an office, you need a standing desk. Slowly dying in a chair is just so silly and avoidable.
And with the Spark, you have no reason to not try a standing desk situation. If you hate it, the worst that has happened is that you have parted with $20. I mean, it’s not nothing, but it sort of is in conjunction with the potential benefits you may experience.
Full disclosure: I use Amazon affiliate ads, so if you buy the Spark from this post, I get like… two pennies. #sellout