Last Man Standing: A Month Working From the UpDesk UpWrite

Tech Test Lab Review

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Product: UpDesk UpWrite
Price: $1,149.00 (+$129 shipping)
Rating: Recommend*

I've been curious about the idea of working from a standing desk for years now, reading numerous reports about the health benefits of working while standing, the long term detrimental effects of being seated all day, and noting a few first hand accounts from friends/colleagues who've taken made the switch. For the last 4 weeks I've finally gotten the opportunity to see whether working standing up was...well...worth getting up for.

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Setup: The UpDesk UpWrite ships in one giant box, with components easily identifiable and most of the parts already assembled. I live in a pretty small apartment, and even with the constraints of a tight space, I had the desk put together in about 30 minutes, my biggest challenge was finding room to lay everything out for assembly. Attaching the two motorized legs into the pre-drilled slots underneath the desk surface and connecting them with cables to a central motor-lift component shouldn't prove a challenge to anyone with IKEA assembly experience. Afterward, all that's required is to plug in the desk and you're on your way to an uplifting experience.

*Note: depending on your size and strength, you may need help holding up and flipping over some of the parts, as the desk surface and legs may prove challenging for one.

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Once assembled I had a better opportunity to look over the construction and material of the UpDesk Upwrite as a whole. The desk surface itself is composed of a 60"x30", 1.25" thick high-pressure compressed fiber laminate top; as the name implies, this bright white laminate top features the ability to be used as a dry erase write board, handy for those with a penchant for note taking and collaborative planning. The legs are constructed from reinforced steel footings and designed to support up to 300 lb. lifting capacity. Together, the desk offers confident stability, without any wobble or other obvious construction issues.

The only issue I ran into during my one month period with the UpWrite was due to excessive interior heat during a Los Angeles last gasp summer heatwave; due to the heat, the adhesive securing two cable guides underneath the desk gave. A minor issue, but I would recommend securing each cable guide component with shallow screws rather than depending upon the included adhesive strips or adding additional cable management accessories underneath (*I was just notified the desk will now ship with screws to secure the cable guides).

Design: Aesthetically speaking, the desk is an example of function over form. Neither disagreeable, nor necessarily beautiful, the UpWrite reminded me of my drafting desk back in college, sharing some design DNA with IKEA furnishings too. Set up in our apartment living room, the desk seemed mostly out of place (I had to move part of our sectional into the bedroom to accommodate for the desk's footprint), it's size and engineer-ish no-frills appearance contrasting with our midcentury and naturalis-themed decor. But in a larger more modern open environment, I could see the plain desk's presence neutralized by scale, and ideally other decorative elements.

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Controls: The UpWrite's electrically powered lift system is controlled using a push button panel attached and accessible at the front. The touch button adjustments proved precise and easily adjustable, whether moving the work surface up or down, with a LCD display showing the height with each adjustment – useful for determining a user's ideal standing and sitting settings –accompanied by a strangely satisfying mechanical hum during the table's ascent or descent (reminded me of a miniature elevator). The Upwrite also offers a 3-position memory setting, bringing the desk to programmed heights at the touch of each button, which would prove necessary throughout the weeks ahead switching back and forth between working standing and seated throughout a day.


Working Standing Up:
I'd consider myself in fairly good physical fitness, so the premise of working standing up throughout the day was a tempting opportunity to combine my love of being active in harmony with my responsibilities as an editor. I've been in a year long process of living a healthier life, and was already committed to a daily active routine of running, lifting, and calisthenics, and now I had a desk to keep me literally on my feet too. But I quickly learned being able to run a fast mile's time and working all day standing up are two completely different challenges, both mentally and physically.

Week 1: The excitement of working from a standing desk starts off with much anticipatory excitement. I feel like my life may be about to change. But first I needed to set up the desk according to my needs and workflow.

The first speed bump arises when I realize I can't move my 27" external monitor over to the UpWrite because it's mostly permanently wall-mounted in my home office. Apple Cinema Displays are a pain in the rear to convert for wall mounting, and I wasn't willing to go through the trouble of switching it back out for a month's review period (and because I couldn't find one of the necessary parts).

Instead, I moved my laptop and stand to the the UpWrite, partnered with a stack of large art books to help bring up the laptop's screen height to eyes' height. The biggest challenge right off the bat wasn't working standing up, but working only using a single 15" display after years of using two screens.

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It's recommended new standing desk users gradually ease into working from a standing position to allow the body to adapt, so I began with a simple schedule of "one hour standing, one hour sitting" throughout the day using a timer. I kept my task chair nearby, and was able to make the switch between each position easily thanks to the touch controls.

The first week using the one hour up, one hour down schedule proved mostly comfortable, except near the tail end of the day where I would find myself shifting my weight from one leg to another from fatigue (my better half found it amusing to find me working in a Vrksasana tree pose occasionally). I did note during this first week I was sleeping well, but I couldn't determine whether it was due to the desk or because I was working out harder after work (maybe the combination of both).

Week 2: Working standing up just got a whole lot more difficult during this second week. My plans are to double the time standing to two hours, while reducing the time seated half (two hours up, half an hour seated). These plans are quickly foiled by the arrival of an extreme heat wave here in Los Angeles. I find myself desiring the seated position every hour, even with the air conditioning at full blast. During the hours I work while standing, I find myself a little less productive and focused, as a percentage of my energy is dedicated to just motivating myself from slinking back into the chair. The fatigue is every bit mental as physical, and the half hour breaks back in the task chair are proving a necessity to finish work assignments.

Week 3: With the heatwave still lingering around, I push through my natural inclination to ease up and begin working for 2-3 hours at a time from a standing position. At least during the first half the day. By 2-3 pm each day, my legs begin to tire, compounded by my daily lunchtime gym workouts. Also, I note my productivity has fallen, mostly which I attribute to the loss of the secondary monitor, but also because of noticeable overall fatigue plaguing my calves and quads. I begin to incorporate calve raises and squats as mini-intervals between times standing and sitting, and the additional blood flow and change in position helps me power through.

Week 4: It's my final week and I'm now able to work standing throughout the morning until lunch break. But after each day's lunch hour, I've decided to work back using the "hour on, hour off" schedule, and the change back results in both improved physical condition and productivity. I don't consider the alternating schedule a disappointment, but the discovery of my ideal working setup.

Final thoughts: The month's time with the UpDesk UpWrite gave me an opportunity to see whether working standing up would prove beneficial to my workflow, and what I learned at the end of it all was working standing up is a mixed bag. When properly rested and not overly exerted during a work day, working upright felt beneficial for ergonomic health, and the UpWrite's mechanized height adjustment made the transition an easy one. At the same time, perhaps not surprisingly, on days when I was physically tired or even stressed, the challenge of working from a standing desk often tempted me to slink back into the comforts of my tried and true task chair.

The most comfortable days working from the UpDesk UpWrite happened when I listened to my body, sitting when I felt like I needed a break from standing, standing in 60-90 minute blocks throughout the day, free from a set schedule of specified hours in either position. From my experience, working from any standing desk isn't a panacea in itself, but a component to better overall physical and ergonomic habits, with the UpDesk UpWrite's automatic height adjustment ideal for making the transition on a daily basis. But for now, I'll be working from my old desk, happy to be reunited with my dual monitor setup, and incorporating more breaks away from the desk as a compromise to my normally seated work life.

Pros: Easy setup with elementary assembly skills required; confident construction; automatic motorized height adjustment works perfectly; various programmable heights allows for quick switches between standing to sitting.

Cons: Design isn't aesthetically impressive compared to engineering; price is prohibitive; only for larger spaces.

Our Ratings:

Strong Recommend
Recommend*
Weak Recommend
Don't Recommend

(Images: Gregory Han; UpDesk)

Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. This specific product was provided by the manufacturer for testing and review purposes.

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