Many of us here at Atomic take advantage of height-adjustable workstations, or “standing desks.” Some of the claims made in support of standing desks may be difficult to detect (burns calories!) or require time to verify (lowers obesity risk!), so I won’t reference any of those in this post. What I do have is first-hand experience.
Benefits I’ve Noticed
Maybe using a standing desk will benefit my health in the long term, but that sort of thing is hard to gauge. However, I have noticed a few things about standing while working:
It encourages stretching.
After standing for a while, I may notice that my legs are feeling a little tight. Or maybe there’s a little kink in my back. I notice these things to some degree when I’m sitting as well; it’s just much harder to stretch while sitting in a chair.
It helps stave off afternoon drowsiness.
Staying sharp in the afternoon is hard enough as it is. Standing up helps to keep me alert since I can’t slouch into a chair.
It keeps me moving.
When I’m standing, I’m constantly shifting my weight around. And if I need to think through a problem, I might pace around a bit. I’m sure this varies a bit from person to person, but I know I start to feel stiff if I don’t keep my body moving.
If you’re not ready to shell out some cash for a standing desk, you can certainly build your own. To really get the benefit of a standing desk, you’ll want the following features:
The ability to quickly switch from sitting to standing
The transition should be easy, without the need to reconfigure your workspace, plug things into different places, etc. I once tried a desk that didn’t quite have enough range between sitting and standing. When I switched to standing mode, I had to put a book under my keyboard, a book under my mouse, raise my monitor to its limit, and change the angle of my keyboard…so much reconfiguration that it discouraged me from switching very often.
Also, if you’re going to use a standing desk regularly, you won’t want to stand at it all day. That would be tiring. So the ability to switch positions quickly without breaking your train of thought (or while waiting for code to compile) is important.
Sure, stacking up some boxes and putting a laptop on top will technically allow you to work standing up, but your body will hate you. Good ergonomics still apply while standing. That means, at a minimum, a standing workstation should allow you to:
- Position the top of the monitor at eye level
- Place the keyboard within easy reach of your hands with your arms by your side, bent at 90 degrees, with no bend at the wrist
If you’ve found some other tangible benefit to using a standing desk, or have some clever workspace optimizations, please share them in the comments!