It's been said that sitting is the new smoking. In the age of "knowledge work" in which we spend over seven hours a day on average sitting behind a computer, labor rarely resembles what it did throughout nearly all of human history. Before the computer or typewriter, most of our ancestors' traditional trades like farming or construction involved a lot more time on their feet. Of course, each came with their own physical risks and health hazards to be mitigated. But sitting is definitely one that modern man must deal with.
While sitting may not quite be the new smoking, you should definitely consider how much time you sit during the work day and whether standing could have significant benefits.
I've been working at a standing desk for almost two years and it's honestly been a life changer. But I didn't quit sitting entirely cold turkey. I went with an adjustable height desk and still spend plenty of time with it lowered, typing from the comfort of my chair.
When it comes to solutions, there are a lot to choose from at various price points. I'll do a product comparison based on my experience in a future post. First, I wanted to share some reasons why going to a standing desk has been worthwhile for me and why I'm never going to take up the habit of sitting down all day long again.
Benefits of a Standing Desk
Better circulation. Think about the last time you felt pins and needles in your legs or had to wiggle your toes just to get some blood flow to the lower extremities. In my experience, standing up for a good portion of my work day greatly improves my circulation. No more feet falling asleep from lack of blood flow or feeling swollen from too much of the red stuff.
Reduced body pain. As a knowledge worker, I'm fortunate to avoid the backbreaking labor described by Dickens and Steinbeck. But sitting in a chair all day definitely takes its toll on my spine, hips, and shoulders. At one point in 2012, my shoulders and forearms became so swollen from the irregular posture of my desk chair and keyboard combo that the I developed carpal tunnels to the point I couldn't type. With a standing desk the carpal tunnels, as well as any pain in my hip flexors and lower back, has vanished.
We bring home enough frustrations from our jobs as it is. Why bring home chronic occupational injuries? For me, fixing the cause of these injuries has resulted in an overall improvement in my quality of life, on and off the job.
Greater productivity. When you are in pain, it's hard to focus. The occupational hazards described above are productivity killers. But if a simple adjustment like standing to work at a desk can rid you of the resulting body pain, you can reconquer your productivity. Add to that the increased mental acuity you'll get as a result of better circulation and you'll be burning through your work day.
More innovation. Standing up while working not only helps me be more productive. It gives me the freedom to innovate. When a creative idea comes to mind while standing, I can simply grab a dry erase marker and with a step or two laterally out from behind my keyboard, I'm white boarding in no time. A desk chair simply doesn't give you that freedom. If you're going to innovate, your work space needs to feel more like an artists studio than a stenographer's cubicle.
Conversation starter. My standing desk has been a topic of conversation since day one, when I built a makeshift stand up solution out of bookshelves laid across two CPU towers. People would walk by and ask "Hey, what is that?" to which I would casually respond: "Oh, it's the way of the future." We'd chat a bit about why someone would ever want to work standing up (see items 1 through 4 above). If nothing else, it gets a discussion going.
To my surprise, since that initial prototype our office has purchased dozens of Varidesks. When I ask people how they like their new set up, I get rave reviews from delighted employees. Not only is this an ergonomic adjustment for individuals within the organization, it's a cultural shift for the organization at large, away from the "that's the way we've always done it" mindset. I'm just glad to have helped get the conversation started.
If you decide to ditch the chair, it may take a while to get used to standing at first. To ease the transition, make sure your set up is properly fitted to your height. You'll probably want to wear soft soled shoes or even stand on a padded kitchen mat in socks. But after the initial withdrawal and chair cravings wear off, most people I've talked to are glad they made the switch. Trust me, it feels great to stand all day once you get used to it. It also feels great knowing I've helped so many people quit sitting already.
I'm hoping you take a stand, too. So look for an upcoming post with some specific product recommendations. In the meantime, let me know if you have any more questions about standing desks.