One Year At My Standing Desk

Over the past 12 months, standing desks went from popular life hacking meme to eyeroll-inducing sign of a certain type of tightly-wound techie, similar to emptying your email inbox. Several people have asked me if I'm still standing. The answer is yes. Here's what I've learned from 365 days of being a professional stander.

Photo remixed from dno1967b (Flickr)

Last January I took apart my computer desk and rebuilt it at standing height. I've been standing at my desk every workday since. Just in my 2011 travels, I've seen standing desks everywhere from the offices of San Francisco startups to the White House.

Sitting is essential

My typical workday starts around 8 or 9am and wraps around 5 or 6pm. I don't stand the entire time. I stand all morning till lunchtime, and then stand again for a couple of hours after lunch. By 3 or 4pm, fatigue sets in, and my feet need a break. That's when I sit down at a small table I set up in my office or, if I want to put my feet up, push back in an old recliner I commandeered. I also sit at lunch, often sit during conference calls and TWiG, and sit to do paperwork or work on my iPad.

The point is: a standing desk doesn't mean you're standing for 8 hours a day straight. That's just not healthy. For me, standing a few hours a day has had its benefits and drawbacks.

The upsides of a standing desk

My back feels great. My posture is better than ever. My default work position is standing on flat feet, with my shoulders back, and my back slightly arched. I have a makeshift foot rest (a box of unsold books), and I often shift from one foot to another when my knees feel stiff. I lost 3-5 pounds in the first couple of weeks from standing alone. I'm way more active throughout the day, pacing, dancing, fidgeting. Because I'm used to standing all day at work, standing in line anywhere for long periods of time on weekends doesn't bother me in the least.

Thanks to my standing desk, I began naturally splitting activities up into active work (while standing) and passive work (while sitting). Since my legs and brain are fresh in the morning, I start my day by diving into the most effort-intensive work first, like coding and writing. By the afternoon I'm fatigued and ready to sit, so I use that time to process email, read Instapaper, catch up on Twitter and Facebook. Explicitly shifting gears like that helps my brain tackle the right kind of work given my physical and mental capacity at the moment.

The downsides of a standing desk

Ever since I got used to standing all day, sitting for long periods of time became uncomfortable for me. By the end of cross-country flights and even long movies, my back and backside feel stiff and achy. In the past 12 months I developed a silver dollar-sized case of spider veins on my right calf, just below my knee joint. It's not sexy. These are common for women my age, and both my parents had them, so it's difficult to say if I would have gotten these without the standing desk. Excessive standing (and sitting) are both known causes of spider veins.

The fatigue of a standing workday makes getting to the gym at the end of the day more difficult for me. When I was sitting all day, I'd feel so sluggish and sedentary I'd look forward to getting sweaty and exerting myself at the gym. At the end of a standing workday, you just want to sit down. For me, the gym has to happen in the morning, or it doesn't happen at all. While my daily calorie burn is definitely higher at the standing desk compared to sitting, standing at your desk is not a replacement for a good workout at the gym.

Finally, I work at home, alone in a room. Several people have told me that they don't want to be at the one standing desk in a sea of sitters at their office. I understand that. I'm not sure I'd pull this off in an office where I was surrounded by sitting co-workers and didn't have the luxury of two desks, one sitting, one standing.

That all said, once I got past the first couple of weeks, I haven't once considered switching back to a sitting desk full-time. Honestly, I barely give it a thought at all anymore. If you're considering it, here's how and why I switched to a standing desk.

One Year at My Standing Desk [Smarterware]

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Comments

    Actually, standing desks have always been eyeroll-inducing.

    I did try the standing desk option, but didn't have the capability to do regular seated work. The desk couldn't be raised or lowered without about an hour of work and I didn't have a second machine to work from elsewhere.

    So I was forced to stand the whole time. I did like it, to a degree and feel that having an adjustable desk would be great.

    However, my left knee gave out one week into the experiment with a meniscal tear that still hasn't fully healed a year later.

    So as Gina says, sitting is essential if you're going to use a standing desk.

      Get a drafting chair. The meant to be used at a drafting table, which is designed to be used standing. Some have backs. All have footests.

    Been standing for over six months now, love it, can't sit in front of my work desk anymore, I actually gave my office chair away! I stand eight to twelve hours a day without effort. I just do the hip swivel and I use a step up too. I hear it's bad to do it too long but I can't sit now without a bad back and sore bum, so I guess it will probably kill or cripple me in the end, somehow I doubt it though!

    Cant sit, Cant stand.. seems living just causes the body to have problems!
    Very interesting though and i think with an adjustable desk it would be a worthwhile and healthy option.

    Two months in using a standing desk. It's pretty good, definitely agree that you need to sit too - or until my stamina increases. The weariness can be distracting.

    I modded an ikea 65 cm bar stool with castors so it's not dangerously high but the height is perfect to maintain an ergonomic set up.

    If you're working from home, I also recommend wearing in-house slippers as the balls of my feet were getting sore from standing so long.

    I have been using a sitting desk for some years now, and find it very useful. I have noticed most companies I have worked for, or visit, have also implemented sitting desks, I have even started using one of these at home, and often encourage my kids to sit during activities like eating, or being taken somewhere in the car. I have had to invest in some purpose built equipment other than the desk (specifically, chairs) but have found this to be better ergonomically than sitting on or under the desk, or on the floor reaching up to the desk top. I still do some standing (in the shower, at the fridge, in the lift up to my office) but I can't really see myself giving up sitting now that I am so used to it. Give it a try!

    I had to improvise the standing desk - a table top from IKEA sitting on some plastic tubs. It's six months in for me and I can't see myself going back to a seated desk. I like the freedom of it - my back and legs stay mobile and active. I sit for about two hours a day when I'm usually reading or doing paper-based work. For this 56-year-old, the standing desk is a gift!

      Thats what ive been considering doing, building a removable booster for the keyboard and mouse, putting the monitor on an arm so i can raise and lower it when i switch modes.

    Hey!

    I was the 'lone stander' in my semi-open plan office for some time, before another gentleman about 10 metres away joined in. We were like the office meerkat's :) People are intrigued for a while, but then get used to it. If they scorn, just point them towards some of the literature on the benefits of 'not sitting'

    One advantage I found was that if I wanted to be completely alone - I would simply take my laptop out the dock and sit in my chair. This was very important, since any people that intended to disturb me simply couldn't see me standing - so they presumed I wasn't there!! However, I was just sitting, behind my partition, in blissful peace and quiet.

    This was proven often by people calling my number/mobile to say - Mate, I came by to your desk but you weren't there - where are you?? I was always there, just not standing, visible from across the room :)

    cheers.
    Hak.

    Thanks for the update Gina. I too had been wondering if you were still standing (hums the Elton Jon song). Shortly after you mentioned on TWIG, I also moved to a standing desk and haven't looked back. I stand from 5am to about 7pm, stopping for meal breaks of course. My posture has improved greatly.

    When it comes to back health, standing is far and away better than sitting. I've returned to university after working in retail management and all the sitting is destroying my back! I want to stand again! I found in my job that once you spend a week on your feet, your body adapts and it is effortless. Bouncing from one foot to the other keeps you alert and you can do foot/knee stability exercises while you are standing (for those wanting to combine exercise and work). I am so getting/creating a standing desk for study!

    I also moved to a standing desk some months ago. At first, I found standing for 8 hours or so very tiring on the legs. So, rather than try to vary the height of the desk, I bought an adjustable bar stool from Costco and pushed it into the space under the desk. When my legs got too sore, I'd pull out the bar stool and adjust it up to max height, which by happy convenience was also a good height for seated work at the higher desk. Over the last month I've tried to gradually reduce the time spent sitting on the stool and this is going OK. My long term plan is to ditch the stool altogether and replace it with a treadmill, so I can work and walk simultaneously.

    My tips? 1. Make the move from sitting to standing gradually. 2. Don't try to adjust the desk, use adjustable height chairs or stools to allow some sitting time during the transition to standing.

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