Enlarge /. A treadmill desk in the Google offices in Washington, DC.
A few years ago I started looking to go to work because I wasn't satisfied with sitting at the computer all day and not being happy with just standing in one place. Since then, I've built two of my own "treadmill desks" for a few hundred dollars each and traveled thousands of kilometers on them.
They are certainly not a flashy kit, but they keep me happier and healthier when I work from home. And in the midst of our global quarantine, I thought my setup could be inspiring for some of my colleagues.
Work on foot
I have now built two different DIY treadmill desks, one in the US and one in the UK. In both cases, I bought an old treadmill for around $ 200, added either shelves from Home Depot (around $ 100) or a standing desk from Ikea (around $ 150) and was ready to go. When I first did this about seven years ago, pre-built "treadmill desks" started at around $ 1,500 – although entry-level walking devices – now started at around $ 500. Personally, however, I preferred an older, durable treadmill to an inexpensive, lightweight model.
Enlarge /. See, my desk with wire shelves.
Most treadmills are overbuilt and last much more than 10 years. You may even know someone with an old, ignored treadmill who just sits in their basement or in their garage. If you don't, Craigslist (or Gumtree in the UK) is your friend. If you are in no hurry, you can always get a deal.
Really cheap treadmills often take up very little space. I took care to avoid them because I don't pay much attention to where I am going when I walk or work, so I wanted to have a big target for my feet. This is less of a problem in the United States, where things tend to be bigger, but it was more important in the United Kingdom, where small and inexpensive treadmills predominate.
After waiting a few months on Craigslist and later on Gumtree, I found my offerings: a Smooth Fitness 9.2 treadmill in the US and a Reebok T3.1 treadmill in the UK.
Next – the desktop for my computer. I chose wire shelves to equip the Smooth treadmill because the treadmill handles included controls, so arm removal wasn't particularly easy. With the wire shelf, I was able to place the keyboard over the treadmill arms.
Enlarge /. Second try: An IKEA standing desk on my treadmill.
On the contrary, it was pretty easy to pull the control panel out of the Reebok treadmill so I could throw his arms away and the control panel could easily hang from my Ikea desk. This was a nice solution as the desk has a crank that can be easily moved up and down so my wife and I can share the running desk. (The shelf that I used for the Smooth treadmill is practically a fixed height because it is very difficult to set.)
For the Smooth treadmill, I wanted the option to sit on the treadmill because it was set up with my large, high-resolution external monitor. I built a wooden platform that could sit on the treadmill belt and then got a bar chair from Ikea for $ 25. While this setup worked, it was a precarious mite; I haven't used it much. Instead, when I wanted to sit down, I simply used my desk nearby and looked longingly at my beautiful, large monitor next to the treadmill.
Since I didn't have to remove my arms during the smooth treadmill setup, the treadmill was intact and therefore fully functional. I added wheels to the wire shelf so I could easily roll it out of the way so I could run on the treadmill while watching a movie on my large monitor. (This is not a viable option on the Reebok because I removed the arms.) I should add that the wheels lock the wheels, and since they made the shelf wobble a bit, I used small bungees to attach the device Treadmill arms give the keyboard / mouse platform stability. I used bungees instead of cable ties so I could easily clear the shelves out of the way when I wanted to run.
While a bit of wobble is not a problem for the desk used for keyboard and mouse, it is important that the external monitor is not resting on something that is physically in contact with the treadmill or with you. The treadmill shakes the external monitor, which is just as annoying as you might expect. In my case, I placed the monitor on a second wire shelf that was positioned directly behind the treadmill. This had the added advantage of offering shelves for my game systems and a frame for hanging external speakers.
When I started using the setup, I went about 0.5 miles an hour. I increased the speed a little every few days and finally decided to go at 1.8 mph – a comfortable and safe speed for me. I ran faster when I played video games with a controller, for example, but it can get a little hairy.
At 1.8 mph, I found no negative effects on my work or my ability to use my computer (reading, writing, drawing, etc.). I have no problems with a trackpad, an external mouse or a keyboard. I can even eat and work without any problems, although I have been working on foot for about seven years. So this could be something newbies can work on.
My walking desk with a chair platform.
Since it has wheels, I can take the shelf off the treadmill when I want to run.
The back of the shelf.
Another shot of the IKEA standing desk + treadmill.
During those years, I walked over 3,000 miles while working (I'm not a full-time teleworker, so I only do this on days when I work from home). I could run eight to ten miles on a good day, which makes me great and pleasantly tired – as if I had just taken a long hike. I have also found that continuing walking keeps me awake and alert. In return, I feel a little sluggish and tired when I sit at my desk for too long.
So let's go – simple but effective. What other work hacks have the readers come up with to make computing at home more comfortable?