Taming of the Snarl: A Primer on Cable Management for Standing Desks

September 5, 2020
Cable Tangle

Relax, a swarm of snakes has not spontaneously decided to attack your desk. Nor has a forest of exceptionally flexible bamboo sprung up around its legs – no, fellow deskers, what you’re seeing is a workstation in dire need of some cable management.

Keeping your spaghetti straight is important no matter how you’re working. Carefully organizing cables helps keep track of what powers what, makes the office a safer place, and keeps your workstation neat and efficiently arranged. Besides, it just looks nice – well kept cables are pretty enough to have inspired a borderline-fetishist group of cable control enthusiasts (welcome to the internet).

And that’s only for a stationary system. Throw an adjustable desk into the mix, and you suddenly have a moving thicket of tripping hazards. Not good, but then if you decide to put a treadmill under it? You suddenly have a moving thicket of tripping hazards with someone walking right next to it. Really not good.

Cable management is important both in terms of aesthetics and self-preservation. Luckily, we’ve had plenty of time to sort out what works best for cleaning up a walking or standing workstation.

Off the Shelf Solutions

There are a number of commercially available cable management kits specifically made for standing desk and treadmill desk users. One that we’ve already reviewed, and use a lot of in our own offices and labs, is the iMovR Cable Management Kit,. Others prepared kits are inbound for additional reviews (sign up for our free newsletter to learn when any new reviews are published). If buying a ready-to-go kit isn’t your think and you’d rather DIY your own solution, read on.

To Catch a Cord

Simplicity is often the best policy. Out of sight, out of mind is rarely a solid problem-solving strategy, but it’s often the first step while taking care of cables. Getting the snarl smoothed out, coiled, and secured to the underside of your tabletop can make for a much neater workstation. Yes, the underside. Cable-proofing an adjustable workstation isn’t quite like cable-proofing a static one. In addition to bundling cables up and arranging them neatly, you need to ensure that when your desk moves, your cables move with it. The alternative is a vicious tug of war between your devices and your outlets as your desk grinds its way upwards.

Zip tie cable managementPlastic zip ties are often the first port of call – they were literally invented for cable control, and are often the easiest way to secure your cords. Coil cables as neatly as possible, and then cinch them up with a zip tie. If your table has some handy perforations in the frame these can be used as attachment points for bundles of cabling. Pull, enjoy that satisfying zip tie rip, repeat.

Cable Corral

But life’s not always that easy. A lot of desks don’t have convenient screw holes just lying around, so you may have to get a little creative with your control. Coaxial staples are a great next step. Flip your desk over, and hammer these nifty devices down. They’ll hold cables tight to the underside of your tabletop – exactly where you want them.

Coaxial Staple Cable Under Desk Management

Another option is to invest in a mesh cable sleeve. What could once be accomplished only by patience, dexterity, and a dozen zip ties can now be done with a single sleeve. Use one of these to reduce your tangle to a much more manageable size. Cable chains do much the same thing, but can be easily folded or collapsed. Plus, if we’re being honest with ourselves, they look pretty cool.

Keep your Friends Close…and your Cables Closer

Screw Mount under desk Power StripThere are very few things uglier than a slew of cables dribbling off a standing desk and running to a floor-level outlet. Instead, it’s best to find some way to keep your plugs at desk level. The simplest approach? Find yourself a garden variety power strip. Just make sure it has a couple of spots you can run wood screws through. Secure one of these to the far edge of a desk, and you’ve got yourself five or six outlets close to hand.

Grommet Power OutletIf you’re feeling fancier, then a desk-level pop up power station should do the trick. Place one of these low-profile strips in your choice of grommet hole for a slick, attractive power solution.

Something to Chew on…

Not the cables – unless you’re a hamster with poor impulse control or a desire for an electrifying end to your short life. In which case have at. For the rest of you, we took to the internet for some extra cable management hacks, and found a few that are definitely worth a try.

Underdesk Cable TroughWe’ve used cable troughs before, with some mixed results. Several manufacturers, Lifespan included, build their products with troughs included. They’ve proven helpful here in the office, and there’s no doubt that they hide cables better than just about any other option. On the other hand, cable troughs have a tendency to become difficult-to-access spaghetti boxes, so make sure you find a way to keep cables inside the trough organized. Consider an option with notched sides for easier cable placement – the Ikea Signum is an economic and popular example.

binder clip cable managementBinder clips have assumed near mythic proportions for many DIY cable managers. Lifehacker in particular has rhapsodized at length about their versatility and effectiveness. We haven’t tried using this particular hack, but Lifehacker swears by it. A lot.

Extremely simple fixes, like labelling your plugs by appliance or wrapping them around specially made cable holds can be helpful – every little step contributes to a cleaner workspace. And, if you’re having insurmountable cable reduction problems, then just go ahead and go wireless.

And of course, it doesn’t stop there. Cable management is limited only by creativity. So go forth, Cord-Wrangler, and get that desk in order.


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