By July 16, 2012

Standing Desk a Year In Review

Over a year ago I started using a standing desk in my home. A week after that I stood at work, and soon after that I was eating standing up while at home. A lot of my current job is spent in meetings, so I’d say I stand for eight to fourteen hours a day depending on what I’m doing. That’s almost a total flip-flop from sitting over a year ago.

Here are my thoughts and recommendations after standing up instead of sitting.

  • Don’t let the short-term irritations discourage you. My feet hurt pretty good for the first two weeks. I wasn’t used to standing up so much, and it took some time to adjust. I can stand up all day now and my feet don’t bark at all. That’s because of ….
  • Get a good mat. The Crown Comfort King mat wasn’t particularly great, and I much prefer the Sublime Imprint mat. I use the latter at work, and it’s waaaay comfy.
  • Wear good shoes. I don’t mean shoes with a ton of padding, but shoes that support your feet, especially in a natural position. My Doc Martens are actually pretty comfortable to stand in, as they are basically a platform shoe with just a tiny heel. My motorcycle boots, however, are not great — they pitch my feet forward and I get hot spots on the balls of my feet. I also wear Merrell shoes, and they have about a 4% heel to them. In additional, I spend a lot of time barefoot when I’m at home. If you wear heels, I recommend something that you can slip on and off easily (sorry, delicious ankle straps). When you get to your desk, take your heels off. When you leave, put ‘em back on. It’ll be easier on your body.
  • Get something to put your foot on. You’re going to want something to put your foot on, especially at first when your feet, legs, and ass are getting used to standing up all the time. I use a kid’s stool from IKEA. It’s just high enough to put my foot on without elevating my knee too much. Be careful not to tilt your hips too much, or you might wind up putting your body out of alignment. Good posture is one of the reasons we stopped sitting in the first place.
  • Go cheap at first. Or in my case, stay cheap. You can certainly spend a TON of money on a standing desk, whether it be a fixed position desk (like a taller drafting table) or an adjustable desk that allows you to sit or stand. If you’re a super fancy pants, your adjustable desk may be motorized.

    Like in most things geek- or nerd-related, we have a tendency to jump into stuff with both feet. If you are considering a standing desk, I think that’s awesome — but realize that it may not be for you. Don’t spend a lot of money testing the waters. Start with a desk-on-a-desk and make sure you get the ergonomics right. Then, if you really like the idea of an adjustable desk you will know what you’re getting into.

    While I was a consultant I had facilities raise the desk as far as possible, and then I had to get creative with my “monitor stands:”

    I use a long, narrow coffee table from IKEA on top of my desk at home. At work I have a smaller, taller table from IKEA because we have fancy, low-height desks there.

    I have spent about $150 on my standing desks. You don’t have to spend a ton of money up front.

  • Don’t lock your legs. I have found out the hard way that I lock my knees when I don’t pay attention, and my right knee sometimes gets sore by the end of the day. The less I lock my knee, the less soreness I feel. This is the only drawback I have with standing, and I think the kettlebells and other exercises I do puts some strain on my knees as well. It’s not a deal breaker, just something odd I discovered about myself after standing for a year.
  • Get your ergonomics right. There are two things people do wrong when they first convert to a standing desk. The first thing is they put their monitors too low. This means you have to bend your neck down to look at the monitor or laptop, and this puts stress on your neck and upper back. Make sure you raise your display(s) up so that your head is in a neutral position when looking at the center of the screen. I use a monitor stand to do this.

    The other big thing I see is that people put their mouse, keyboard, or other desk accessories at the wrong level. Make sure your forearms are as close to a 45° angle as possible to your keyboard. If you can, make sure your desk area is long enough that your keyboard, mouse, telephone (if you have one) or any other desk item you interact with is all at the same level.

  • Be an ambassador for standing, not a missionary. I encountered a lot of hostility and ridicule at my first workplace because of my standing desk. The majority of the people who gave me lip were out of shape. When I was a consultant for a health care company the snide comments not only ceased, but I realized I was among other “standers” as well. I was the only one standing at my current job until one of my co-workers brought in some furniture and started standing up for himself as well.

    Bottom line is don’t go around telling people about how bad sitting is and that they should stand. You may draw enough negative attention to yourself as it is. When people asked me questions I always answered them as nicely as I could, even when I could tell they were asking to try to get a rise out of me. Some of the people who seemed snarky at first wound up standing up later.

I don’t have any plans for returning to a sitting desk. If I had to do it all over again I would do everything the same, except for starting off with a better mat.

Do you stand up, either at work or at home? If so, please share your set up :)

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2 Comments on "Standing Desk a Year In Review"

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  1. DigitalChris says:

    I use a standing desk setup at work, but not at home yet.

    I use the same Sublime Imprint mat now. I love that thing.

  2. Randall says:

    I just changed to a standing desk, so thanks for your very informative article. Did you get the professional or home grade version of the Imprint?

    Also, regarding ergonomics, don’t you want your forearms even with the keyboard (0 degrees, 90 degrees from body)?

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