Hacked standing desks overwhelm office system

MNN offices
CC BY 2.0 Lloyd Alter/ photo aging by Brad Hanna

I wonder what Bob Propst, inventor of the Action Office, would think of this setup in the offices of sister site MNN.com in Atlanta. They don't look all that much different, especially when photoshopped to look like the one below.

© Herman Miller/ action office in action

He might like the office system, since he promoted the 120° open design and hated square cubicles. He believed in promoting communication; people could stand up and talk over the cubicle walls, popping their heads up in what is now called prairie-dogging.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

MNN has this sort of Action Office clone, which sort of works as designed if people are sitting down. But then 5/8ths of the employees migrated to standing desks, and it is so odd to see all these people standing up and in each others faces, as little as five feet apart. It totally disrupts the whole concept and is actually a bit subversive.

© Herman Miller

In the original action office, people were supposed to move, using different surfaces for different functions. There was even a special phone booth module. Being an online operation, the MNN people don't use their phones a lot, and in fact they really cannot because they are so close to each other. However in true action office mode, they can take their cell phones and go somewhere else. It used to be that the phone tied people down, but now it is the computer that does, at least for the people who are not using notebook computers.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Most of the standing desks are IKEA hacks, sitting on top of the office system desks.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

But Editor Sarah has a lovely custom job built by her husband. I am not sure that any are at the proper ergonomic heights. The interesting thing about it all is how such a major portion of the office has gone over to the standing desk, how ad-hoc it is, and how poorly the existing office system supports it.

© Herman Miller

It's really time for Herman Miller and the other manufacturers to reassess the situation and make the standing desk part of their integrated systems like it was 50 years ago. I don't think adjustable desks are the answer; I think George Nelson got it right when he said, according to Nikil Saval:

As George Nelson, one of Herman Miller’s most illustrious designers, stated loftily, “The Lord never meant a man to be immobilized in one position … These are not desks and file cabinets. They are a way of life.”

Pick up your notebook and your mobile phone and move.

Tags: Atlanta | Standing desk | Work


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