Lessons learned from a stand up desk
History notes some of the world’s greatest minds – including Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf, and Ernest Hemingway were all early adopters of the standup desk to enhance their creativity, productivity and health.
Today, a number of large companies are said to have jumped on the standing desk bandwagon to improve their employee’s health and productivity. The Facebook offices are said to be equipped with over 250 standing desks, and Google offers standing desks as part of their employee wellness programme.
If you’re like me — working in a computer based profession — you’re more than likely bound to a desk for 8–9 hours each day to carry out your work. A lot of information has surfaced of late regarding the detrimental health issues this sedentary lifestyle can lead to — potential issues include back and neck pain, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, increased risk of fatal heart attacks and more. Yikes!
Being conscious of my health and wanting to address some of the issues I had been experiencing myself, I wanted to do something about the way I work. I wanted to stand up for change. Literally.
After some deliberation with my colleagues about which option would be most suited to our work environment, and most importantly, affordable (incase I decided standing wasn’t for me), I purchased the UpDesk EasyUp. The EasyUp is a height-adjustable workstation made to sit on top of your current desk. It features a recessed keyboard, allowing your keyboard and mouse to sit lower than your screen for a true ergonomic set-up, gas assisted lifting, adjustable to suit any height and best of all, it comes pre-assembled.
The first day was hard. I wanted to prove to myself that I could make this standing thing work. I went in guns blazing, pushing through the discomfort in my legs and feet, and probably standing for longer than I should have to start. By the end of my first few days my body was achy and I relished the chance to sit down on the bus — something I usually avoid doing. I have to admit, I felt very self-conscious about standing at first. Our office is open plan and our design team’s desks are clustered closely together, and here I was, towering above my workmates.
My body eventually got used to standing for extended periods but I realized that this too has its downsides. I decided to listen to my body and allow myself to sit when I felt fatigued — which I’ve found to be more beneficial, as this change from standing to sitting helps me to be more mindful of my posture during the day, and minimizes the mindless slumping which used to happen.
The main things I’ve noticed:
While these findings are all based on my personal experience, I have read accounts of others experiencing similar benefits.
Higher energy: I find that I am more energized in the afternoons if I stand as opposed to being half asleep as soon as the clock strikes 3pm.
Freedom: I get this weird sense of freedom while standing. Like a free-range chicken able to roam about. I find it much easier to take a quick break or walk over to my colleague’s desk to talk through an idea. I can also literally take a step back from my designs, which is extremely helpful when working on a large monitor.
Focus: Because my body in less discomfort while standing, and I am not constantly worrying about sitting up straight, I find I am able to focus more on the task at hand, and less on myself.
Self awareness: Switching between standing and sitting all day has dramatically helped me become aware of how I use my body on a daily basis; the change in position reminds me to reset my posture regularly so I’m not unknowingly slouching. I’m reminded every 30–45mins by a this free app to correct my posture; rolling my shoulders up and back, stacking my spine, shoulders and head over my hips, and keeping my chin tucked.
Improved health: Have I mentioned that standing burns calories? On average, if I stand for half the day I can burn around 300 calories. That’s pretty great for not even trying. I actually feel more comfortable when I stand, as opposed to when I’m sitting and trying to hold my posture. Surprisingly standing feels effortless. I find my muscles are more engaged during my standing periods, and I’m able to do a variety of stretches and shift my weight around while I work.
I understand not everyone is in a fortunate enough position to try a standing desk, but my advice to those wishing to break the habit of sitting for long periods is this:
- Install a computer prompt. There are plenty of free apps available for download that remind you to get up and move about every 30–45 minutes. I use Dejal’s Time Out app. You can use this time to make a cup of tea, do some stretches or go for a quick walk. This is extremely helpful in becoming more aware of how long you’re really spending in the same position each day and reminds you to reset your posture on a regular basis.
- Use your break time wisely. So you have 30–60mins for lunch, great! Try and spend at least half of this time outside and walking around. Go for a run, walk around the neighbourhood, or do a lunchtime class if you’re near a gym. It really doesn’t take much, plus, if you’re using this time to exercise it means you don’t need to worry about it after work. Bonus! And unless you are crazy busy don’t eat lunch at your desk.
In conclusion I have found having a sit-stand desk extremely beneficial to my working life. I can’t speak for improved creativity, but I’ve definitely noticed a difference in my health and productivity. So for now, I’ll continue to tower above my colleagues, knowing I can reward myself by sitting down. And boy does it feel good.