Standing Desks: 1 Year Later

So it's been a year since I started doing the standing desk and I'm still a major advocate of it.  In this post, I'll talk a bit about the experience over the last year and why I will probably continue to use the stand up desk.

I initially started with my desk at home and liked the results.  It ultimately led me to create what I can only an "active living room" instead of a passive living room.  The standing desk was comfortable and I've found it even easier to slip in and out of the computer screen.  This lead me to set up my own standing-desk at work.  My first attempt was similar to my first attempt at home; mostly to try out before I invested some money into the project.  But it was enough to get me put into the work newsletter when my friend snapped a picture of me and sent it to the editor.
My final standing desk at home.

Originally, I was considering going through the hoops and loops to have work cover one given that I could make an argument about both my health and productivity for such a thing, but that would require chasing down signatures and appointments and more time than was worth it.  So I dropped the $30 on the materials I needed and assembled a standing desk at work as well (see below for more details on how I created it).

Overcoming Awkwardness
The biggest challenge to the standing desk isn't necessarily the task of standing an extra 6-8 hours than one normally does.  No, it's the awkwardness of standing at a desk while surrounding by colleagues who sit or even at home.  It's not how we've been programmed to think about and associate with computers.  We have desktops and laptops--no standtops.

There's also a decent amount of awkwardness to overcome as other people see what you're doing.  I've had to explain my standing desk dozens of times in the last year (And sometimes, repeatedly to the same person).  So, you'll get some raised eyebrows to be sure; they are mostly harmless.

Getting used to standing at the computer is just something you gradually ease into.  Paying mindful attention to your body and posture, you can slowly customize the height, your distance, etc until it feels natural.

The Health Benefits
While I knew ultimately it would be healthy for me to switch, but it was nice to be vindicated from others places about the benefits of not sitting so much throughout the day.  But I have found it healthier in general by standing.  I move more while standing (yes, that includes dancing in place--sorry coworkers!) and I also stretch my legs more.  I'm more apt to stretch the hamstrings, the calves, the quads, and the back almost without thinking while standing at the desk whereas this was something I had to continually (fail to) remind myself with while sitting.

My primary standing desk.
I've also found that I'm urinating more (Yeah, I know--readers, if you're still here, you are asking why I'm sharing this with you as well as following up with why would this be a "health benefit" and not down under the challenges section, but stay with me!).  I'm drinking the same amount of liquid I usually do but I need to make more bathroom trips.  The reason is of course, I'm standing erect and not sitting in chair. We all know the trick that if you are sitting, you're more likely to stave of urinating longer.  We all notice when we feel the bladder full but are still far from a toilet, we tend to bend or even sit to alleviate the pressure.  With a standing desk, you're largely left to go with less delay and stress on your bladder.  I know that when sitting I'd often put it off as long as I can because I wanted to finish something, was too involved with a project, or not even fully mindful of the ache in the bladder.  But when standing, you recognize that you can't stave it off and since you're already standing, just trot right off to the bathroom.

But this increased bathroom visits has two wonderful secondary effects.  The first is that it gets me moving more (bathroom is about a 300 step round trip), which is always a good thing.  But it also helps me "refresh" my mind by having me step away from work.  This helps my work and productivity remain constant throughout the day.

Finally, despite the extra bathroom trips, I am more productive and attentive.  We all know the experience--sometime, after lunch, our brains start to fog out.  Sitting at the chair, we may start to get a case of the jello-head-neck-bob, fighting off (failingly) the heavy desire for a nap.  Eyelids are heavy, the screen is blurry, and you can feel your body begging for a nap.  This never happens with a standing desk.  I've loved this part of the experience.  I am always awake and attentive when standing.

The Cost and Arrangement

Set up at office location #2
As the Chronicle of Higher Education points out (yes, they apparently write regularly about such things--who knew?), you don't need to break the bank to make a feasible standing desk.  Instead of throwing out the old desk, use it as your base for your new one.  I've relied largely on the plastic container drawers that you can find at a variety of stores.  They range from $10 to $30 depending on how many and how big.  But a secondary result is more storage space.  So if you already have some storage bins or containers, you might save yourself money and use those.

I consider the height that would be necessary for my hands and the screen and determine what would work best.  There will be some adjustments so save receipts and try several different mixes.  It can be trickier with a laptop because screen and keyboard are attached.

The Challenges
Occasionally, I do need to return to sitting.  I find this particularly true with certain types of writing.  But I'm still not sure if this is dynamic of standing or if it's the place since I find long concentration in my apartment a bit challenging with the abundance of distractions therein.  That still needs to be determined.

The other major challenge is that I'm less tolerant of sitting for longer periods.  Whether it's a class or a long meeting, I find myself getting antsy and needing to stand within an hour.  It's also harder for me to remain attentive while sitting.  I slip faster into sleepy mode and get distracted with uncomfortable chairs, desiring to be standing instead.

Regardless, the challenges are marginal compared to the benefits reaped and I sold when it comes to standing desks.  Anyone else out there trying a standing desk or something similar?  I would love to hear from you about how it's going.  

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