At the beginning of February I got a wild hair and decided that I wanted a stand up desk at work. A coworker had one, and I enjoyed the idea of it. My back has never felt good when I sit for extended periods of times (aka – car rides, etc), and so working in a mostly-sitting job for the past 3 years had not been enjoyable for it.
I had put off a stand up desk mainly because I was constantly switching offices and job roles – but have felt rather settled since October, and decided it was time to make it happen.
The main problem at that point was that I have a very large desk, in an oddly shaped office. There was really no where else that the desk could move to, and asking for a new desk did not seem practical. The desk, an L shape, has a hutch over half of the L. The half without the L faces out a window, but standing there also would have put my back to the door, which is not enjoyable. Although, if I had had a desk without a hutch, I probably would have used this solution:
When I realized moving the desk around in the room wasn’t a possibility, I had almost given up hope – but I had my coworker (who also has a stand up desk), come over and see if she could help me plan something. She was the one that realized that my monitors were actually the exact size of the height of my hutch, and that that height was at exactly eye level.
At that point, all we had to do was take off the doors of one side of the hutch, put my monitors inside, and find a small shelf for my keyboard and mouse. It worked beautifully. I thought I’d do a short post to show you my stand up desk, and to tell you how I like it – 1 month-ish later. Spoiler Alert – I love it.
I officially converted my desk on February 4th. The transformation took most of the day – because I was doing bits and pieces between meetings. And because I had to find something to do with my collection of food that was in the hutch. And something to put my mouse and keyboard on. The first mouse/keyboard stand solution was a Styrofoam cooler. It worked – but by the end of the day I was totally over it. I picked up a ClosetMaid Shelf from Lowes Hardware as well as anti-fatigue mat that afternoon, and I was completely set. Adjusting to the desk did take some time, though. Here are my notes from the first few days:
Tuesday 2/4 – Set up on this day, so I only stood at the desk for about an hour at the end of the day, but my legs felt tired quickly
Wednesday 2/5 – I had a site visit in another town, so I was only in the office for about 2 hours
Thursday 2/6 – The first ‘real’ day in the office, I felt very unsettled all day. I found myself wandering down the hall to see what others were doing easily, and couldn’t concentrate on tasks. I felt like I was always ‘about to go somewhere’. My legs were also incredibly sore at the end of the day.
Friday 2/7 – I still had a major unsettled feeling (but who doesn’t on a Friday?!) – but my legs did not hurt nearly as bad.
By the next Monday (2/10), my legs were feeling better and I finally began to feel settled and able to concentrate on work. I made myself stay in one place and work on a task for about 2 hours, and it broke my ‘let’s go wander’ habit. With that said, I definitely walk around the building more now than I did before. If I need something I find myself a lot more apt to get up and go ask the person instead of using chat, email, or even the phone. I don’t really think that is a negative. Face the face communciation is awesome. Although, my coworkers may be sick of seeing me. :)
A lot of people have asked how I STAND FOR THE ENTIRE DAY STRAIGHT (and, while I’m certain I can stand for long periods from working previous stand-up-only jobs), I don’t usually stand the entire work day. I always sit down for lunch, and there are rare-to-no days that I don’t have at least a few meetings – which also involve sitting. Also. When I get home? I sit a lot.
So what are the pros and cons of the stand up desk?
- More face to face communication with coworkers
- Absolutely no back or neck pain – which I used to get headaches from multiple times a week. (At one point in the month we received more than a foot of snow, and we worked from home that day – after sitting all day my back felt horrible!)
- I drink more tea. Uhm. So this may not be a direct effect of the stand up desk – but, when I cleaned out the hutch to put my monitors in, I had to put my vast tea collection somewhere – and it is now out in the open, where I see it every day, so I’m finding that I’ve drank more tea in the past month than probably the past year. Plus – it’s been cold!
- I am not sitting all day. And – after the first few weeks of adjusting – I feel a lot less slugglish at the end of the day, which has led to more end-of-work workouts. If only the weather would hold!
- I find myself doing less ‘filler’ tasks – such as surfing the internet – because I’m not cozy in my chair. If I do get internet-distracted, I tend to reign it back in much quicker
- I get more excited to eat lunch. Uhm. I didn’t really need encouragement for this (so maybe it should be a con ;)) but some days I am super excited to sit down at the lunch table
- My posture is improving. Before I had to slump to see my monitors under my hutch. Now, I can stand up straight (and find myself standing up straighter even when I’m not at my computer)
- I can do yoga at work. Well. Kind of. I don’t stand still all day. I wiggle, a lot. And do tree pose. And calf raises. And bend down and touch my toes. One day I even tried to let my knees go limp and use my abdominal muscles to keep me upright for as long as possible. Or until I forgot, and toppled to the side. I just … move more.
- I get to talk to people about how awesome standing up at your desk is. :)
- I pee more? Sorry if that is TMI – but have you ever been sitting for a long time and suddenly move and realize you have to pee really bad? When I’m standing, I feel the need almost immediately, and am able to go. (Because standing while needing to pee is unpleasant). So much healthier for my poor-not-awesome-at-working-always-like-and-enjoy-making-stones kidneys.
- More face to face communication with coworkers. Yep. That one is a pro as well as a con. This comes in two forms – 1 – I wander when I don’t want to complete a task and 2 – people assume you’re not doing anything. My office is a fishbowl. There is a main entrance for the building beside my door, and a floor to ceiling window that everyone who comes in that entrance can see into my office. My door opens directly beside the entrance. Fishbowl. Everyone. Sees. Me. For the first few weeks people would see me standing and 1 – want to ask questions about the desk (which was awesome!) and/or 2 – assume I’m not working on anything, and stop in for a chat (I love chatting, but..). As people became more used to me standing, this has decreased, but still a con. Mainly from my point – of I tend to wander. :)
- Harder to hold meetings in my office. I do have a small table in my office that we can sit at if I need to meet with someone, and I can un-dock my laptop and bring it to the table, but someone can’t pull up a chair beside my desk like they used to be able to – and most people seem to feel awkward standing beside me (which I understand – it is strange)
- Mondays. You know that dragging-I-just-want-to-zone-out-and-pretend-Monday-isn’t-happening feeling? That’s harder to do when you’re standing. There are some days that I’m just feeling lazy, and I don’t want to stand. I do sometimes, then, take my laptop to my small table and work – but my back can barely handle it for long at all now
- Sore-Leg-Days. After a long workout, and your legs feel like jello the next morning? Please stand for the next 8 hours. I was afraid that standing all day would make me want to wimp out on an evening workout, but I’ve found the opposite – I am actually energized to go run after work. Other than sub-arctic temperatures.
So, there it is. Stand up desk, 1 month and a few days later. Have you ever worked at a stand up desk or stand up job? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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