I work in an office, and since last year I have been contemplating a transition to a standing desk, when I began reading articles about how sitting all day is responsible for my slow but certain demise.
Yes, I bike commute. Yes, I run regularly. I ride on weekends. But I do not believe these activities can completely compensate for the hours and hours of sitting I do each day.
I began to notice my consistently poor sitting posture in addition to some pain radiating down my left glute (sciatica?) if I sat for more than an hour, and started seriously considering a different way to spend my days at the office. I thought a standing desk might be better for my legs and strengthen me somehow for the running and riding events I like to do.
A randonneuring friend sent me a photo of his standing desk, a few friends mentioned that they used them regularly, and on the 12th of February I began my own foray into standing desk territory.
I imagined the change from sitting to standing for most of the day would require some adjustment, but I was not sure how. The articles I found did not really chronicle what standing all day meant for their bodies.
They mostly covered what people’s desks looked like and how much they liked them. Not many really discussed what the change to standing meant for their bodies.
Perhaps the adjustment is largely individual, but I wanted to jot down what I’ve experienced going from sitting to standing through most of my workday.
The standing desk I use is a Standee Classic. Resembling a large podium and made of bamboo, the desk space is 20″ by 17″ and does not shift up and down.
Week 1-plus: February 12-21
- Tuning in setup. Basically this requires me to re-establish the right monitor heights so that my neck and back do are not strained. Fortunately, the desk is at a good height for my hands to type away. Given the irritating tendon issue I’ve been having in my right hand, I need a good typing setup.
- Conversation starter. Almost everyone who passes by sees me standing (I work in a cubicle environment) and has asked me about the switch to standing. Some offer advice about the setup and potential additions I can make, such as a standing mat that has some cushion to it. I prefer not to make these kinds of add-ons unless it’s really critical so I’m going to wait and see how this bare bones setup goes.
- Heels are problematic. Wearing heels and standing all day puts uncomfortable pressure on the balls of my feet and irritates my toes, which unfortunately are susceptible to ingrown toenails. Sad face. Back to the comfort shoes we go.
- Lower back fatigue. Over the course of the day my mid to lower back will tire as the day wears on. As I start to notice this in the afternoon, I will figure out ways to take sitting breaks. I am not moving my computer back and forth so I look for things to do that are offline in nature.
- No sciatica-type pain. There is no pain down my left side like I get after sitting for a long period. This feels great.
Week 2: February 23-28
- Weekend riding tired my legs. This week I don’t start out with fresh legs. Felkerino and I rode a 200K over the weekend and I still feel it a bit in my body.
- Sitting breaks. I notice lower back fatigue and a slight ache after couple of hours so I take short sitting breaks. They are wonderful! Who knew I could appreciate sitting so much! After five-ten minutes I stand back up and get back to it.
- Setup tweaks continue. My monitors were too low so I raised them using miscellaneous items around the office, including a cardboard box full of old reports and a “vintage” wooden in-box that I flipped over and set my laptop on. It’s exciting to realize the utility of random stuff around the office.
- Body tweaks. My right ankle (which has always been a weak spot) is talking to me. It is not painful, really, but I can tell I’m not used to standing this many hours during the week. The balls of my feet have also been a little cranky at the end of the day so the sitting breaks have been really helpful for these areas, too.
- Inversion! I used to take breaks to stand. I still take walking breaks to move around, but I notice that when coworkers come by to talk they see me standing so they also remain standing. Sometimes I welcome the break to sit and talk (even though they may be enjoying the break from sitting to stand) so I have started inviting people to sit down when they are in my cube.
- Posture. My posture has definitely improved since I switched to standing. I feel more open, especially when I compare it to how I generally sit (sat?) at my desk. It’s also easier for me to stretch, and I do stretch my shoulders and upper back more throughout the day.
- Focus. The first week-plus of standing I was painfully aware of every person who passed my desk. This week the novelty has worn off and I am able to be extremely focused when working, I believe I’m even more focused than when I work sitting. I know people pass by, but I pay no attention to them. Most now know that I’m at a standing desk so they are not asking me about it as much.
- Energy level. Additionally, my energy level is higher throughout the day, which I attribute to standing and naturally moving around more because of it. I used to really have an energy dip around 3 p.m., but that is not happening now.
- Permanence. Some people have mentioned to me that they would like an office space that allows them to go from a standing to seated position at the computer, or that they would like to be able to easily move their laptop off the standing desk so they could work sitting. I want to keep my computer in the same spot and don’t want to be moving it around. I’m not sure how this is going to go when the 300K-plus brevets start or even after a marathon, but inasmuch as possible, I want to successfully and completely adapt to working at the computer while standing.
Overall, the change to a standing desk is going well. It is more of a transition than I thought and it is taking time to get everything in my space “just so.” However, I am so happy that I’m feeling more energized and focused throughout the day, despite some of the bodily adjustments. Here’s hoping I stick with it and that my body continues to healthily adapt to the new working environment.
Have you worked or are you currently using a standing desk? I would like to hear your experiences, including if there is anything to consider that I have not yet. Thanks!