Sitting at work is killing you! My journey to standing at work

I almost spit out my morning green smoothie when I read this sentence a few week’s ago:

“Your job is killing you. If you sit at a desk for more than four hours a day, you increase your risk of death from any cause by nearly 50 percent and boost your risk of heart problems by 125 percent.” – Wired: Get a Standing Desk

What? Doesn’t that shock you? It did me.

Fresh from the Christmas break, and thanks to the gruesome links in a post from Box of Crayon’s Michael Bungay Stanier, I quickly became convinced that I needed to create a standing desk for myself using my ephemeral new years resolution energy. So, what was the transition like? Well, let me give you the full disclosure from the moment I decided to stand at work.

My new standing desk has won me over in the last 3 weeks: more energy, better mobility, and more incentive to hydrate myself and eat well!

My new standing desk, complete with bean cans (now you know what I eat for lunch!)

  1. Decide to test the concept for a week, before committing to purchasing anything – start to rummage for items in office that will provide basic surfaces that I can use to MacGyver myself a standing desk. The picture in this Wired article was most useful in providing an easy visual template for the best ergononic setup.
  2. Desk: Legs are adjustable – phew! Raised my entire desk. It’s a heavy bugger, but with 2 of us, we managed to raise the desk as high as it would go. But, uh, oh. First obstacle, the desk doesn’t raise to the optimal height that Wired suggests, which is to have your keyboard at or slightly below elbow height.
  3. Keyboard platform: Found an old shelf that was not being used, and adapted the coke can idea from this article, to raise my keyboard using bean cans (hmmm… adzuki and black beans staring at me all day – great cholesterol lowering motivation – bonus!)
  4. Monitor: Cludged together a monitor stand out of a side table that was on the balcony. Amazingly, it is exactly the height it needs to be – top of monitor is now roughly eye level when I’m standing. I tilt my Mac at the suggested 20 degree angle, and I’m off.
  5. Total setup time: 1 hour. Total cost: £0. Elegance points: 0. It’s a bit ridiculous looking, but who cares when you’re saving your health, right?
  6. Day 1: Begin to stand at about 1pm. Feet start to hurt soon, but switch to trainers that I have handy. That works – feet feel fine.
  7. Day 2: The full 8 hours. Surprisingly I feel fine. It’s nice to sit down at the end of the day, but I don’t feel exhausted. In fact, I move around a lot more, retrieve books, get myself tea, water, and snacks more often, and in general have higher energy. This is going well.
  8. Day 3: Feet still feel ok, but I see problems in my future, if I don’t switch up my shoes more often.
  9. Visit to the Crocs store: I never thought I would set foot in this store. I used to mock people who wore these. I grudgingly bought these sexy little numbers, on sale for a steal at £15! Again I had this idea that I would go cheap and make sure this was something I’d commit to.
  10. Day 4: Dear Crocs, I was wrong. Where have you been all my life? I love you.
  11. Day 5: Floating on air in my crocs, I lightly glide around my office. I am not kidding – I feel clouds underfoot. I write an email. I turn around and grab a book. I take a call. I file some papers. This kind of variety based work is much easier. This is really, really good. Except when I want to take notes in a paper book, which I often do when I’m on a call – the height of the keyboard area is a bit too low for note taking without slightly stooping, but it’s not so bad that I will need to really do anything about it. I make sure I have a text window always open to jot down quick notes, and I’m fine.
  12. Day 6: I find a couple of things I prefer sitting for. Conceptual work – if I’m working on an idea that requires drawing or mind-mapping (which I do at the beginning of most projects), then I will grab some paper and sit at the meeting table in my office. It’s a nice change of pace actually. Also – I find if I am watching videos for any extended period of time, then I prefer to sit – but usually only if they are a bit boring, which tells me actually that this standing thing can be a tool that gives me clues as to when I’m stimulated enough. When I’m engaged and fully into what I’m thinking about, watching, or working on, I don’t even notice the standing. But if something is boring then I immediately want to sit down – I feel the energy drain immediately.
  13. Day 7: OK, you guessed it – I love this standing desk! It’s way better than sitting. I don’t get an afternoon energy slump. I feel more energized even though I am using more energy, and am I imagining things or does my derriere look a bit more pert? Magic standing desk – thank you! It’s funny but I’ve even found myself dancing a little bit here and there if I have music playing in the background.
  14. Day 14: Still liking this, feet do tend to get tired if I don’t switch up my shoes daily
  15. Day 21: I still love the standing desk. I heard about people making the setup even better using a floor mat, so I ordered this anti-fatigue mat from Amazon today, to get some added extra foot cushioning. I have found that on days that run longer than 8 hours, or days that I don’t take enough breaks (even walking counts as a break), I start to feel tired at the end of the day. Again, this setup is a natural method of reminding me of the things I need to do: take breaks, drink water, etc.

Overall, I was surprised at how easy it was to switch to a standing desk. It fits in nicely with my overall health goals (who doesn’t want to be more active?) and I like the motivation it gives me to stay hydrated and well nourished during the day. It’s a contant reminder that I have committed to my health.

Funnily enough, I’ve come to like my home-grown standing desk, beans and all. It’s been 3 weeks, but now I don’t think I”ll upgrade to anything fancier for the time being. As an aside, in the last 3 weeks I’ve been back to the crocs store twice now, and bought 2 more pairs. I keep them by my desk, and then switch to outside (aka, more fashionable) shoes, when I go to meetings.

Overall I can’t recommend enough that you setup a standing desk for yourself asap. You’ll love it.