Stand in the place where you work
January 30, 2013 2:18 PM   Subscribe

Should I get a standing desk? Please share your pros and cons, and any tips!

We're moving to a new office with new stuff, and I'm thinking about requesting a standing desk there. I used to be a fit person but my sedentary job is not doing me any favors. I work at a desktop workstation about 4 hours/day, and the rest of the time is mostly spent sitting in meetings.

What should I be aware of before I make the jump?

Are there "accessories" you'd recommend that I should put in for at the same time, like a tall stool for days when I've had enough standing, or a mat to stand on?

I expect I will still have a small meeting table and some office chairs as well as the workstation.

If you switched, did you like it, hate it, or something in between? Did you notice an improvement in your health at all, or not really?

Thanks for your responses!
posted by Miko to Work & Money (27 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, also...I am female and work in a fancy-ish office so my shoes are not always of the flat-soled, comfortable kind. How do I factor that in - have a pair of "office shoes" that I keep here? How much does it matter?
posted by Miko at 2:22 PM on January 30, 2013

If you can request specific furniture, I'd ask for a Geek Desk. They're motorized adjustable (even with stuff on the desk!), which is really nice since it gives you the option of switching back and forth. I worked at one for about 6 months, and absolutely loved it. I would usually stand in the morning to keep myself alert, sit for a little while, stand after lunch to prevent the lunch slump, then sit again for a while in the afternoon. The variety was great.

I haven't tried doing standing all day because of some back injuries, but if you're starting out from a healthy back it would probably be pretty doable.

One word of caution: you will totally end up dancing at your desk and look like a dork. Totally worth it, though!
posted by duien at 2:26 PM on January 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

Prolonged standing has its own set of health risks.

I would second the recommendation for the adjustable desk so you have options.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:27 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Get a mat for standing on (I suspect you will want flats, but as a dude have no first hand knowledge).

Definitely get a tall chair for sitting at. Most of my coworkers who have a standing desk have an option to sit, which they use sporadically throughout the day. I found that my standing desk height was too tall for a counter stool, and needed a bar height or adjustable chair. YMMV based on your height.

I also switched back to sitting after my back issues went away, and agree that an adjustable desk is def the way to go (although more expensive).
posted by Phredward at 2:29 PM on January 30, 2013

I sometimes work in an office with adjustable desks. It seems like about a third of the people adjust up and down constantly -- some sitting, some standing -- and the rest of us find a spot we like and leave it there. Very tall and very short people like that they can adjust to a height that works for them.

I forget that adjusting is even an option most of the time -- this post inspired me to move to standing up after sitting nonstop for the past 2.5 weeks. I find that standing is a nice option on a long day, but I have a hard time concentrating on certain highly intense work when standing so it doesn't work all the time.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:33 PM on January 30, 2013

My office has adjustable desks. They are spring-loaded making them easy to raise and lower and I love mine.

I find I stand most mornings, and end up sitting a bit more in the afternoons, but I operate without much routine as the raising or lowering requires no effort.

Get a mat to stand on, and some flats for working in. You would be a weirdo to do it in heels.
posted by Sleddog_Afterburn at 2:41 PM on January 30, 2013

Having both options is nice. Standing while reading and writing email is fine, but for heavier work I like to sit.
I am the type of person who would never remember to adjust my adjustable desk, so I'd want two desks, or a half-half desk.
I work from home so I have a great standing-height bar counter and a sitting desk and I alternate.
Can you ask for both?
Or ask for a standing but then have a sitting height conference table and chair just in case?
posted by rmless at 2:47 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

re: shoes, get a pair of industrial nurse/chef crocs to stand in. they'll run you about $40 and are so ridiculously comfortable you'll hate yourself a little (maybe a lot) for loving crocs so much. my pair is for women, so they just look like regular clogs instead of being super wide and ridiculous like the unisex ones.
posted by lia at 3:03 PM on January 30, 2013

I've been using a standing desk for about a year and a half and love it. I find my posture has improved quite a bit and my back feels better.

Don't jump into standing 100% at first - you will want to stand part of the time and sit part of the time until you adjust to standing. An adjustable desk is best for this, but if you have a small table or other regular-height work surface and a chair in your space that would probably be easiest. When standing, try to stand with your weight equally on both feet. I fidget and sway and don't stand still, but I always try to keep my spine aligned and straight.

I tried standing on a mat but it didn't work for me, so I just wear my Merrell barefoot shoes (which don't look like the five-toed ones, they're just regular sneakers). Maybe you could get a pair of comfy shoes and leave them at the office, as I can't imagine standing in heels or dress shoes all day to be very comfortable.

Good luck!
posted by bedhead at 3:38 PM on January 30, 2013

I have an adjustable because of the evidence that prolonged standing is also not great. I probably spend about 50% of my time standing. I like the Kangaroo brand stands which go on top of an ordinary desk to make it adjustable.
posted by atrazine at 3:39 PM on January 30, 2013

I don't think having *only* a standing desk is really an option. just gotta sit! Adjustable is the way to go.

I have a motorized adjustable desk at work (push a button and it goes up and down). When I first got it, I was SO excited since I'd never had one before. I thought it was going to change my life. I was dead set on standing until lunch every day...I did that for about a month, always standing in 3-3.5 inch heels. I never had any foot problems, but I have relatively high tolerance for that, I think. After that first month, the excitement wore off and I ended up sitting more and more. Now I sit 95% of the time. But even then, being able to adjust the height is awesome--I'm short, and I've never been able to be "ergonomically correct" at a desk with a permanent height. Now I am! Yes, it looks like my desk is the height of a step stool in some ways, but it's still great.

One "accessory" to consider is an easy way to adjust the height/angles of your monitors. I need to change them a good amount between sitting and standing positions to be ergonomically correct.
posted by dede at 3:41 PM on January 30, 2013

I loooooove my standing desk. I'm short, female, and tend to have pretty poor posture when seated in an office chair (partially because office chairs generally don't fit me). Six months ago I talked my boss into allowing me to reorient my cubicle so I had a standing desk. I did it cold turkey, went straight from sitting all the time to standing all the time, boy, I love it.

I have a perching chair as well, but it generally serves as my bag stand, I can't think of the last time I sat down during the work day except during meetings. I use a silicone mat of the type factory workers use, and that is a critical element for me - a colleague "borrowed" it and didn't bring it back for two days once and I actually did experience some back pain.

When I'm wearing heels, I generally step out of them at my desk, my desk is oriented in such a way that when I have visitors, I can easily step back into the heels without them noticing I was barefoot. This is partially because I feel like it and partially because the heels really squash into the mat making divots that last a long time.

Also, one interesting note - my filing cabinets are such that one is right next to my feet, I often will slide it out 6 inches and rest one foot on it (in a stair climbing position), this is also a very comfortable pose for me.

My next desk will be adjustable, and I'll spend a little more time thinking about rolling chairs and silicone mats (part of why I don't use the perching chair is that I have to wheel it over the mat to use it which is annoying). I think the easy solution is to have two working areas on a corner desk, with one for standing (with the mat) and one for perching (with the wheeled chair).
posted by arnicae at 3:52 PM on January 30, 2013

If you end up with an adjustable desk and sitting some of the time: I know someone who uses a yoga ball as her office chair. She says it helps with her posture, and I imagine it's somewhat active.
posted by aniola at 4:07 PM on January 30, 2013

I had a desk for a time that had a hydraulic lift so you could pick. I adored it. I tended to stand and sit, stand and sit, constantly changing my mind. I liked standing in the afternoon as it prevented sleepiness. If you stand a lot, get a mat. If I had the choice, I would totally do the same set up.
posted by Foam Pants at 4:22 PM on January 30, 2013

Response by poster: Prolonged standing has its own set of health risks.

Understood (I was a teacher, so I know...) but do note that most days involve about 4 hours of meetings and I'll be sitting for all those, so I will never hit the 8 hours a day limit.

Great things I wouldn't have known...thanks everyone, and please keep adding things that occur to you!
posted by Miko at 4:28 PM on January 30, 2013

I have a standing desk. I started off with a DIY solution involving propping my monitor on top of a box on my desk, and my keyboard on top of a few books in front. I used that for six months or so, and it was great. (I used a foam mat under a rug to stand on, and generally take my shoes off when working).

Then our admin people noticed and ordered me a standing desk, which was sweet of them. It's one with a handle for adjusting the height. Unfortunately, because it is so much more stable than my previous solution, I find myself leaning against it a lot, or resting a lot of weight on my elbows, which I don't think is great for my posture. And I have been getting hip pain because for whatever reason I've started cocking one hip out to the side most of the time. (I stop when I notice, but as soon as my attention passes back to my work, I find myself doing it again).

So basically I'm not sure that this sort of professional solution is going to work. I am seriously considering going back to the DIY option!

If I could actually CHOOSE my standing desk, rather than having this default one chosen for me, I think I would try to find one that doesn't have a lot of space at arm level - just a shelf for my keyboard maybe. That would stop me from leaning on it so much, I think. And if you need desk space to put things on, like paperwork or a telephone, maybe have a small normal-height desk elsewhere in the room as well?
posted by lollusc at 4:36 PM on January 30, 2013

If you have poor postural habits when sitting, you are overwhelmingly likely to have them whilst standing too, thus the type of desk (or chair, or stool, or gym ball or unicycle) you choose to work at is really immaterial to your long term health and fitness prospects. The only thing that truly matters is what your brain tells your body to do when you're not paying attention: if you feel something aids you in correcting this default setting, by all means exploit it, but never forget the locus of control is situated entirely between your ears.

Take heed of Kelly Starrett on daily postural habituation.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 5:48 PM on January 30, 2013

This is my standing desk. I spend about 6-8 hours a day at it (the rest of the time I'm at meetings, sitting). I built it myself, and it sits on top of my regular desk, which I like quite a lot. I actually spend a good bit of time with one leg or the other up ON the regular desk. Since I built it myself, it is just the right height for me, which is essential, I think.

I wear Merrell barefoot shoes, and stand on a doubled-over mat so that only the balls of my feet touch the ground. This forces me to have good, active posture. When I feel like sitting, I use the other part of the L, which is normal height, and sit on a ball chair.

I feel that it is a fantastic situation.
posted by rockindata at 8:08 PM on January 30, 2013

Response by poster: Link doesn't seem to work, rockindata?

If you have poor postural habits when sitting, you are overwhelmingly likely to have them whilst standing too, thus the type of desk (or chair, or stool, or gym ball or unicycle) you choose to work at is really immaterial to your long term health and fitness prospects.

Do you have a citation for that? I'm curious because when I am standing it is physically impossible for me to slouch forward the way I do in my chair. I simply cannot do it because it requires the base of my chair...if I am not sitting and tried to slouch forward the way I typically do when reading/writing online, I would actually lose my balance. My guess is that by standing, and having the monitor at an appropriate eye height, I would not even be inclined to slouch. Leaning, as noted above, is probably the greatest risk, but that's not even slouching.
posted by Miko at 8:20 PM on January 30, 2013

I stood all day for about 7 months. Then I got pregnant and couldn't do it anymore. I miss it so much. I had an adjustable desk but I never adjusted it because I was really fond of standing all day.

It took me a very long time to get used to it and I eventually figured out I couldn't do it without really, really supportive shoes. But once I got used to it I loved it.
posted by town of cats at 9:06 PM on January 30, 2013

You asked for accessories recommendations. I read that Maria Popova, the editor of Brainpickings, works standing on a wobble board. You can read a bit more here (the fourth paragraph) and here (the 6th and 7th paragraph). Makes me want to try one!
posted by mugitusqueboom at 2:11 AM on January 31, 2013

We've just been through this is in our office. We found that anything with a 'therapeutic' label on it was incredibly expensive. (See also anything for babies or weddings.)

So! We bought a load of these - they're for musicians and are consequently super cheap (because, seriously, fuck those guys.)

I'm sure if you shop around you can find them even cheaper. The only limitation is that they're really only for laptops - though I find that you can quite comfortably repurpose the mouse holder thingy for beverages.
posted by Jofus at 6:21 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm back to sitting (for now) at my new job, but at my old one, I put a "kid's activity table" on top of one of the side of the L-shaped desk in my cube. The other side of the desk (without the table) had a regular office chair in case I ever needed to sit. Obviously, with my computer up on the table, there was no way to sit and use it, but the option to sit to do other things existed.

I had that desk for 18 months and didn't sit at it once. Like you, much of the time I had meetings for half of the day or more, but there were many days where I was at my desk for the majority of the day. Standing there was never really a problem for me.

I would definitely recommend a gel mat to stand on. Beyond that, I think experiences with these vary so much that you'll never know what works for you until you try it.
posted by SpiffyRob at 8:52 AM on January 31, 2013

rockindata's link broke. Here is the standing desk. Very charming!
posted by rhombus at 9:43 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been using a standing desk for a few years now. I tried it out by just putting my keyboard on a file box and looking down at my monitor. Not ergonomically correct, but it was a good way to get a feel for it.

I had various pieces of office furniture that acted as standing desks after that. Then my boss actually found me a standing desk at another location! Problem was that the surface was just a couple of inches too high. I installed a keyboard tray so that my elbows are at 90 degree angles when I'm typing and mousing.

As for feet and footwear - I am also a barefoot shoe wearer, and I find I'm more comfortable wearing no heels when I stand. (Bonus: plantar fasciitis totally disappeared once I made the transition to barefoot shoes.)

When I started, I was often wearing clogs or things with low heels. These definitely affected my posture and comfort, and often made me "too tall" for my desk.

And when I'm sick of sitting? I have a stool that I sit on. No need for an adjustable desk, just a higher chair!
posted by metarkest at 1:13 PM on January 31, 2013

Miko: Do you have a citation for that?

It's self-evident - if postural misalignment was fixed by just standing up, there'd be a lot less pain and debility going around. You may indeed find yourself less likely to slouch your shoulders when standing, but there's a great deal more to posture than what the shoulders are doing: the angles of the feet, ankles, knees, hips, pelvis/lumbar all figure too, and the long term effects of standing incorrectly are no better than those of sitting incorrectly:

Here are a few common examples poor standing posture.

The trouble with the whole 'standing desk = health!' fallacy is that it can trick you into believing that switching to what may well only be a different kind of wrong posture will be just as good as achieving the right posture. Training your brain to keep your entire body safely aligned 24/7 is the sole imperative; it's entirely free, and you're really no more or less likely to achieve it whether you hang out all day in a chair or on your feet.

By all means try a standing desk, just beware not buy into the manufacturer's marketing that the product is some magical panacea that obviates the responsibility you have to master your own body.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 5:06 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It's self-evident

No, it's not really. The link looks quacky, and links to stuff that also looks quacky. That's exactly why I asked for a citation.

just beware not buy into the manufacturer's marketing that the product is some magical panacea that obviates the responsibility you have to master your own body.

Mmm hmm. Well, don't worry; I'm not "buying into" anything - I haven't as yet even been on a manufacturer's site. I'm just asking for people's own direct experiences with a standing desk, because I am tired of sitting all day.

Saying "good posture is important" is in general uncontroversial, so I'll take that much and leave the rest. Thanks.
posted by Miko at 7:28 PM on January 31, 2013

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