The desk shortage has folks getting creative with boxes, ironing boards
Living in the college town of Columbia, Missouri, Ashton Stratman knew there would be a rush for school supplies, including desks, at the beginning of the academic year.
“I didn’t even try looking,” said the 19-year-old, who studies English remotely at a local community college. “It’s definitely been a lot worse this year.”
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic — with all the supply-related challenges it’s created since March, from toilet paper to flour — has also made for a national shortage on desks. As millions of students attend school virtually and many office professionals remain under work-from-home mandates, desks have become a hot commodity for long-term practical solutions, according to the Associated Press. And data from Rakuten Intelligence, which tracks online shopper behavior, shows e-commerce sales of desks and related accessories soared 283% year-over-year in August — leading to low inventory and sky-high prices.
That reality has made folks like Stratman find their own hacks to make functional workspaces.
After moving into an apartment with three roommates this summer, Stratman improvised by stacking leftover cardboard boxes from the move on top of a clothing trunk and a dresser drawer standing upright for a “desk” for her computer, which she uses for school and video-gaming. Off to the side, another upright-positioned dresser drawer served as an armrest.
“It was kind of like, you look at that and thought, ‘Wow, I made that,’ ” she said of the creation, which she called the Box Desk. “It’s a boost of confidence.”
Now, however, she spends her days at a desk that’s another Frankenstein creation. Stratman placed a piece of plywood across the top of an old desk which had a glass top that shattered. She placed about 12 books on a shelf underneath to provide stability.
“[It’s] kind of sad, because some of those books I was reading, but you gotta sacrifice sometimes,” she said.
Since March, others have taken their quirky at-home desks to social media. One Twitter user shared an image that month of a laptop, a keyboard and a mouse set atop an ironing board. More recently, a school teacher showed off her basement ping-pong table that she’s using for virtual instruction — while another showed a worker seated at a bathroom vanity with two monitors and a laptop.
Despite the national shortage of desks, others find shortcomings in the ones they already have — and they, too, are coming up with smart solutions.
Kimberly Fricker, a 34-year-old Richmond, Virginia resident who works on internal investigations in a bank, said her standing desk aggravated her upper-back problems. So she took her keyboard and placed it on her treadmill with her laptop perched on the treadmill’s screen — where she can work and walk for about 30 minutes at a time at roughly 2 miles per hour.
“I was like, ‘This could work, I’m not sitting for a little bit,’ ” she said of this setup, which she can use a couple times a day, depending on her schedule. “It’s a good way for me to be doing something and not just sitting around.”