Smoke & Mirrors: The great erectile desk debate

The comms chief stands up for the right to sit down when new adjustable desks arrive at Smokehouse.

by Guy Browning
Last Updated: 15 Jul 2016


Every once in a while our bewigged chief exec Lynton Spivey comes up with an idea so brilliant that for a fleeting moment his incredibly jammy share option package and hangar-like corner office all seem worthwhile.

He wants to get rid of our outdated, outmoded, legacy desks and replace them with state-of-the-art, bleeding-edge, disruptive desks that go up and down. This has the enormous benefit of allowing everyone to work standing up, which has been proven by independent scientists, no doubt standing up in their own laboratories, to increase mindfulness, alertness and general productivity.

When I read this memo from Spivey, I almost couldn't bear to finish the letter in case he'd also taken away our chairs. Believe me that's something I wouldn't stand for.


The desks have arrived and everyone is bobbing up and down like a power-assisted House of Commons. The most passionate advocate of this erectile desk nonsense is Henry, a guy in my department.

This is the very same guy that complains daily that he can't get a seat on the train. Henry works harder on fads than he does at his actual job. So now he stands at his desk, not on the floor but on a hoverboard, which he then moves around continually as if he was actually surfing at his desk.

I've noticed that when he answers the phone he stops all other movements, so I get my assistant to phone him when I can't take any more of his Nordic hoverboarding, stairclimbing desk-levitation nonsense.


I am absolutely sick of our erectile desks, which continually whirr up and down across the office like the keyboard of some supersized organ, played in slow motion by a fat-fingered giant struggling with a tricky Grade 2 piece.

When our bewigged CEO brought up this idea in the first place, I was pretty certain that the one person who wouldn't actually have a hydraulic desk would be Spivey himself. But I was wrong.

He has the rising desk (larger than normal obviously) but very cleverly he also has a chair that rises leaving him sitting Range Rover style high above the plebs. If he wasn't already on the top floor, I'm sure he would have his whole office on hydraulic stilts.


I spent the morning going through the box of rubbish I'd emptied out of the bottom drawer of my old desk. Among the parking tickets and rubber bands, I found the business card of Eric Wenray, a lawyer I've used in the past to deal with various legal nasties we wanted to keep very quiet.

He's been struck off a number of times and I seemed to recall he was now behind bars for some rather extreme interpretations of the law. His voicemail said he was currently doing an extended contract for the government, which I assumed meant he was indeed in prison. Then I remembered something he'd said when we last met: 'The more advanced technology becomes, the quicker we return to the Stone Age when it goes phut.'

So I faxed him. And sure enough half an hour later I got a fax back. It was Eric saying he only faxed now as they couldn't be hacked. I told him what the problem was and he promised to think about it after visiting time.


This morning, Eric faxed me after his exercises and said that there was only one thing you could fight the health monster with and that was 'safety'. He told me he'd faxed another letter to Brenda Wayzgoose our hypersensitive HR director. On the great erectile desk debate she had taken the Duke of York position in that she was neither up nor down.

In this quite frightening legal letter, Eric has laid out the fact that raised desks amplified height and thus perpetuated an atmosphere of patriarchy. Old-style desks and chairs were a level playing field and created a 'safe space for people of shortness'.

I watched the oil drain from Brenda's hydraulics. The desks left the following week except for the one in Spivey's office, which seemed to be inching ever closer to the ceiling.

Guy Browning is the author of The British Constitution: First Draft, published by Atlantic Books at £7.99. He can be contacted at


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