Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cheap Desk – Expensive Chair

I think Joel was the first I heard this sage advice from – you can live with a cheap desk, but you need an expensive chair.

Yes, I too want that really impressive desk in the corner office. But day-in and day-out what I need is a really expensive (read well designed) desk chair. What is the cost ratio of desk to chair? Where is the sweet spot? I’d really like to find this data and see a plot.

So let’s talk about the desk/chair issue, wants versus needs. I need a desk that meets my needs. At SolutionsIQ we have arrived at a desk that allows us to pair program (it is wide enough), to arrange and rearrange in minimum of time (about 2 hours max for a team of 7 – 12 people), to move a container (the desk) not items to a new container (personal items to a new cubicle), all for around $800 – $1000 per desk. It has met the needs of hundreds of developers for years now in the development bays of our office. They are not perfect (no built-in personal sound system) but they are very functional!

How about the chairs? Well they are sufficient – not the Aeron chair, I’m going to estimate the cost at $200. Sure they have up/down adjustments, some back tilt, etc. But I have to sit in those things for 6 to 10 hours a day. The longer I sit there the lower my energy levels drain, because the human body was not designed to sit, although we have adapted quite well thank you.

That’s a 5:1 ratio for desk to chair. Is that following the advice given?

At home we have a $300 TV set (hard to call it an entertainment system) and a $700 couch, where we spend a great portion of the rest of the day. A 3:7 ratio. OK, yes we have a really cheap TV, but it appears we are putting our money where our butt rest! My wife and I are discussing upgrades – to the couch not the TV! Yes, we want a flat screen/big screen but my back hurts more.

Last week James Shore talked at SolutionsIQ about the four qualities that differentiated a great team from a good team, and in the discussion of team space he gave the example of his office space. He changed it from the traditional furniture spread out around the premiter of the room to a space that was more efficient but looked kinda funny, furniture grouped into the center of the room. It was an enjoyable talk/group discussion.

Speaking about smart chairs – did you see the video of a robotic chair (from Cornell) that when it falls apart can put its self back together again?

My father builds furniture and I have a desk chair that he made, jointly designed by us in the Sam Maloof style. So I know a bit about chairs, some of it passed down the family line, some from experience.

See Also:

How the Universally Hated Cubicle came to Be by Joseph Stromberg


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