Although I really haven’t mentioned it up until this point (mostly because I wanted to see how I liked it first), I’ve been using a standing desk at work for the past 4 or 5 weeks.
Why make the switch to a standing desk? I’ve written several times in the past about my history of back pain. Since losing 90+ pounds last year, I haven’t had any “major issues” per se with my back, but I’ve still experienced lingering back pain from time to time. And more recently, “from time to time” was becoming more and more often. I work 4 10’s at my job as a software developer, so basically I sit in front of a computer for 10 hours a day. Over the past few months, I began noticing that many evenings after work, my back would be sore and achy. But on the weekends when I didn’t spend all day sitting in front of the computer, my back felt fine. Coincidence? I think not.
More recently, I had been reading quite a bit about the benefits of using a standing desk (and the many health pitfalls of sitting all day). I decided I wanted to give it a try, but I wasn’t sure how I would like standing all day. I know there’s all kind of fancy solutions out there like adjustable height desks, so that you can alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. Before I committed to anything like that, I just wanted to get a taste of what standing all day at work would be like. So I grabbed a couple of empty cardboard boxes to put my keyboard and mouse on, and put my monitors up on the shelf in my cube. Voila, my do-it-yourself standing desk:
I decided to start my standing desk experiment on a Friday, as I thought that standing all day may end up doing a number on my legs and feet. That way, my introduction would only be for one day, then I’d have the weekend to recover if need be. While standing all day certainly has its’ share of hardships (my feet did get pretty sore, especially the first week or so), overall I really like it. My back hasn’t been hurting after work the way it used to, and overall I just feel more energized at work. As much as I would try to keep reminding myself to sit nicely and keep a good posture, over the course of 10 hours it was almost inevitable that I’d start slouching from time to time. Standing, I have almost no choice but to keep good posture all day.
About 3 weeks into my experiment, I was getting ready to leave on a 2 week vacation. Up until this point, I hadn’t specifically said anything to anyone at work about my new desk arrangment. A few people had walked by and commented or asked me questions about it, but I don’t really work near the “main drag” of the office, so not many people just happen to wander past my cube. The day before I left on vacation, the office admin comes by my cube and starts asking me all sorts of questions about my current setup and about ordering me an adjustable desk. The whole thing makes me feel kind of awkward, because I don’t want to be “that” person, who demands all kinds of special accommodations. So I kind of downplay it, telling her that I’m still just trying things out to see how I like it and to see if my back feels any better.
We left it at that, and I went on my 2 week vacation, only to come back to this:
Turns out she went ahead and ordered me the fancy adjustable standing desk anyway 🙂 I will admit, it definitely is nice! Though I’ll also admit that in the 2 weeks that I’ve been back, I’ve never adjusted it to sit down once. I’ve learned that I actually like standing all day, and once I got past the first week or so, my feet handle it just fine. Though I guess it is nice to have that option, that I don’t have to sit down all day.
Besides simply not sitting, there are other benefits of standing all day at work. The constant shifting/balancing act is a nice leg workout! You can also burn up to an extra 50 calories per hour by standing instead of sitting – that’s 500 calories per day for my 10 hour shifts!
And look, I’m not the only crazy person standing all day at work – here’s some links to others who are doing the same thing, as well as a few links with more info on why you too should think about moving to a standing desk at work!
- Gina Trapani (founder of Lifehacker, fellow geek/code monkey)
- Twitter’s Alex Payne’s Desk Hack
- Marco Ament (founder of Tumblr & Instapaper)
- John Durant has an excellent series of blog posts called Upstanding Citizen that profiles those who have made the switch to a standing desk
- How-to Guide: Standing at Work (Mark’s Daily Apple)
- Standing versus Sitting (37 signals)
- Is Sitting a Lethal Activity? (New York Times)
- Sitting for Hours Can Shave Years Off Your Life (CNN)
Have you heard why I’m running the Marine Corps Marathon in October? I’m raising money for TAPS, a wonderful organization that provides support to the families of our fallen soldiers. Thank you so much to everyone who has donated already. If you can, please click here to make a donation to TAPS. No amount is too small, even a few bucks is a tremendous help and greatly appreciated.
15 thoughts on “Why and How I Switched to a Standing Desk”
I have almost broke down and bought one of the adjustable sit/stand desks, but couldn’t press the button. I’ve done the cardboard box thing a time or two.
I’ve always liked the concept, and try to move most of my work to standing activities, even though I don’t have a standing desk. I spend more time at the whiteboard. I usually stand up in meetings unless I have to sit. It just feels better.
Do you have a standing set up at home?
I don’t have a standing desk at home. As big of a geek as I am, I’ve been finding myself spending less and less time on the computer at home. Between working 10 hour days, juggling 2 kids, and getting my runs and other workouts in, I don’t have much time to geek out these days. But a couple of times when I have spent more time on the computer at home, I’ve done the DIY approach and set my laptop up on a box on the counter.
I would adore having a standing desk at work! I have a few friends who have gotten to use a standing desk at their jobs, and I’m so jealous! However, the company I work for is probably the last company that would ever embrace such a thing. *sigh*
Sounds like you have an awesome boss for starters. 🙂 And now, I’m trying to decide how I can potentially rearrange my office into a standing desk set-up.
Good for you, Brandon! My desk setup is nearly impossible to convert due to the way my office is setup. My direct manager is all for it, but IT has been less than helpful (sigh). I spend *most* 5-6 hours on my feet anyway, but those 2-3 hours I am at my desk really add up.
I’m gonna have to lean on IT (pun intended) a bit more when I go back to work in the fall…
That’s awesome. My new job promotes health and wellness, so I’m able to walk a couple of miles during the day and it makes a world of different with how I feel. I’m no longer sluggish at the end of the day. It seems to be doing great things for running too. There’s a lot to be said about getting off your ass!
deeeep in my heart I completely know that is what I need too.
Now that I’m retired, my desk is usually the kitchen table. I wonder if I stand up to eat I could achieve the same health benifits?
Well since we’re all in the midst of this minimalist and primal thing you probably should stand there barefoot and nude; that truly would be best for your back.
Ha ha, good point Joe! 🙂 Although since you mention it, I actually have spent a fair amount of time standing at work barefoot (well, in socks).
Great post, Brandon. I work from home, and a few months ago I was fed up with having backpain and feeling sluggish in the evenings. I had heard a few things about the benefits of standing, so I moved my computer to the top of a dresser and I’ve been standing ever since. Sometimes I want to sit down to take a load off my legs, but for the most part it feels great. Wish I could get one of those adjustable desks, though.
I’m working at my computer for about 14-16 hours a day and I’ve started standing recently. I feel good and just feel more productive (and not prone to getting sleepy mid afternoon!).
I have a normal desk and I just angle the monitors up. I don’t have to type or use the mouse all day but if I do I just squat to lower my height… isometrically work out those quads a bit. I also keep weights with me for good measure!
Brandon, can I ask if you are still standing at your desk ? I’ve seen people try it but never stick to it for more than a few months.
Did you look at using one of those inflatable balls instead of a chair ? I have heard people with bad backs swear by them.
Sam, yep I’m still going strong using my standing desk at work. It’s been about 3 months now, and I still love it! I’ve heard of others using the inflatable balls, but it’s not something I really looked into myself.
Brandon……you inspired me to do the same thing for myself and my children. I count afford the full size electric desk but I was fortunate to find a great solution for me. I got a Hybrid Kangaroo from ergo desktop. Holds my laptop and monitor in either the standing or sitting position. I love it and now my wife has one too. http://www.ergodesktop.com Keep up the great effort. Because of you I am now healthier.