Have you noticed that most electric standing desks basically look and function the same, regardless of brand or cost? They’re essentially a board over two metal T-shaped telescope legs.
When COVID started, we searched for a standing desk that could dual-function as a dining table, since we turned our kitchen into our workspace. Needless to say, we couldn’t find one that was available for online purchase, that wasn’t sterile-looking with cables hanging beheath, and that was sturdy enough to use as a dining table. Also, few had drawers. So we designed our own, first the Eat-Work Table, then the Desk when friends asked for it.
We’d like to share some of our research on the standing desk competitive landscape from the early days of our design process.
We constrained our data in two ways:
- We only considered height-adjustable desks that have the flexibility to change heights at users’ will. This excludes tables that are semi-permanent and require the user to manually move the tabletop to another height (eg. CNC-made desks). It also excludes counter-height tables. According to ergonomic experts, it’s important for the body to switch between sitting and standing throughout the day, and not just stand.
- We only considered electric standing desks, not ones with hand-cranks or pneumatic lifts because we found that manufacturers are not interested in producing those options for lack of popularity and challenging mechanisms.
We gathered as many standing desks as we could find and evaluated each based on the following information we could find online:
- Features and functionality
- Noise level
- Availability: office vs home (where “home” is available for consumer purchase, and “contract” is for commercial only)
For simplicity’s sake, we will take a look at two variables that impact WFH folks the most: price and usage.
Below is a non-exhaustive sample of standing desks we found, loosely ordered by price, and labeled H for home, and C for contract (commercial).
As you can see, most standing desks consist of the same two-leg-plus-top design. The tops may vary, but they basically look the same, whether they’re $280 or $2880. The price difference is likely indicative of quality, which covers materials, durability, warranties, stability especially when going up or down, and where they’re made.
The low-end is exclusively for home use, likely because they do not meet contract specifications. Ironically, even though they are intended for home use, they all imitate the standard office standing desk. Many of these tables are ODM, so you can find the same design under different brand names on Wayfair, Walmart, or Amazon. Except for IKEA’s.
As you get to the mid-range, many of the standing desks are also available as contract furniture as well. Some of the most popular ones are in this category. Again, these all mostly look and function the same. Many may have even used them in the office before COVID WFH.
It’s not until we get into the high-price range that we see alternative options, the more beautiful ones from European designers. However, all seem to be contract furniture, and not directly available online for purchase. In fact, you can’t even see their prices until you send them an inquiry.
In the illustrative diagram above, if we were to put all the data points on a chart (which we didn’t do for lack of time, so we just used blobs), it appears the biggest opportunity would be in the high-end home quadrant. It makes sense, since so many people now work from home due to COVID, but don’t have any options that are beautiful.
The standard standing desk is designed for the office, not for the home. And while the hard edges, cheap materials, utilitarian aesthetic, dangling wires are non-issues in a commercial office, they’re not what we would choose for the home if we had a choice. From a human-centric design perspective, a home workspace should make the user feel both productive and comfortable, not feel like you just placed your office into the sanctuary of your home. Otelier’s goal is to give users a better option.
Rising above the competition
Take a look at the data. Otelier’s tables are the nicest standing desks available for its price range (because we’re taking a very low margin, see blog post on pricing.) Our minimalist design, rounded edges, and fine woodworking add warmth and beauty to the home. Not to mention drawers for storage, built-in cable management, four legs that ensures no shaking, and a maximum load capacity of 550 lbs. Check out our height-adjustable Eat-Work Table and Desk to see for yourself.
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