A Year with a Stand Up Desk

It’s been a bit over a year since I built an IKEA DIY Stand Up Desk. If you’re interested in a few bad pictures, here they are. Today, here’s what my desk looks like:

Stand Up Desk Resized

Eric’s Stand Up Desk

There’s a lot to be said about the standup desk. First, Don Rumsfeld uses one, and I can’t help but to notice that the folder path for this picture includes the word “torture” in a few places:

Second, NPR did a feature about the standing desk trend a while ago, you can read the entire article if you’re interested, but the bottom line is that having a stand up desk isn’t about buying an expensive desk, and believe me, they can be expensive.

Actually, I built my desk myself, out of parts from IKEA, slightly modified, but mostly off the shelf. I used a smaller bookshelf than in this design and a smaller tabletop too, but you get the idea.

So, what lessons have I learned in the past year:

  • First, you’ll be more productive if you’re standing.
  • Second, posture and footwear are important.
  • Finally, it’s not so strange, after you get used to it.

First, the productivity. When I use my standing desk, the simple act of standing prevents a lot of wasting time. As many of you know, I’m a home based employee and many people worry about the distractions there. Now, I don’t have that issue, I actually find working from home to be less distracting than working in an office full of people, but some people get distracted easily. When you’re standing, it seems, at least to me, that you’re more focused. Since it’s less relaxing than sitting, you’re more inclined to get your work done quickly, or if you’re not being productive, to move on to something else. That’s not to say that I don’t check Facebook occasionally, but generally, standing creates a separation for me, sort of like clocking in at the office, and I know it’s time to actually work.

Second, pay attention to your posture and your footwear. I use a GelPro Mat underfoot and make sure to wear trainers or other comfortable shoes. In my experience, if you’re barefoot or wearing sandals, you’re more likely to experience fatigue and discomfort. Now, if you’re just doing a quick task, no worries, but if you’ve got a lot of work, change into something more comfortable to you. And don’t forget about posture. Don’t slouch, don’t lean on the desk, and pay attention to your foot placement. You’ll have to experiment with what works best for you in this department, but try different postures, different arrangements of your keyboard and mouse. Remember to move your monitors so they’re in your line of site; it’s very bad posture to have to look up or down to see them.

Finally, standing feels quite strange to start. My first few days, my feet hurt, my legs were a little sore, and I certainly felt different than after a normal day of sitting at the desk. This is normal. Your body has adjusted to the sedentary life of sitting for part or all of the day, so it’s going to take a little while to feel more normal. Take notice of what positions feel most comfortable and try different postures and you’ll settle in.

Remember, you don’t have to stand all day, but any amount of standing or moving around is likely to improve your health and fitness. Here’s an interesting article from the Mayo Clinic about the dangers of sitting all day. And a few more from Lifehacker and Mashable. Here’s what my normal day looks like, alternating between my standup and traditional desk:

  • 7am-8am-Traditional Desk: Planning day, reading news and social media updates
  • 8am-10am-Standup Desk: Working on projects
  • 10am-1030am-Traditional Desk: Respond to emails and other annoyances
  • 1030am-1230pm-Standup Desk: Working on projects
  • 1230-2pm-Traditional Desk: Freelance projects
  • 2pm-330pm-Exercise
  • 330pm-630pm-Standup Desk: Working on projects

This is a general outline, every day is a bit different, but I try very hard to avoid standing for more than 4 hours at a stretch. I think the standing desk is a great alternative to a traditional desk, but I think having two desks also encourages me to use each desk in a specialized way that ensures I’m using the most efficient desk for each task. I try to never sit more than an hour and a half or two hours. Even then, I make sure to get up and walk around, play with the dog, get something to drink or go to the bathroom every 25-30 minutes.

If you’re using a standup desk, or a treadmill desk, or any other alternative deak arrangement, I’d love to hear about your experience. Please comment or leave a link to your own discussion about the alternative arrangements so we can all learn a bit more.

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Comments

  1. Peter Bratt says:

    Eric-you’ve tempted me. I’ve tried to get a standing desk at work, but public sector government isn’t really up for a standing desk. However, I might be able to convince Susan to do one at home. I’ll keep you posted.

  2. You should push them a bit harder. After I built the standup desk, a number of my co-workers bought exercise balls and other modifications for their desks and it all came out of the budget for office equipment. I think I made this desk for like $200 total, so you could always build it, and then smuggle it in at night when no one is paying attention. Seriously, though, don’t forget a mat or pad for your feet. You’ll be thankful.

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