Seeking Personal Experiences with Using a Standing Desk
July 20, 2004 5:03 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any experience with the benefits of using a standing desk? I'd like to spend my day upright instead of on my butt, and I'm having trouble finding much information online about such ergodynamic set-ups. All I can find is information about the desks themselves (I already have an adjustable-height desk), and no info about benefites, experiences, etc.
posted by arielmeadow to Grab Bag (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've noticed people who are forced to stand all day for work bitch about it, and wish for a sit-down job. Aching feet, swollen ankes, and such.
posted by smackfu at 5:23 PM on July 20, 2004

I watched a documentary about Donald Rumsfeld and he absolutely swore on his standing desks. He says he nearly always works standing up, as it keeps him active and lets him get more done. As someone who can quickly start daydreaming when sitting down, I can see his point. As an old and reasonably healthy man, it seems to be working for him!
posted by wackybrit at 5:26 PM on July 20, 2004

Ooh, I just found a brief piece about how he stands and works.
posted by wackybrit at 5:27 PM on July 20, 2004

One of my former colleagues abused his management budget to order one for himself, and swore by it. I tried it, and liked it a lot.

I would be most interested to know how it works out for extended bursts of concentration, such as programming or writing. For a more broken-up style of work they seem ideal to me.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:11 PM on July 20, 2004

I believe standup desks are best for when one gets lower back pain from sitting too much/incorrectly. Of course, you'll want a desk that matches your height. In what I've read, Churchill, Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Virginia Woolf, and Thomas Jefferson used them. They are certainly not a new concept. Some newspaper articles can be found here (click "publicity").

Personally, I like to stand for paperwork, but sit for computer stuff.
posted by Sangre Azul at 7:38 PM on July 20, 2004

Our great-grandparents (turn of the century) walked, on average, 12 miles a day just doing normal business. Today it is like a couple miles or less. Perhaps stand-up desks would be a good way to recapture some of that.
posted by stbalbach at 7:50 PM on July 20, 2004

Response by poster: Our great-grandparents (turn of the century) walked, on average, 12 miles a day just doing normal business. Today it is like a couple miles or less. Perhaps stand-up desks would be a good way to recapture some of that.

stbalbach, it is EXACTLY that concept that's inspired me to try standing while I work. Anything that integrates a little extra movement into my life is a good thing. Intentional exercise (ie gym, running, etc) is important to me, but lifestyle exercise (ie standing, walking, moving while working) seems to be the missing ingrediant in most computer folks' lives.

I used to work retail, so I know what being on your feet all day feels like -- I would finish the day feeling tired, as opposed to the last 6 years of being chained to a desk, when I finish the day feeling creaky and antsy.
posted by arielmeadow at 8:07 PM on July 20, 2004

I worked in a big office where several people requested their desks be raised. With one exception - a woman who'd had back surgery, they all went back to sitting within a year.

I understand very well the desire to be able to stand, but I think the only real solution for the average person is one of those electric raise/lower jobs. Hopefully, you can get your employer to spring for one. It's unwise for an employer to refuse ergonomic requests in general, so maybe they'll spring as long as the cost is within reason.

[as for Rumsfeld, I think he stands because of the broomstick up his ass]
posted by scarabic at 8:08 PM on July 20, 2004

Well, if you worked retail, you probably already know this, but it's all about the shoes. Nurses, chefs--all the professions where you have to stand all day have figured out good shoes to save your knees and back.
posted by LairBob at 8:58 PM on July 20, 2004

scarabic, do you know why they went back?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:23 PM on July 20, 2004

I'm figuring on buying a treadmill and building a desk for it. Walking and working at the same time!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:55 PM on July 20, 2004

Alas, I think scarabic is right about the electric. I bought one that's manual, and its enough hassle to raise that I don't use it. This will improve when I replace my CRT with a new flat panel. Now if only my keyboard rack would do the same, as easily.

When I bought my desk, the salesman said the idea is to change positions, not simply to always stand. He said also that these springy stools, that look like old fashioned bike seats, were also a good variation, ie, part of the day in normal chair, part perched on a stool, and part standing.

If I was the sort to stay in one place for years, I'd want to custom design my own workspace. An old portable concept of mine is now made more practical thanks to the flat panels and wireless technology. One final missing link remains.
posted by Goofyy at 11:03 PM on July 20, 2004

Have you tried taking a job or walk after work?
posted by Keyser Soze at 11:05 PM on July 20, 2004

posted by Keyser Soze at 11:05 PM on July 20, 2004

I used to work in an office where several people sat on yoga balls all day (like this). They claimed they were less stressful on muscles and joints, and I always thought that being able to bounce and roll around a little would be a little more active than normal computer-sitting.
posted by bendy at 11:49 PM on July 20, 2004

All of the folks I worked with who went through this felt a need to spend at least part of their day standing. This appeal has been well articulated here already. But I don't think they were all prepared to start spending their entire workweek on their feet (nor would that have been healthy). The real trick, as with most things, is balance, being able to toggle between standing and sitting as it suits you. The switching itself is probably a good thing as it introduces a variety of positions to your workday, which allleviates excessive stress on any one muscle group. I don't think standing 100% of the time is particularly better for you than sitting. Sitting is why we have asses. We're just not supposed to sit on them all day every day.
posted by scarabic at 1:41 AM on July 21, 2004

This isn't narrowly topical, but my sister stood at a bookcase to study while she was in nursing school - she couldn't fall asleep that way. To stay alert while standing, she'd hula hoop for hours- all while studying.
posted by notsnot at 5:01 AM on July 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

So, anyone have any sources for standing desks or lectern desks? Most of the (hardwood) ones I'm seeing are in the thousands -- anyone know of anything more affordable?
posted by josh at 5:19 AM on July 21, 2004

You might also look into those kneeling chairs as something to alternate on--they're great for your spine, and one of their advantages is also supposed to be that since you're maintaining your upper body upright, it's a more "active" form of sitting than just slumping into a chair.

I've used one at times, and they're pretty darn comfortable. They definitely do encourage you to keep your posture better than a normal chair.
posted by LairBob at 5:30 AM on July 21, 2004

Plus, since you can get those kneeling chairs in higher versions that keep you almost as tall as you are standing, you might be able to alternate into it without re-adjusting the desk height.
posted by LairBob at 5:31 AM on July 21, 2004

As someone who used to work on their feet for hours at a time, I have one warning for you. Standing around all day isn't very good for your legs or feet. It can cause circulation problems, and vericose veins.

Not to say that sitting on your ass is a great alternative (then you have bad posture, poor flexibility and weak abdominals to worry about). But I would instead recommend taking breaks in the day to walk around the block of your office, or if you have a small gym in the building, work out for a few minutes ever couple of hours.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:50 AM on July 21, 2004

With the kneeling chairs, though, watch out for the damage it does to your knees. Especially if you're at all overweight.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:14 AM on July 21, 2004

Most drafting tables come in taller heights that are suitable for standing and working. When I've worked at places, or at school, where I've had to do manual drafting I'd alternate sitting or standing, changing whenever I got uncomfortable. The key is that we had taller chairs than the standard office chair.
posted by LionIndex at 7:44 AM on July 21, 2004

I got one when I had some back pain a while back. I used it about a third of every day and sat in a chair at another desk the rest of the day. It helped my back, and I think I had more energy for work while standing part of the day. Then I changed jobs and have been without a stand-up desk for some time. I miss having the option to stand. We had Herman Miller office furniture and the desk was essentially a large shelf mounted to the wall with some shelves mounted above and a task light.
posted by caddis at 7:55 AM on July 21, 2004

"The best posture is the next one," meaning change your position often. There's a good back called The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body, and Design which has more information about chairs than you'll want to know, but some interesting stuff. She discusses the use of the ball mentioned above as well as various ergonomic designs. She likes the kneeling chair, but the original which allowed for movement, not the knock-offs which don't rock. One of her main arguments is that the healthiest ergonomic position (other than the next one, of course) is perching or reclining. Both have your legs at about a 135 degree angle, which is better for your posture than trying to cram yourself into the 90 degree angle depicted in ergonomic materials. The ball as well as the kneeling chairs allow for this, but so do stools or tall chairs, although the work surface must be adjusted to compensate.

Ideally, you could have an adjustable surface so you could sit/stand/perch, but you could also sit on one chair for surfing, another for coding, etc. One setup at home, a different at work.

Also, for me, a walk at lunch is very helpful.
posted by callmejay at 8:00 AM on July 21, 2004

Response by poster: Have you tried taking a job or walk after work?

I walk home from work every day (a 1.5 mile uphill trek), and also run stairs 2x/week. I'm relatively fit...just feeling punished by my chair-based lifestyle.

I've used yoga balls in the past, and after a couple months I mastered the art of slumping on a ball. I seem to be the master of slumping. I think part of the issue is that when I sit, I like to sit cross-legged and doing that on a ball was a feat of slumping and balance.

My work desk is adjustable height, so I'm thinking that I'll toggle back and forth between standing and sitting.

Thanks for all the responses, everyone!
posted by arielmeadow at 10:01 AM on July 21, 2004

Just put it at standing height and get a bar stool. Non-swivel variety (trust me.) You can sit fully on the stool, or stand fully up, or kinda do the one ass-cheeck half-way sit. Best of both worlds. Every desk I use has this set-up. It helps blur the line, you know? If you sit at your desk you are in "work mode" and then if you stand up you're in "not working mode." Removing that physical barrier helps remove the mental one, and permanently keeps you in "working, but not too hard" mode.
posted by ChasFile at 2:02 PM on July 21, 2004

i pace in my office while i work (i'm an attorney). my computer is at the sit-down desk, but my case law and notes are on the book case, propped on a levenger editor's desk, right at standing height for me. i don't like typing standing up and i get tired standing all day, but my back hurts less when i spend a good part of the day not sitting at the desk.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:23 PM on July 21, 2004

Nobody was meant to either stand or sit the whole day. You can get various diseases from standing all day... talk to some teachers about this before you do it.

What you really need is both an area you can work at standing, and one you can work at sitting. Alternating between the two will keep you in good shape and keep you from having problems in the future.
posted by shepd at 3:40 PM on July 21, 2004

What we need is the TotalLifepod (tm), in which the user is suspended, weightless, in a saline gel with a virtual lcd display attached and moisture-proof chording keyboards. It has the added bonus of generating electricity for our robot overlor.43#$@#22.......................................................
posted by mecran01 at 4:22 PM on July 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

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