There I was, minding my own business, calmly enjoying my new standing desk, when the room erupted. Baffled, I looked up to catch a twinge of violence in their eyes just as this pack of hyenas I call my “team” lashed out.
“I’m gonna kick it one day,” one of my Gizmodo coworkers, Alex, shouted from across the room. Thus began what would turn into months of relentless ridicule over a simple piece of ergonomic office furniture.
In my private pursuit not for the perfect standing desk, but for the most practical one for me—a human being—I faced mockery beyond my wildest dreams from fellow Gizmodo colleagues who attacked me after I purchased a totally fine standing desk made of cardboard on Amazon.
I picked up the Ergodriven Spark—“the perfect way to try a standing desk”—for one reason above any other: price. Like a rare breaching whale, I saw this $US25 ($34) corrugated box soar above a sea of overpriced products I wasn’t ready to commit to just yet, as I pursued my quest for mild physical activity. Popular standing desks can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars; my boxy alternative stood in great contrast.
“No worries about who is footing the bill or which fancy features you might use,” the chipper landing page for the product reads. “Just grab Spark and try standing at work.”
“Sure,” I thought. It’s not like I was dropping a grand. If I really loved it, maybe I’d trade it in for something fancy one day. Something elegant, electronic, and made of bamboo. That’s what I really wanted, but deep down, I also wondered if any standing desk could make me feel better. To find this out for myself, I eventually plowed forward, selected my size (“Medium”), and added the Spark to my cart.
What the company (and reviews site Wirecutter) failed to warn me about, however, was how enraged this simple device would leave many of my coworkers.
“I wish I could open a window so I could throw it out,” said our deputy editor, to raucous laughter. A senior writer chimed in: “I can’t think of a cheaper product to buy that would make more people unhappy. I think in that way it is extremely efficient.”
I’d purchased this box to prop up my laptop in February but didn’t get around to assembling the Spark until a week or so later. As I began to put it together, colleagues gathered around me, sniffing at it, prodding it with their claws, intrigued by the newcomer in our space. Its shape began to slowly take form—it took me nearly an hour to assemble the dang thing—and a giddiness swelled up inside me. I wasn’t just ready to stand. I was eager to show off my cleverness that was so apparent in this purchase. I enjoyed the ridiculousness of it, too. Some of my coworkers, however, met the desk like an unwelcome distraction. Others looked on in amused disbelief. Once the real work began, the standing, everyone seemed to more or less move on.
There I was, alone with my desk, certain I’d make it work.
By March, mere weeks after I’d given the desk a real go, my teammates’ indifference turned to scepticism. Then suspicion. And finally unbridled rage. They wouldn’t stop talking about it. Like they were obsessed with me or something!
“Do you actually want a real standing desk now? Did you answer that question?” Marina, Gizmodo’s features editor, probed, as though I was standing on trial instead of at my nice cardboard standing desk. “What do you want more, a standing desk or the respect of your coworkers?” an onlooker added.
The wave of unsolicited attacks stung. But let me tell you, dear readers, the truth hurt worse—like a box cutter to cardboard dreams.
The reality is, I kind of failed to properly use my standing desk. I started by spending half my day standing, half sitting, on average. As the days wore on, however, my legs grew weary. Eventually, I spent maybe 15 minutes a day actually standing. The rest of the time, I sat slouched in my chair, the Spark crammed up against my monitor, which went unused, my laptop hanging precariously off the edge of my overcrowded “real” desk, as I carried on typing. This only renewed the fury in my beastly coworkers.
“It makes people uncomfortable,” a coworker chimed in, “and then it’s funnier because you’ve been avoiding it for, like, two weeks.”
Once the attacks picked up again, I arose instinctively to meet them—by using the standing desk more, this time to provoke them.
As I withstood the attacks, I considered why my team was so concerned with my personal affairs. Perhaps my coworkers were pulling for me to achieve my goals and thought tough love was the only way to go—the best recipe for success? Or perhaps it was the Spark desk’s appearance? Unlikely. It’s absolutely adorable.
Barring those theories, I considered yet another option worthy of examining.
Of course. It all made sense. The team caught off guard by my brilliant purchase, lashed back on instinct. As they came to their senses, however, it was too late. So they ratcheted up the attacks and dug their own graves. Last Friday, all this desk fuckery reached a fever pitch:
Ultimately, the initial source of my coworkers’ rage doesn’t seem to have been the Spark, per se, but prolonged standing itself. Unreasonable as they may be most of the time, I can see where they’re coming from: There I was, constantly towering over my seated coworkers, an elevated “pest” in the corners of their eyes. Once I abandoned the standing part of my standing desk, though, the bickering continued—why cramp your workspace with a standing desk if you’re not going to actually stand? Between the conspicuous standing and the absurdity of not standing, my coworkers simply couldn’t handle it.
I could say now that these attacks drove me to quit the Spark standing desk, but truthfully, I’d already given up on it. Unlike the adjustable standing desks that have trickled into our office, this one was permanently upright, took up a good bit of space, and really only offered enough support for a laptop and my heavy-handed typing—let alone a monitor and keyboard.
My commitment to the spark was ultimately as brittle as its cardboard husk, and so I stashed it under my desk to gather dust. I have not entirely given up on my standing desk dreams, but the urgency to use one has settled back down to a general curiosity. I will stand again, but for now, I’m comfortable enough sitting.
As for my coworkers, I can’t help but wonder: Was this ever really about the standing desk? Or was it about something else? Heaven forbid someone with FEELINGS walks into this office with a cardboard desk in tow!