Work at Home: Using a Standing Desk

Standing deskThis past spring, after years of working at a desk or while laying in a bed with a laptop (most recently a MacBook Air), I decided to begin standing while doing any work at the computer. I’d already transitioned from the laptop which Kaleesha was using to write her first book and had moved over to a Mac Mini at the desk full time. Two things happened shortly after this transition. The first was that the increased time sitting at the desk without the ability to move around to work led to increased back pain. This led to the second which was a bit of renewed research into the benefits of standing to work. I’d previously tried it out but had never pushed myself to make it my primary position to work and with the laptop it was too easy to just sit or lay somewhere.

In March, with increasing pain and a scale that insisted on inching slowly higher I decided to make a few changes. First was to stop sitting while working. I used a bit of extra plywood in the shed to construct a raised display shelf and, a bit lower, an adjustable shelf for my keyboard and trackpad. It took just a couple hours to put together and paint. I built it with the notion that during the transition period I might want to move the display down and sit occasionally but never did. I’ve been standing ever since. Well, I have been known to sleep on occasion and sit at the table for dinner. I also spend a bit of time lounging with the iPad on the bed or couch throughout the day but work time, 3–6 hours a day, is standing.

Six months in and I can report that I am very happy with the decision. During the first few weeks I was often aware of standing and had a little pain in my legs and feet. I could get the work done that I needed to get done but it wasn’t effortless. Today I regularly stand for 1–2 hours at a time with no thought to the fact that I’m standing. Put another way, standing has become the natural way that I work. I usually put in an hour or two between breakfast and lunch and another 1–3 hours between lunch and dinner. Occasionally I’ll need to do an hour or two in the evening. My schedule changes a bit day to day which is quite nice as it allows for some flexibility and variation between standing, sitting and reclining.

Of course it should be noted that standing is only one aspect of a healthier lifestyle. I can’t say that I’d seen any weight loss for most of this period. In fact, due to my diet I’d seen an increase over the past year which continued after I began standing. I’ve since gotten back into walking 2 miles a day and in July I began tracking my diet more closely, both practices have helped me steadily and slowly drop half of the weight I needed to drop. By January I will have achieved my goal weight and will go into the new year with the healthy habit of standing while working.