Herman Miller Motia Standing Desk Review
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With the collapse of office furniture sales as a result of the pandemic, Herman Miller and its peers are scrambling to re-position, re-price and re-box a tiny subset of their commercial office furniture products to market through retail and e-commerce channels to the new Work From Home (WFH) army of consumers. In alien territory that is dominated by online brands like UpLift, Fully, iMovR and countless Chinese brands on Amazon, these multi-billion dollar companies are like elephants in the duck pond, trying to figure out how to float and fly. Despite their resources, they cannot have too much channel conflict with their decades-old, protected dealer network, so they took only a very limited number of products, severely cut back the options selections, and started selling direct-to-consumer, working around their costly dealer channel. As with offerings from Steelcase, Knoll, and other commercial office behemoths, what Herman Miller has delivered here is a vastly overpriced, severely limited offering with a sketchy delivery and installation experience for users at best. It is so overly limited in desktop shapes, sizes and finishes that you’d have to be pretty lucky to get a good match with your home office space. And you better not be too short or too tall because this hacked-back Motia standing desk doesn’t even meet ANSI/BIFMA G1 standards for ergonomic height adjustment range.
|MSRP / List Price||
Delivery costs $199 or $299 depending on the customer’s distance from the shipping hub. Delivery is scheduled because the truck drivers will build the desk inside your home. There is no DIY option as these desks are the same ones that are shipped to professional installers for corporate customers.
5 years on the mechanical and electrical parts
Single-stage, two-segment electric lifting columns with non-BIFMA height range of 27″-46″
LogicData controller. Handset is the same simple 2-button up/down switch as on the Nevi desk. Fully programmable digital controller not offered on this e-commerce version.
Tops are only available in two sizes: 24″ x 48″ and 30″ x 60″
Desktop only comes any color you’d like as long as it is white
Height range: 27″-46″
250 lbs minus desktop weight of 45 lbs (30″x60″ weighed) = 205 lbs
|Typical Assembly Time||
Assuming drivers arrive with all the proper tools and have prior experience building a Motia desk (both conditions are not too likely) it should take an hour to assemble the desk. Customer complaints indicate to expect much longer. You will need to wait at home for the delivery and while the drivers attempt to assemble the desk. Sometimes they just skip the assembly after dropping off the desk and then it’s up to you to figure out if you can even find a manual in the box. You won’t find a downloadable manual online and we couldn’t get the live chat representative to send us one because “the drivers will assemble the desk for you.”
Not compliant with ANSI/BIFMA G1-2013 ergonomic guidelines.
|NEAT™ Certified by Mayo Clinic||
|Additional User Reviews||Scroll down the page to see reviews on hermanmiller.com|
|Where to buy||
Buy on Design Within Reach
|Quality and Aesthetics|
|Suitability for Treadmill Desking|
|Positives||Made in the USA from generally high-quality components.|
|Negatives||Because these desks are really for commercial offices a professional installer with a full toolbox is required, so an in-home installation adds another $199 or $299 (depending on "distance from the hub") and you have to wait around for someone to show up and then work in your home office to assemble the desk - no DIY option. Extremely limited options in size and color, and a very limited height adjustment range that'll leave shorter and taller people unable to use this desk ergonomically. Short warranty on the base. Low-quality desktop construction. Low lift capacity and other specs for a desk in this price tier. Chevy desk at a Cadillac price. 7-week ship time.|
A Standing Desk Offering Born of the Pandemic
As we write about in detail in our recap of COVID-19’s Dramatic Impact on the Office Fitness Industry, and Standing Desk Suppliers in Particular, the $1B+ commercial contract office furniture manufacturers have taken a huge beating, as bad as hotels and airlines in some ways. Practically in lockstep with the release of commercial office leases all over the country, large “project sales” of office furniture are down between 20% and 50% right now, depending on their customers’ geography and industry profiles.
Once they realized the dramatic impact the pandemic was going to have on their revenues these behemoth companies, like Herman Miller, Steelcase, Knoll, HON, National, et al, have all attempted to pivot as quickly as possible to capture the Work From Home (WFH) market, to try and offset their enterprise sales losses as customers abruptly turned to e-commerce for their home office standing desks.
These pivot maneuvers have taken different forms, from acquiring digitally-native furniture companies (e.g. Kimball acquired Poppin.com) to taking retail and e-commerce companies they already owned (e.g. Knoll acquired Fully.com in 2019 and Herman Miller acquired Design Within Reach back in 2014) and cross-pollinating commercial and consumer products back and forth between them.
All of these large companies, however, have the same channel conflict problem. For decades they have sold their commercial-grade office furniture products exclusively through their dealers, so-called “commercial contract furniture dealers.” But to be competitive with online sellers like UpLift, Fully, iMovR, Autonomous, and dozens of ultra-cheap Chinese-made desks sold on Amazon, as well as retailers like IKEA and Costco, there is not enough margin to cut in their dealers on these single transaction sales to consumers. So they basically cut them out of the equation and for the most part have gone “D2C” (direct-to-consumer) with their WFH offerings.
To at least try and keep their dealers from getting too upset about the situation the products being offered through the D2C channel are “highly curated” (i.e. artificially limited), and the Herman Miller Motia Standing Desk is no exception. Only a handful of colors, sizes and options are offered to the consumer, whereas an enterprise customer would theoretically want to stick to buying through their contract furniture dealer who can order anything from the catalog and provide installation and design services. For example, only one of the 35 desktop laminate colors offered on the Motia are available through their website, and you better like fancy white.
There’s a practical reason for this, though, in that unlike e-commerce players like iMovR that manufacture on-demand and can offer tens of thousands of desk configurations that can all ship out in one week, Herman Miller and its brethren have been producing desktops in large batch runs forever. It’s just how they’re wired. For enterprise customers that can wait four to six months to deliver a few hundred or a few thousand desks to a corporate campus that’s not a problem. But for e-commerce, it is. So to enable relatively fast shipping they’ve had to pre-produce a limited number of colors and sizes and keep them in stock, which would be a huge and impractical capital investment if they were to offer all their colors and sizes online.
The Highly Curated E-Commerce Offering
We compared what Herman Miller offers online in terms of desk sizes, colors and finishes, height range and other options to what they offer through their traditional dealer channel. Keep in mind you can’t actually buy anything through the dealer channel as a consumer. A Herman Miller dealer won’t return your phone call if you aren’t interested in buying hundreds of desks at a time, and they don’t generally have a website for random customers to order online. As a consumer, you’re limited to their WFH offering, which is a direct purchase from the manufacturer with no dealer involvement.
The Motia is Herman Miller’s middle-of-the-line standing desk, an upgrade from their more budget-conscious Nevi and the upscale Renew desks. In the case of a 30″ x 60″ desk, the Herman Miller contract furniture catalog lists a price of $2,262, which dealers buy at 50% off, or $1,131. No one actually pays $2,262, it’s just that advertising scheme we’re all familiar with from retail furniture stores that run “30% OFF!” sales routinely. So a regular selling price for this desk would be $1,600 give or take, depending on volume.
Herman Miller priced the Motia on its consumer-accessible online store in the $1,195-$1,295 range, plus $199 to $299 for in-home delivery, or about $1,400 to $1,600 total. If you’re gasping for oxygen at these price points you should be. If you’re looking for a made-in-USA standing desk in particular you can find much, much nicer ones at nearly half the price; and for a similar price to the Motia, you could be upgrading to much nicer 3D-laminate or even a hand-crafted, heirloom-quality solid wood desktop for less (e.g. Lander Lite).
In this price range, you’d expect a very hefty lift capacity of 350+ lbs. The Herman Miller Motia base is rated for 250 lbs, from which one must deduct the weight of the work surface. At 1.25″ thick the 30″x60″ MDF-core work surface should weigh about 45 lbs, yielding a net lift capacity of 205 lbs. While this sounds like a lot keep in mind that this lift rating is under ideal conditions of all the weight being evenly distributed along the line running between the lifting columns and doesn’t account for side-loading stresses on the linear actuators. (Learn more in our primer on Do Weight Ratings on Standing Desks Really Matter?)
So let’s get down to the differences in what Herman Miller offers online versus through its dealers.
To traditional enterprise customers, Herman Miller’s desktop options include a whopping 35 colors of high-pressure laminate (HPL), whereas online they only offer one color, white (learn about HPL and other materials in our primer on choosing the right desktop for your standing desk). Commercial customers also get options like “formcoat” (a cheaper “powder coat” MDF-painting process) and real-wood veneer, but these are not offered to online buyers.
Commercial customers can order any size desktop from 24″ x 48″ to 36″ x 84″, on six-inch increments. In other words, 21 different sizes. E-commerce customers are offered two: 24″ x 48″ and 30″ x 60″.
In terms of desktop edge treatments commercial customers have several options, including “Square”, “Thin” and “Eased”. Online customers have only one option, a simple squared rectangle with sharp 90-degree edges all around.
Lifting Base Technology
Of the three Herman Miller standing desk lines (the others being the Nevi and the Renew) the Motia uses the mid-quality base componentry and the same ultra-cheap desktop quality. Unlike most of its desk products which utilize lifting frames build by third-party manufacturers, the base on the Motia desk is manufactured by Herman Miller itself.
Commercial customers have the option of a 22″ – 48″ adjustment range with an upgrade to a dual-stage base, which is the most common configuration since this is the only one that meets the ANSI/BIFMA G1-2013 Ergonomic Guidelines that corporate, government and education customers are required to buy. To simplify inventory Herman Miller has with this one decision significantly limited the available market for this desk, especially considering that if a desk is shared with spouses or kids then someone in the family is likely to be too short or too tall to be able to use it ergonomically. Ironically, only the cheapest of the three Herman miller standing desk models, the Nevi, is offered with an extended height upgrade for full BIFMA range adjustment.
This is going to be a deal killer for very short and very tall people, but the Herman Miller Motia is only offered to online customers in one height range, and it’s a very narrow one of 27″-46″. Shorter users will find the lowest sitting height to be too high, while taller users will find the top end to be too low and/or too shaky (as the tubes of the lifting columns have very little overlap at maximum height extension).
In terms of paint colors on the base, commercial customers get 9 base color choices to choose from, while online customers get just two, either white or metallic silver.
The Herman Miller Motia is built with a LogicData controller, which is one of the best OEM component brands in the market. Commercial customers also get the option of the classic programmable digital controller with height preset buttons, which is even shown in the downloadable User Adjustments Guide but consumers cannot select this option when buying online.
No Add-on Options
As opposed to the plethora of options listed in Herman Miller’s 68-page commercial dealer’s price book there are no options offered when ordering the Motia online from Herman Miller. But here’s a lovely photo from the website showing you the options that you, as a consumer, cannot buy together with the desk.
Assembling the Motia Desk Won’t Be Your Problem, Kinda
We always recommend reading over the assembly manual in advance of buying any standing desk online (or better yet, watch a video of the entire assembly process). Unfortunately, Herman Miller doesn’t even offer a downloadable copy of the installation manual, much less any video instruction guide. We can surmise that this is likely because the Motia was designed only for professional furniture installers to assemble, using special tools most people don’t have around, like Torx wrenches.
Even though the Motia is now being marketed toward the home office worker as Herman Miller and Design Within Reach try to capture back as much business that has fled to e-commerce as possible, all they really did was take a teeny tiny subset of the commercial Motia options and price them seemingly cheaper for consumers. They didn’t even bother to create new documentation for this simplified, albeit still very pricey rendition of their mainline Motia desk.
So how did Herman Miller resolve the issue of difficulty of assembly for WFH consumers? They decided to charge an extra $199 or $299 (depending on your distance from the shipping hub) for delivery and in-home assembly. Using a national “final mile” delivery company, the drivers who will be assembling your desk in your home will have a near-zero chance of having seen any model of a Herman Miller desk before. Judging by some of the user reviews of this delivery experience they may not even bring all the right tools to the job.
It sounds nice, the idea of having “professional installation” instead of having to build the desk yourself, but these are not the same professional furniture installers that came to your corporate campus to build 1,000 office desks over several weeks’ time. These are drivers used to setting up large-screen TVs and such. You will need to schedule a delivery window and stay home until they show up (which isn’t always within that window, could be later or even the next day depending on how their day goes) and then give them the time to review the instructions and build the desk, and the space to do it in.
There are no video guides for the drivers either, so customer experiences with the delivery and installation have been problematic. Some customers report killing half a day waiting for delivery and drivers not leaving until late into the evening. Some of the assemblies went so poorly that the desks ended up being returned as defective. Some report the drivers dropped off the desk and didn’t even assemble it despite the customer paying for in-home delivery and installation (read on).
Here’s what one flustered customer wrote in their 1-star review of their experience with the Motia desk: “WORST BUILD & NO MANUAL – Got this fancy yet expensive table from work and wow was i surprised to see no manual in the box. If they expected people to build a table with a phone or laptop in front of them i guess they didn’t build one themselves. To make matters worse & more inconvenient they have a one size fits all manual online while they have multiple sizes for sale. I Looked everywhere and there was no manual for the smaller sized stiffener I received. I felt the same with the predrilled holes, as if they drilled holes for all sizes on all tables and expect the customers to figure it out which holes apply to their table without a manual. Last but not least the four bolts on the legs also showed lack of thought, the huge commercial grade bolts will not be fastened with everyday residential tools. In the end cannot help but feel that the end customer experience was not thought of while building this desk.” So… caveat emptor.
For a lot less money than the Herman Miller Motia (including the delivery and installation charges) you could buy a truly premium standing desk that arrives 90% factory pre-assembled, with your part of the installation not even requiring you to fetch a toolbox. Several premium, made-in-America standing desks come this way, assembling in 3 to 8 minutes once removed from the packaging. They cost significantly less than a Motia and there are no shipping fees added to the price. Learn about those options in our round-up of Quick Install Standing Desks. They also typically ship same day to one week from order, as opposed to seven weeks from order for the Herman Miller Motia desk.
Customer Service? What’s That?
We recommend reading through the user reviews on Herman Miller’s own site, as we always do, to get a flavor for how well they handle customer service with end consumers. Let’s be honest, all these major manufacturers that aren’t digitally-native are used to having their dealers perform the end customer service, so we weren’t too surprised to hear that getting good customer service was a challenge for a lot of customers.
We tested their live chat capability on the hermanmiller.com website on a Sunday, when many WFH customers have the time to do their online research and shopping. The 30-minute wait time for a live sales rep to respond to a simple product question was a bad omen. Once we did get a response the rep appeared to know practically nothing about the product. This is not the kind of experience you would expect from a digitally-native standing desk manufacturer’s live chat interaction. It is the most common way that e-commerce customers communicate with sellers these days to ask questions… a few still call by phone, and some send an email, but most users interact over live chat. So this needs to be a core competency for Herman Miller and it clearly isn’t, at least not yet.
Considering the outlandish prices they are charging for the Motia desk we find this aspect of the customer experience to be the biggest differentiation in what you can expect between a big corporate furniture brand like Herman Miller and one of the highly-proficient, digitally-native brands like iMovR, UpLift or Fully.
We were very surprised to see only a five-year warranty on the base when the competition from Fully, UpLift and iMovR are 15 years. This again seems artificially set since commercial customers get 12 years of warranty on the whole desk. For consumers, the desktop warranty was left at 12 years, but with so many limitations you’re not ever likely to file a claim and incur the expense of return shipping. For more information on warranties, be sure to read our primer on How to Compare Warranties on Standing Desks.
E-commerce-Ready With a 7-week Ship Time?!
Herman Miller just doesn’t seem to get it. Even with the massive recent price drop and their massive advertising campaigns targeting the WFH market, they just don’t seem to understand that consumers’ expectations are set by Amazon, not Steelcase. It seems inconceivable that any consumer will want to pay up this much for the Herman Miller brand and then wait seven weeks just for the desk to leave the warehouse.
Color us perplexed, but not all too terribly surprised.
The Bottom Line
Severely overpriced, low-quality desktops in extremely limited sizes and colors, two-month delivery, expensive in-home installation fees, a too-limited ergonomic range and substandard customer service are not a great combo when considering buying a standing desk that costs upwards of $1,400. You can get a far superior product and overall customer experience with one of the other top-rated standing desks we’ve reviewed, and especially if limiting your consideration to made-in-America standing desks that are sold online.
The pivot maneuver for this multi-billion-dollar office furniture behemoth to serving the work-from-home consumer via e-commerce has been poorly executed, as it has generally been for most of their peers. Fortunately for Herman Miller, chair sales to home office customers have gone much better than desk sales, and it really saved their bacon with Wall Street.
Our advice? Stick with the digitally-native brands of standing desk sellers. You’ll get way more product for the money, an easier assembly task, more responsive pre-sale and post-sale customer service, not to mention a vastly greater choice in size, shape, color and desktop materials. Even an ultra-premium, American-made standing desk like the Lander, with far greater quality, an immense selection in desktops, tech-forward features (like Bluetooth and built-in health coach, anti-collision, full ANSI/BIFMA certification and compliance), twice the warranty term, free shipping, excellent support and a 3-minute assembly time will set you back a whole lot less.