I have been using a standing desk of some sort for two years now. The health benefits have been widely discussed so I won’t rehash them. Standing up has had some particular productivity benefits for me and how I work.
Proof of Concept
People immediately asked me why I was using a standing desk: health reasons, weight loss, etc. None of those applied to me. There seemed to be mounting evidence that it was just a good thing to do. But I wasn’t sure I was up to standing all day and I wasn’t prepared to ask to purchase a standing option without being somewhat certain.
I began with an ultra simple set up. I already had a swinging arm for my monitor, so it was raised up. I purchased and brought in a Rubbermaid Roughneck storage container, turned it upside down and put my keyboard on it. This wasn’t a random purchase. I had measured the height of my desk, added the distance to wear my hands should be, slightly lower than my elbows, and looked for something that (a) was broad enough to support a keyboard and mouse pad and (b) was tall enough. A stroll through my local DIY store and the storage containers looked the best.
Switching at Work
This setup worked fine. The monitor was a bit low but I didn’t experience any particular discomfort. Instead, what I noticed was that it tended to make me sharper and more focused when I was standing. It also eliminated a problem that some tall people have: avoiding hitting their knees on their desks while still having their chair at an appropriate height. Now it was time to see if I could do something more functional.
I’m fortunate to work somewhere that has regular ergonomic checkups and so I asked for one and they were willing to purchase a sit/stand desk recommended by the specialist. While some staff had received ergonomic desks for health reasons, my lack of a health or wellness rationale might have meant that I needed to buy it myself.
The specialist brought in an Ergotron Workfit desk, which is a pretty simple setup. There are lots of accessories but it’s essentially a tray and monitor holder that slides up and down an arm.
The Lawyerist blog has a good review of the Workfit. As I commented there, I agree with it entirely. It is an inexpensive option that works nicely in a typical corporate environment. It may not work on all lawyers’ desks. In my case, I have been able to position it so that I have a great view of the lawns around Osgoode Hall. Since I have a small conference table and chairs in my office, my desk and its position doesn’t really impact my ability to work with others.
Standing at Home
After about a year, I decided I’d rework my home desk. It was a typical “Scandinavian” kit furniture – not Ikea but you get the picture – of a desk and a hutch. I decided to use the hutch as the monitor stand but it was a bit too high. Once it was the right size, I could add a shelf – from Ikea! – to create the keyboard component.
Since I was using the hutch, this wasn’t going to be a sit-stand desk. I use a laptop as my primary computer, though, so if I need to sit, I can take the laptop off the desk and sit down at my desk or sit elsewhere in the house. I cut the bottom 8″ off the bottom of the hutch. That was the height necessary to bring the monitor into my line of sight.
The Ekby shelf from Ikea and a pair of brackets was easy to install on the two main braces of the hutch. It was easy to measure its placement since it would be fixed in place.
As I mentioned, there were some personal benefits. I feel sharper throughout the day when I am standing. I tend to wander away from my desk when I’m thinking or find myself shifting my weight throughout the day. This additional fidgeting probably has some health benefits.
It has also driven me further towards being paperless. I have opted for a much smaller desk because I don’t have – or want to be tempted to have – stacks of documents or “in” boxes. Nearly everything I touch is electronic and, when it isn’t, I scan it in using the organization default multi-function printers.
All in all, it has been a good two years. I was hopeful the initial experiment would work out and I’m pleased that I haven’t found it to be a flash in the pan. Our organization has acquired additional Workfit stations so I am seeing them more often as I wander around the building. Standing isn’t for everyone but it can be done cheaply and is worth giving it a try if your organization – or home – office allows for it.