The Green Workplace in 2012:

Jan 8, 2013 Posted by

Standing Desks, Home Offices, and the Future of Work

Lloyd Alter
Design / Interior Design
January 2, 2013

Will the Office Go the Way of the Phonebooth and Mailbox?

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Heidi Painchaud

credit: Heidi Painchaud/ Lloyd Alter

At a lecture in September, Heidi Painchaud of B+H discussed how offices are changing:

She suggests that employees are using technology in ways that their bosses cannot even think of, so that employers have to change the way they evaluate their workers because they may not even see them. The trend is to ROWE, the Results Oriented Work Environment; people can work wherever and however they want as long as they produce and meet their goals.

All of us are going through this, whether we work at home or at the office; the location and way we work is less important now than the results. It is hard to adapt for workers and managers, but it’s inevitable. Here is a review of some of those changes that we started noticing this year.

Allison Arieff On The Future Of The Office: Is it All About The Video?

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grey couch from steel case

credit: Big grey couches facing big screen Monitor/ Steelcase

A lot of smart people are trying to design the office of the future, to keep up with these changes, but it may be a lost cause. Allison Arieff wrote:

Not long ago, many predicted the office of the future was no office at all. Today, the thinking is to get employees back to the office and find all sorts of enticements to keep them there. But devices, furniture, and people have moved from fixed to mobile. So now workplace “design” is as much about programming, services and amenities as it once was about cubicles and corner offices.

Alex Johnson of Shedworking disagreed in comments:

The number of people working from home and starting up home-based businesses is rocketing (though not much documented by the national media). The age of presenteeism is starting to pass and we’re returning to a pre-industrial revolution scenario of cottage industries.

New Study Shows That People Working From Home Are More Productive

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cat on desk

credit: My desk this morning / Lloyd Alter

In fact, more and more studies are indicating that people working from home are more productive, have a lower attrition rate and cost the company less money to support and manage. Admittedly the study was of a travel agency, where people are working the phones and not really interacting with other workers; it is not for every business. Not everyone enjoyed the experience either:

Surprisingly, when the experiment was over, almost half of those who were working from home in the experiment asked to come back to work in the office; the ones who performed best at home were the ones who preferred to stay at home. Clearly WFH doesn’t work for everyone. But giving people the choice of home or office improved everyone’s performance.

Your Office is in Your Pants: Forget the Standing Desk and the Sitting desk, the Future is the No-desk.

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my office

credit: My office/ Lloyd Alter

I tried an experiment when I got my new computer that had great battery life and a terrific monitor: do you need a fixed desk at all? I was going to get rid of everything, the file cabinet, the external monitor, the scanner, and do it all on my phone and computer, wherever I wanted. Commenters complained that I was writing an Apple ad, but it was a serious experiment.

I failed. In the end a hard connection is still faster and more dependable than wifi; the scanning programs for the iPhone are not as good as a real flatbed; I still work better with an external monitor. I can’t get rid of the desk just yet.

Maker Faire 2012: The Ninja Standing Desk

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ninja desk photo

credit: Jaymi Heimbuch

Standing desks continue to be a major trend, as studies keep confirming how much healthier they are. They are getting cheaper too; Jaymi saw this wonderful Ninja Standing Desk at Maker Faire.

It’s clever for a number of reasons; it clips on a door, folds up to almost nothing, but I think most importantly, recognizes that a standing desk surface is different than a sitting, and can be a very different proportion. Really smart for only $150.

Standing Desk Add-On Is a Low-Cost Way to Stand at Work

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standing desk add on pace mcculloch

credit: Pace McCulloch

Alex showed this add-on standing desk idea, writing “buying a new desk when you already own one is not only expensive, it’s wasteful.” I am not sure I agree. A standing desk can take up a lot less space, and you can use the space under it because you don’t need it for knees. But it is a great way to start, to see if you really like a standing desk.

Clever: X-Based Transformer Standing Desk Cranks Down to a Sitting Desk

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x table

credit: Kibisi

One option that a lot of people are considering, and a lot of companies are designing, is the adjustable desk. Kibisi designed a particularly lovely one using an x-base, with a hand crank to raise and lower it. Others are designing them with electric lifts, to move up and down more easily.

I have concerns about adjustable desks; studies have shown that when given the option, people tend to drift to the sitting position for more and more of the time, and end up standing as little as 20% of the time. I also find that a shallower, wider desk works better for standing because you can move around so easily.

Standing Desk Mania: The Backlash Begins

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credit: Winston Churchill’s standing desk, which originally belonged to Benjamin Disraeli

Of course, there had to be a backlash, it almost became a war on the chair. David Zax wrote:

What the summer of 1975 did for sharks, what the fall of 2001 did for anthrax, the last few years have been doing for that seemingly innocuous object: the chair.

The consensus in comments was simple: Mix it up.

Falling Danzu Desk Folds Up and Away, Takes Up Less Space

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desk and model

credit: Andrew Bradley

For people working at home, and sitting, the year brought a number of really attractive desks, many that fold down, tilt out and take up very little space. I particularly liked the design and presentation of the Falling Densu desk.

Kilppen Klappen is a Klever Minimalist Desk With A Place for Everything

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credit: Gregor Korolewicz

I liked this.

One of the problems of working at home, particularly in small spaces, is that your stuff never goes away. That’s why we keep showing desks that transform into something else, or close up like a modern version of aBiedermeier desk. German designer Gregor Korolewicz has designed a lovely one, that he calls the Klippen Klappen.

Clever Desk Design Assembles In Seconds, is Held Together With Ratchet Straps

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Scrivmania Desk

credit: Studio Lievito

Polyester ratchet straps were designed to tie things down tightly, quickly. They are strong and cheap, and we have recently seen them used in furniture and even houses. Here they are in a great desk by Studio Lievito. Goes together in minutes.

The Immersive Cocoon May Be The Ultimate Home Office

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immersive cocoon in hotel room

credit: NAU

Finally, the home office of my dreams, the Immersive Cocoon, with a wonderful video where they reconstruct the hotel room in 2001: A Space Odyssey and even get Keir Dullea to star in it, only not aged with makeup this time. It’s not very green, but I want it.



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