Desk shortage forces people to get creative about workspaces

First it was toilet paper

NEW YORK — First it was toilet paper. Disinfectant wipes. Beans. Coins. Computers. Now, desks are in short supply because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Millions of kids logging onto virtual school this fall has parents scrambling to find furniture for them. It’s a small indignity compared with the kids who don’t even have home internet or computers, but it’s a hassle for parents lucky enough to have the space and money to afford desks just the same.

At the same time, some people are realizing they’ll be working from home for the long haul and require new furniture. To find desks, people are scouring stores near and far and even making their own.

Elizabeth Rossmiller, a teacher working from home for the first time, needed to upgrade from her temporary setup: an upside-down laundry basket on a nightstand.

It was smaller and more dinged up than she expected, but “better than a laundry basket!”

Shaynah Dungan, who needs a desk for when she starts esthetician school in January, said desks similar to the sold-out one she wants from Ikea were overpriced on Amazon and OfferUp, an app where people sell their stuff.

People are figuring out other solutions, sharing advice on turning dressers or book shelves into makeshift desks on Pinterest and Facebook.

Megan Fry, who is starting a new work-from-home customer service job in Indianapolis in October, said she had to go the “DIY route” after visits to Walmart, Ikea and other stores found no desk options under $150. She made her own using a $30 legless tabletop from Ikea placed on top of two short bookcases from Amazon, which cost $42 apiece.

“It’s not as cute or trendy as a bought desk and I wish it had drawers for storage,” said Fry. “But I’m happy it’s clean and has a large surface on top for my monitors and laptop.”

Instead of bookcases, Patrick Burgh went with crates to build a desk for his 6-year-old after he couldn’t find a desk at Ikea or Amazon. The Baltimore university administrator built it in two days, spending about $70 at Home Depot on four crates and a board that he painted in bright blue.

Will the homemade desk make it through the school year?

“There’s goo on the top from his snack,” said Burgh, whose son spends about 40 hours a week on it for virtual classes. “I could not believe in three weeks how much damage he’s done to this desk.”

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Follow Joseph Pisani on Twitter @ josephpisani