At IIDEX Neocon: Humanscale's Multi-Height Desk

humanscale multi-height desk

Images credit Lloyd Alter

Bloggers seem to be obsessed with standing desks, certainly way out of proportion to their numbers. (look here on Unpluggd and Core77). But the major manufacturers are definitely noticing, and delivering more and more of them that will fit in the corporate environment. Humanscale is introducing an interesting multi-height one next spring that has an interesting feature- a clever counterbalancing mechanism.


A lot of multi-height desks use electric motors to operate, adding complexity and cords, not to mention consuming electricity. The Humanscale Float moves up and down with a press of a lever underneath and a light push or lift. The secret is to compensate for the weight of the equipment on the desk with that crank; the Float can adjust from 0 to 120 pounds.

I could only look at the Float, but over at Core77, Barbara Eldredge got to test it. She concluded:

It wasn't until examining a rival sit-stand that I fully appreciated Float as a non-electric table. I despise the aesthetic chaos of power cords. Overall, the desk is simple and elegant and I must confess to feeling a slight futuristic thrill every time I adjusted the height.

But she also noted that she didn't use the standing feature as much as she thought she would. This isn't surprising; According to a study by Professor Alan Hedge of Cornell University,

Four out of five people prefer to work at electric, adjustable computer stations that allow them to stand at their computers part of the day. The study also found that people with access to electrically adjustable tables choose to stand at their computers about 20 percent of the day.

I am beginning to wonder whether all of these adjustable desks are such a good idea. They are a lot more expensive than a fixed desk would be, and one uses a desktop differently when standing; they can be shallower, and they don't need all that knee space underneath. Many people build their own out of shelving units. Perhaps it's time for the major manufacturers to bring back fixed height standing desks, like Herman Miller used to make.
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