The Hybrid Kangaroo Desk

A few people have asked me how I feel about my Hybrid Kangaroo Desk. The short version is that I love it.

The slightly longer version: so, I’d known I wanted an adjustable standing desk for quite some time. I’d experimented with a makeshift standing desk and liked it, but found it too inflexible for long-term use. There are some tasks (hacking) where all I need is a keyboard and a monitor (or two). There are other tasks where I feel the need to spread out across multiple computers and multiple flat surfaces surrounding my chair. I also have chronic neck problems that make it impractical for me to just move my laptop around from place to place, because I need my monitor to be much higher than my keyboard for long-term comfort.

Also, some parts of the day I’m just higher energy than others. Sometimes I want to stand/bounce/dance at my keyboard, and other times I want to sit and lean back. Ergonomics research seems to agree with my body in this; I hear that it’s better to shift from one position to another over the course of the day than to stay fixed.

Another constraint was that I’m rather attached to my tanker desk, acquired from an old employer, and I’m not quite ready to part with it. Which meant I was in the market for something that would augment my desk, rather than replacing it. Finally, while I’ve worked on just my laptop screen out of necessity, I much prefer to use a larger external monitor whether I’m standing or sitting. Especially when I’m editing video.

The Wirecutter spoke well of the Kangaroo line of desks, and I generally find their recommendations to be top-notch. Eventually, after a spate of particularly noticeable discomfort, I made two big purchases to improve my working environment, both based on Wirecutter picks: a Steelcase Leap chair, and a Hybrid Kangaroo desk. I’ve been very happy with both in the months since they arrived.

The idea behind the Hybrid Kangaroo is simple enough: it sits on your desk, and overlays part of it with its own desk surface. You put your keyboard, mouse, etc. on this surface. Higher up, at eye level, there is a crossbar mounted with a laptop shelf on one side and a monitor mount on the other. Both of these are highly adjustable, as is the height of the whole crossbar. All of these, the desk surface and the crossbar, are attached to a pneumatically balanced adjustable aluminum riser. To switch from sitting to standing, you loosen a single plastic handle, lift gently until the whole assemblage is at the desired height, and then re-tighten. As I mentioned, it’s pneumatically assisted, so it’s easy to lift it up even when fully loaded.

Once it’s up, there is an adjustable bracer that you can stick in between the Kangaroo desk and your main desk surface to steady it. When you want to transition back to sitting, you pull out the bracer, loosen the knob, and push the whole thing down. Here again the pneumatics ensure it doesn’t crash abruptly down from its own weight.

It all works very well. More importantly, it has become a very organic part of my daily work cycle without my making any special effort to change my habits. When I’m feeling energetic I stand up and adjust the desk up. When I’m tired of standing I adjust it down. This all happens more or less without thinking about it; it’s not a big enough hassle to feel like a big deal or an inconvenience.

The desk is not perfect. It feels like a 1.0 product with a few nits remaining to be worked out. As I mentioned, in the “up” position there’s a bracer to steady the work surface. But in the down position, the work surface is still hovering, cantilevered, a half an inch or so above my main desk—but there’s nothing to brace it in this mode. So it’s actually less steady when down than when up, and that unsteadiness means that typing wobbles the monitor a bit as well. It’s also a tiny bit tedious to place the bracer every time I raise the desk.

I believe both of these problems could be solved at the same time. Instead of a bracer as a separate piece, the desk surface could have a bracer bar or two hanging from hinges on the bottom. If they were sized just right, when folded they would serve to steady the desk when in the “down” position. When the desk was raised, they’d hinge down, ready to act as legs to brace it in the “up” position.

But that’s my only real complaint. Overall it’s been a big improvement in my workaday comfort.

Someone will inevitably comment that you don’t need to spend $600 to get a standing desk, which is true. But the point here is that for me, given my various constraints, having an easily-adjustable desk has been the difference between using a standing desk and having it collect dusk. YMMV.

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