Stay Sharp by Standing While You Work

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.

Sound ergonomics

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!

  • Nick Normal says:

    Hi Brian! For 7 years I was a freelancer from home, and built a wooden high desk accompanied by a medical-grade adjustable high-chair; desk is at 35″ which is suitable for my person (5’6″). One thing I installed was a base-bar so when I am in the chair and I stretch my legs out I have something to ‘push’ against – actually stretching my legs. Otherwise I stand. Now I work from an office 3 or 4 days/week and the main thing I advocate for is my main monitor being on a repositionable arm. It has about a 20″ vertical window and that way I can adjust the viewing angle to suit my body any given day. I too try and shift my weight around to stay active; I notice you have a mat on your floor and curious if you’ve experimented with various mats or are happy with the one you use? I haven’t found an ideal mat solution yet.

  • Brian Vanderwal Brian says:

    Hi Nick, it sounds like you have a pretty great setup. I had forgotten about the fixed-height desk with high chair option, but we do have a few of those around the office as well.

    My monitor is also on an adjustable arm, which makes it easy to reposition when I switch from sitting to standing. I haven’t tried other mats, but the ones we have here are Wellness Mats, which I’ve been pretty satisfied with. Most of the time I even take my shoes off when I’m standing.

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