Standing desks have been in fashion for at least 6 years now. That’s when I first started using one and I have continued since then to varying degrees. They are not without controversy, however, as advocates and opponents argue over whether they are good for you, and if so, how. If you’re contemplating switching to a standing desk, here are a few things I’ve learned that may help you.
First, unless you work at home, be prepared to talk about it. Coworkers will notice and will ask why you’re doing it and how long you’ve done it, give excuses why they could never do it, and make hollow overtures about how they should start. You will get only slightly more attention by showing up in a wetsuit.
Second, it helps me feel better. I started standing at work because I was developing persistent low-back pain. Now that I have a standing workstation, the pain is gone, which is why I am still an adherent. All it takes is two weeks in training or a seminar with social pressures keeping me seated to remind me why I started standing.
Third, it doesn’t work for everything. There are some tasks better done sitting, especially those that take prolonged concentration. Content creation, in whatever form, tends to work better and faster when I am in a chair, as well as prolonged or deep reading.
Fourth, it does work for some things. Email normally doesn’t require intense or prolonged concentration, so it is handled fine standing. Scheduling tasks and my “daily news” internet ritual also work well standing.
Fifth, an anti-fatigue floor mat is a good investment. My wife bought me one for my birthday a few years ago and it makes my standing at work much more enjoyable, even with comfortable shoes. (I am a guy so society does not require me to wear any other kind.)
Sixth, it doesn’t have to cost (much) money. I enjoy woodworking and have been able to create what I need with scrap wood. There is no need for a fancy standing desk that costs hundreds (or thousands) of dollars. I have used two different designs: a box on top of the desk to make a higher work space and boxes under the desk to lift the whole desk up. If you work in a cubicle,¹ it is a challenge but still doable, though having an office makes it easier.
Seventh, it hasn’t done anything else for me physically. I have not lost (or gained) weight because of having a standing desk. I’m not stronger, faster, or better looking as a result.
Eighth, it has helped me focus more. Currently, my work computer is on a standing station and I have a regular desk with a nice chair for seated work. This is my favorite setup. Knowing I have to stand up to check email or other potentially distracting tasks creates a disincentive to do so.
Ninth, it increases face-to-face engagement. This was true especially when I was interred in a cubicle farm. Instead of emailing someone two rows over, since I was up anyway, I’d just walk over and ask them my question. This works in most offices, though my current situation has me in a different building from some I need to interact with.
Tenth, you don’t stand all day. I probably stand about one third to one half of my work day as a general rule. In some ways, I would like that to be less because I enjoy creating much more than administrating, but that has nothing to do with my stance.
¹ Disclaimer: cubicles should be banned under international law. I detest open concept offices. In fact, I would even use a word I don’t often throw around: I hate cubicles.