Using a Standing Desk

19 November 2013

Standing (or stand-up) desks have been around for centuries and now they’re trendy in tech. I gave them go – here’s what I learned.

Why switch?

Health benefits. Mainly posture related. 4 out of 5 common posture problems share sitting as a possible cause. [1] Since I’ve started using a standing desk, I’ve gotten compliments about my (supposedly) improved posture.

Other purported benefits include burning about 30,000 extra calories a year (which is about 8 lbs of fat), reduced back injuries, less back pain, quicker reduction of blood glucose level after a meal, and less fatigue.

It’s not all rainbows. As with anything, don’t do it in excess. Standing up (or sitting down) for long periods isn’t good for you.

My first standing desk

These photos are of my first standing desk. Since then I’ve had better and worse standing desks. I no longer use a standing desk, but I would if I easily could.

My stand-up desk Phone stand

The purchase of the laptop stand and mat came out to ~$60 total (~$30 each).

In between the adjustable laptop stand and the laptop I have a portable ergonomic stand that raises the back of the laptop and gives me a slightly better angle for typing. I picked it up at the dollar store.

My adjustable laptop stand came with an attached side-stand which I think is meant for your mouse, but I use it for my phone. I superglued a plastic bread-tag to it which keeps my phone’s charging cord nearby when my phone’s not charging.

Possibilities for better equipment

I have a pretty basic setup, it works great, but there’s room for improvement.

  1. Get a better anti-fatigue mat. I heard stacking them also helps.

  2. Use a stool that’s high enough to get work done while sitting.

  3. Get an adjustable desk. They can be very expensive but they look great, are easy to adjust, and provide a good amount of desk space.

My experience

I’ve used a standing desk for about a year. Overall I’m satisfied, but there are drawbacks.

It sucks at first. You get tired very quickly and your feet hurt. I don’t have a stool at my home setup, so I stand for way too long which can be painful. Take it slow, don’t be stupid like me.

If you work from home, you may be tempted to go barefoot. However, I find the extra support you get from shoes helps with the fatigue.

Take breaks, sit down, walk around, exercise, stretch. I like to do heel raises while working. Movement is key, whether you’re standing or sitting; make sure you’re never still for too long. I find it’s easier to get moving since you’re already standing.

You can still have bad posture while using a standing desk. The keyboard and monitor should be at a good height. Your elbows should be at a 90 degree angle and you should be looking straight forward. This is difficult to do when using a laptop, you tend to look downwards too much. [3].

I feel I’m more productive when I use a standing desk. I can get too comfortable and tired when sitting.

Questions? Feedback? Contact me @dideler

Special thanks to @MsKatbow for proofreading and @SoftwareNiagara and friends for listening to me talk about this at DevTricks and discussing the topic.

[1] Sitting by itself isn't really the problem, it's sitting poorly (e.g. too long, hunched, laid back, etc).
[2] You can also use a foam or yoga mat, which may be cheaper, but I don't know if they will be as effective.
[3] Posture tip: Keep your neck straight. If you need to look down, don't stick out your head and bend your neck. Instead, try to keep your neck as straight as possible by tilting your head.

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