My Experience Using a Standing Desk After 30 Days

A month ago I converted from a sitting desk to a standing desk. Since making the change, I’ve learned the good and the bad, and like most that have switched to a standing desk, have come across a few small surprises along the way.

freedom from a sitting desk

Our bodies weren’t really designed to sit as much as we do. I think what really even got me interested in the ‘standing desk trend’ was an infographic, Sitting is Killing You (link to original location, but image was reported broken there, so click here for a direct copy of the infographic image). It has stats in it like: the average person sits over 9.3 hours a day, and what sitting for long periods actually does to your body. The New York Times had a write up on sitting and health as well.

How is that for an attention getter?

It is easy to blow stuff like that off though. For me, I was really just tired of sitting so darn much. I get restless and start feeling super un-productive if I can’t get the blood flowing.

I have worked in several settings, but for at least the last 10 years, I have been in an office setting that involves sitting. I was the guy that would stand and pace while talking on the phone just to give my legs a break. Even worse, when I was running my own marketing agency for a couple of years, I was putting in very long hours and sat well over the average of 9 hours a day at some points.

So I made the switch 30 days ago. Cold turkey.

alvin-opal-standing-deskLet’s cut to the chase. Standing desks, the custom ones, are pretty pricey. They look worthwhile, but there are tons of creative alternatives. Just look at all of the great standing desk ideas on sites like Lifehacker.

When I made the decision I couldn’t bear to sit any long, I came across Greg Meyer’s standing desk post after his experience after two weeks. I liked his style of standing desk. It is simple! An Alvin Opal drafting table that you can buy for around $180. I got mine at Blick Art Materials.

Pros and Cons of using a standing desk

First, the pros:

  • Feeling of freedom when standing and being able to move around
  • Focus on the task at hand – I find myself drawn in more to my work
  • Posture – My posture feels better and more upright
  • It is welcoming – It feels amazing walking up to the desk and just start to work. No chair to push out of the way. Cheesy, I know, but it is very zen like.
  • Encourages productivity by more intentional work

A few cons, or rather things to be aware of:

  • Your feet can get tired – Standing in one spot for a long period of time probably isn’t that great either, so you will need to balance back and forth a little and pace if needed. Take a lunch break and sit then to rest your feet. (Ironic I know)
  • Takes time to adjust – Like anything new, sometimes making something a new routine can challenge you. In this case it is positive.
  • Sit breaks sometimes needed – It seems ironic, but sometimes during a phone call, I will need to sit. To fix that I got a drafting chair. I only use it when needed, but it is less than an hour overall.
standing-desk-ergonomics

Standing desk ergonomics – Illustration by Tinkering Monkey

Is standing while working worth it?

So… would I consider switching back to a sitting desk? No way. I love this new way of working. I honestly feel like it has given me a boost in productivity. Since I love what I do, even if what I do forces me to spend several hours a day indoors working in an office setting, and given I have a choice like this, standing desk it is.

The best part about it, is that even after standing all day, I still have enough energy to go running, or hiking, or hang out with the family, it isn’t as tiring as you’d think.

If you are in an office setting that might fear ridicule from co-workers. Understandable, but who cares? They will probably follow suit at some point anyways.

UPDATE: Follow Up After 2 Years of Standing Desk Use

Update on October 27, 2014:

2 years after originally writing this post, it is evident, standing desk use is more than a trend. It is indeed here to stay. Look at all of the new standing desks, accessories, Kickstarters, and more. Also all of the people aside from myself illuminating the benefits.

I thought it would be appropriate to put a quick update in about what I’ve learned after 2 years:

  • Rotating between sitting and standing is key. Don’t stand all the time if you can help it. I now swear by using a height adjustable standing desk.
  • Use an anti-fatigue mat. Many early commenters said they recommend a gel mat. I agree, such a key part to the standing experience.
  • Spread the word. Too many people are suffering sitting so spread the word about how easy it is to switch.

Stand ModernIn March 2014, I launched StandModern.com, a community and online store based on modern standing desks and accessories. We currently have standing desks, conversion kits to use on existing desks, and anti-fatigue mats. Everything on there is vetted by veteran standing desk users. We are picky about what we curate. Check it out and if you hear about great products, let us know. We want to build a strong community and promote standing desk use for everyone!

Question:

Have you considered switching to a standing desk? Do you have a similar, or a different experience?

(photo credit: Beth Scupham)

Comments

  1. I’m glad that you’re enjoying the standing desk. For me personally, standing all day reminds me of way back in the day when I worked in sales (shudder), and I don’t think I could make the transition to one without horrible flashbacks. However, you absolutely can’t deny the health benefits of a standing desk! I could see how those facts alone would convert more active folk than I. :)

    • Thanks Bailey, so do you shudder at the sight of those ‘soft’ pads that go on the floor in front of cash registers / retail sales desks? ;-)

      I can understand that you might not have the desire to stand all the time while working, or using a standing desk, but anyone can definitely relate to the benefits of standing up and walking around for breaks etc.

  2. I too, made the move to a standing desk environment. After wearing a pedometer, I was shocked at how little movement we actually get when we work at a computer! I work out regularly but the days I don’t I get only 3000-4000 steps (the goal is 10k steps per day to maintain health). So I went to the standing desk for more movement and to alleviate any back issues.

    I’m still looking for the ideal standing desk but I’ve created a pretty good one by raising my monitor with a 15″ high shelf and buying a Furinno Adjustable Vented Laptop Table. I highly recommend a fatigue gel mat to stand on. And now, all I do is kick off my shoes and get to work.

    • Debra, thank you for sharing, especially about the pedometer and gel mat!

      Pretty surprising I bet to find your step count was so low. This gets me thinking I should find my old pedometer and see what I am at. Didn’t know about the 10k steps per day recommendation!

      I recommend the Alvin Opal Drafting table, it has worked well for me and is stable enough to hold two monitors, a desk phone and other items.

      What gel mat do you recommend? I never thought about that.

  3. Scott Rouse says:

    I wasn’t ready to commit to a full-time standing workday, so I went for the “GeekDesk” which adjusts from standing to sitting (http://www.geekdesk.com/). It wasn’t cheap, but it was less than a lot of the other convertible options.

    I do need to get a fatigue mat, though. That would really help.

    • Thank you Scott.

      I saw those GeekDesks. Look very cool! I think honestly that may be an upgrade for me in the future.

      You and Debra are making me think a fatigue / gel mat might be something to seriously consider.

    • Mark, Scott, this is very tempting… sitting and staring at a screen all day isn’t a good combo. But I’m not sure I want to stand all day either. At least it seems like it would be easier to decide to go for little walks during the day if you’re already standing up — does that make sense in your experience?

      • Scott Rouse says:

        It does make it easier for me to take a quick stroll out of the office (to get a drink, check on the garden (I work at home), etc). That’s good, but it can, sometimes, make it a bit tough for me to stay focused.

        I’d say that’s offset by the fact that I can change from sitting to standing or vice versa if my mind is wandering too much.

  4. A Height Adjustable Desk or Table would be a great solution for those who need to fluctuate their sitting & standing time at their desk. With a ModTable base from MultiTable.com, you can adjust the height of the desk to your comfort level. They are even customizable, and you can choose your own base color as well as top size & color! There is a lot of health information on the website explaining the health benefits of standing while you work. We are always here to help with your ergonomic set up, and any questions you may have!

  5. It’s amazing what people come up to keep from getting soft at work. As attractive as getting a standing desk sounds, I personally would like a desk that could switch between modes, a convertible so to speak. Nevertheless, I think that standing while you work is still conservative when compared to other options sitting on a bouncy ball or walking while you type. Thanks for taking one for the team. I’m sure a day will come when I too get to experience a standing desk.

    • Thanks Martin! If you can’t justify getting a standing desk that can quickly switch modes as you mentioned, I recommend getting an adjustable drafting chair so you can sit at moments when you feel like it.

  6. There are many specialized standing desks such as certain variations of the telephone desk and certain types of wall mounted desks. Some drafting desks and architectural drafting tables are also made for standing.

  7. Martin, I think that the padding for the anti fatigue mat is not thick enough, and the mat isn’t big enough if you are a taller person.

    Ordering a second mat instead.

  8. Mark, have you tried an adjustable height desk? This might be a good solution for your feet– you can alternate between sitting and standing without having to move to a separate desk (also better for your metabolism annnnddd productivity at work since you won’t have to stop what you’re doing.) I’m a big fan of mine, can you tell?
    I use a NextDesk Terra at work, which is great– it has a huge surface area, it looks good, and it moves electronically and smoothly so I don’t have to stop what I’m doing.
    Unfortunately, it’s too big and expensive to use at home for me. But they’ve just come out with something smaller and more affordable for home setups and smaller spaces. They call it the Solo.
    Anyway, an adjustable height desk like one of these might be a good solution for you. I stand for most of the day, but my feet start to get a bit tired after a while too, so I’ll take short “sitting breaks.” If you’re interested, here is their site: http://www.nextdesks.com/
    Thanks for the post, Mark!
    Natalie

    • Natalie,

      Thanks for sharing the Next Desk idea with me. I hadn’t really checked that out, so that is pretty cool. The standing desk marketplace is heating up with lots of great products!

      My temp solution is a drafting chair, which works pretty well when I need a break. I stand most of the time too, but there are times when a sitting break is needed, especially I find when on a long phone call.

      Best wishes, also I enjoyed checking out your art website!

    • DantheMan says:

      Natalie, it would be more fair to the audience if you identified that you work for Next Desk.

  9. I work for the Bureau of Health Promotion at the Utah Department of Health and a lot of us have started switching to standing desks. What we have done is separate our work spaces. So I have a monitor for sitting and a monitor for standing. That way I can make a choice. I have Lupus and get really tired sometimes so standing all day isn’t always an option for me. But I love having a choice. For me it’s not about liberation though. It’s that when I sit I tend to scrunch my shoulders up. I don’t know why. But when I stand I don’t do that. So I’ve had less pain.

    • Thanks Amy for sharing that. That is pretty cool that the department is using standing desks! It proves that everyone from public to private sector are noting the benefits. Best wishes.

  10. The Ikea JERKER makes a fantastic and very inexpensive standing desk. (Google it.)

    Ikea no longer carries these, but (at least in the SF Bay Area) they are frequently available on Craigslist, often for well under $100. (Just be sure you’re buying the right thing, as several different SKUs were called “JERKER.”)

  11. This desk is a retrofit option that’s way cheaper and easier than most adjustable desk options (with the exception of the DIY versions). I want to stand more at work, but I like the idea of having the option to easily switch to sitting whenever I want to. Looks like it’s fairly new on the market…

    http://www.varidesk.com

  12. You should see what I just had built into my office. I wish I could post pictures, because it’s pretty awesome. A full standing desk set up. I absolutely need an anti fatigue matte for my feet, and a stool to rest my feet from time to time. But I absolutely love the new position, SO much more productive.

    • Congrats Brian, it feels awesome doesn’t it? To be able to walk up to the desk and just get going is an amazing thing. When you get some pictures we’d love to see!

  13. I’m looking at switching to a standing desk when I move this summer. One that I’ve seen included a treadmill so that the user is walking and not standing.

    Do you have any thoughts about the pros or cons of having a ‘walking’ desk instead of a standing desk?

    Thanks.

    • David, Thanks for dropping by! Best wishes for your transition to a standing desk, you will love it. Drop back and let us know of your experience later.

      Regarding the treadmill desks, I too have considered that but haven’t made the switch. I haven’t done a lot of research on it, but concluded for myself that I feel I can get exercise other ways, and don’t need to invest in a under desk treadmill now.

      Any others that might have experience, it would be awesome to hear yours!

  14. It may sound silly, but I just found a box and set my computer on top of it- works like a charm, and it is fully “convertible”.

  15. We started making our own line of Standing Desks right here in California. Originally they were just for the few of us in our office, most of us are athletic and have little aches and pains going on, standing and sitting throughout the day has helped me a lot.
    We’ve really enjoyed them and so we started selling them. http://standeeco.com
    They’re 100% Bamboo – extremely durable.

    • Cliff,

      Thanks for sharing the story and link to your standing desk products. Very cool, can’t wait to check it out in more detail!

      • Mark,
        Let me know if you are interested, I can probably sneak one out of here for you to try out and review if you wish.
        We’ll be making more by the end of the month. Demand was overwhelming and we sold out of the first batch quickly.

  16. Everyone laughs at me because I kneel a lot at my workstation (3 mouse pads under my knee). I’ve been reading the articles for years now about how unhealthy sitting all day is. I kneel so much that now my boss is trying to get HR to buy me a vari-desk. Good on you for taking the plunge. This idea is beginning to sweep the country. To early to tell if its just a fad or not.

  17. Thanks for the post, which I found when looking for articles on using a drafting chair vs. a standing desk. I’ve been planning on buying an adjustable desk for use at home, so I can stand, sit, or use an exercise ball, depending on my mood. However, a drafting chair might end up being simpler and less costly.

    Do you think using a drafting table & chair is as good of a long-term solution as getting an adjustable desk, or are you still thinking of switching out to an adjustable desk at some point? Now that I think more about it, buying a drafting table and chair might end up being almost as expensive as getting a new desk.

    Thanks,
    – Andrew.

    • Hey Andrew,

      It is indeed a good question – get the drafting table plus drafting or tall chair combo – or go with the adjustable desk. I’m faced with that now as I debate on the topic. I think there are some very cool options out there like the Varidesk and similar but I’m not quite sure when I will go with it.

      For me though the tall chair is just a backup for when wanting to sit.

      Best wishes on your adventures and I’d be curious to find out what you end up doing! Thanks for dropping by.

      • My interior/industrial designer sister suggested to me that I go the adjustable desk route. She felt that sitting at a drafting stool for long periods wouldn’t be as comfortable as there are fewer options for one’s feet.

        The GeekDesk or something like that seems like a good middle ground: sturdy and well-build (from what I read) yet not as expensive as some other options. The Varidesk seems intriguing and I’m going to do some more research on it. At the end though I want something that works without fuss. If it’s in any way fiddly to adjust between sitting and standing, I’ll be less likely to use it.

        I’ll try to remember to follow up here once I’ve made my decision.

  18. I worked at a call center for at&t and they had hydraulic desk that went very low and very high and ever since then I’ve been hooked. I got another job at a sit down place doing dsl networking and finally after about 1.5 years me and a few others have raised our desk(not hydraulically). I worked the graveyard shift so it works out incredible for me, because I can’t fall asleep standing up haha

  19. Thanks for a very helpful article! I would love to see the infographic, Sitting is Killing You, but it’s not coming up. :-(

    Does anyone know of another link?

  20. I said I’d follow up when I finally got a height-adjustable standing desk, and I finally have one. I’m part way through day two with it, and so far I’m really happy with my purchase. I got a RISE desk from ISE group (http://www.ise-group.com). Here are some initial thoughts:

    Pros:
    – Goes high enough for me. I’m 6’4 so that was a small concern.
    – The legs look really classy.
    – The 4-position memory switch so wrks well.
    – Quiet
    – No complaints about speed.
    – Compared to the competition, from my research it seems competitively priced for what you get.
    – Made (mostly) in Toronto, so it was good for me to be able to pick it up from the factory instead of having it shipped from another country.

    Neutral:
    – It’s a teeny bit wobbly. I am not at all concerned about it, and it doesn’t bother me at all in normal usage. This could also be seen as a pro, as in “there is no bothersome wobble”. Then again, I have it extended almost to its highest position, and I have a lot of stuff on the desk.

    Con:
    – I wish the laminate finish was actual wood veneer. My old desk beside me is Beech veneer, and the new desktop isn’t as nice due to the fact that it’s fake wood. I don’t remember seeing real wood veneer as an option, but they probably would have done it if I’d asked for it and been willing to pay extra, which I didn’t.

    All in all, so far I’m very happy to have made this investment into my work life and (hopefully) general health.

    – Andrew.

    • Andrew- Congratulations on joining the stand-up community. I’ve been standing for a few years now and can’t imagine going back to sitting. One of the things that has really helped me stand all day is an anti-fatigue mat. Our company Standee Co. (www.standeeco.com) makes stand-up desks, but we also make a great anti-fatigue mat that has received rave reviews. Whether you buy our mat or another mat, I would strongly suggest you get one and you will see the difference it will make in your standing experience.
      Jim

  21. I work from home and my favorite recreational activities also involve my computer. I recently jury-rigged a standing desk for about 60 USD worth of Ikea shelving units (A tall one for my keyboard and a short little one to sit on my desk and hold my monitor up) and I have to say that I just feel so much better doing so. Even if you’re not counting steps, you just shift your weight around and generally move so much more this way. I was worried I would feel more tired but honestly, like the author said, I feel /more/ energized. It’s odd I know but if you’ve got a little money and want to try this sort of thing out, Ikea’s “Ivar” modular shelving system is awesome. It’s really cheap and it has adjustable pegs so you can get the height just right and experiment.

  22. Vincent Oles says:

    I use the Ikea adjustable leg table set at 37″ and 5″ h. wood blocks to support iMac, keyboard and tablet. So far I’m liking the transition to standing!

  23. Thank you so much for this write up. I recently purchase a Ergodepot Jarvis desk and am trying to gauge the level of acceptable wobbliness.

    When you are saying wobbly, is it that the desk shakes a bit as you are typing. My shakes noticeably while typing and find that I can make the whole thing shake by simply pushing on the front of it with one finger.

    Is this just the nature of the beast for two legged adjustable standing desks or should I be expecting better stability?

    • Hey Bill,

      Sorry for the overdue reply. The main thing here is that all height adjustable desk frames are built a little differently. At least ones that are manufactured with different specs and in different factories. I’ve heard great things about the Jarvis desk. In fact I use a similar model to the Jarvis now (I’ve switched from using only a drafting table to now using a height adjustable desk – best way to go!), but it is different. At full height there can certainly be a little more wobble than normal, but at the same time it isn’t bad.

      One of the best ways to combat it is to try using a monitor arm. This is simple to install. Another idea, try using a monitor stand. But if the whole thing is shaking it makes me wonder what top you are using. Is the top pretty light?

      • Thanks for replying.

        I have not tried intentionally overloading it to see if I can get it stable. But it is a 72×30 and it has 4 22″+ monitors on a stand (tried spreading them out as well) and two laptops and one small desktop on it with all the accompanying wiring. That was my hope as well, that as I put more stuff on it that it would become more stable. Even at sitting, I find it wobbly, not to the point it is distracting (now, after getting used to it), but disappointed that it is not more stable or stable like a regular desk. I even tried putting it up on 2x6s to see if that would help, but there is no real difference. I have no real point of reference for acceptable wobbliness so it is difficult to gauge whether it is bad or just normal.

        • Hey Bill,

          Sounds like you are doing things right. They are designed to hold their weight capacity. I’d recommend reaching out to them over there. They are good people. Probably could provide some tips with their model, as they know how its engineered to handle this use.

          Keep standing!

        • Richard Dixon says:

          I’m considering the Jarvis as well and the only reason I haven’t pulled the trigger yet is a concern about potential wobble.

          Is this an issue at a sitting height, or only at standing height? I’m a gamer (as well as software developer, work from home), I’m not sure I could live without maximum precision when playing games, but I’d be fine sitting to do that and standing when I’m just browsing the web or working.

          Are you using it on carpet or hardwood floors? I read in a review somewhere that it may be less stable on carpeted surfaces.

          Thanks.

  24. I use a RISE desk (www.ise-group.com). There’s a bit of wobble when the desk is at full height, but I’ve been using it for about 6 months and I don’t even notice it. I suppose if I pushed on the desk it would move a bit, but it’s more than sturdy enough for my needs.

    I used to have the desk on a wood floor, and now it’s on a carpeted floor. Both are fine. I have a 30″ monitor, 24″ monitor, stereo receiver, and two bookshelf speakers on the desk.

    I can’t speak for other brands, but I’m very happy with my RISE desk. I’m just a customer, no paid endorsement.

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