For nearly a decade I’ve been doing something that is shortening my life, if I’m to believe the spate of studies and articles in the past few years, including these Fit is a Feminist Issue posts here, here and here.
I have a sedentary job. I sit all day at a computer or in meetings. Or drive between work locations and meetings. All day.
I’ve been wanting to try a standing desk for a long time, but never managed to overcome my inertia and actually do anything about it until recently. I had a lot of excuses. The office furniture at my company was very new, and I didn’t want to make a fuss by asking for something else. I also didn’t want to stick out among my colleagues (although one of our managers had successfully (and uneventfully) made the switch to a standing desk).
I tried a few temporary, do-it-yourself solutions (putting my laptop on my filing cabinet, and stacking a couple of boxes or bins on my regular desk), but those had been really unsatisfactory because I couldn’t get the height just right, and couldn’t get enough space to use my mouse, which tired my mouse hand. I do a lot of document editing and desktop publishing, and need to be able to move my mouse hand freely and ergonomically to avoid making my chronic carpal tunnel syndrome worse.
Then I started working from home, and realized that I had a lot more flexibility to create a work space that was healthier and more varied.
A couple of weeks ago I watched a video from Mark’s Daily Apple (below) about his company’s standing-friendly office space, and seeing the variety of solutions that they used inspired me to start playing around.
Rather than messing around with more boxes or bins on my home desk, I simply set up my laptop on top of a high chest of drawers in my living room (see photo). I’ve been working there ever since. Turns out it’s the perfect height for me to work at, with plenty of sideways room for a mouse and papers if necessary. I tend to like a minimalist work surface, and I can put any extra paperwork that I’m not currently using on my nearby dining room table, or leave it in my home office/studio (in what was originally my home’s master bedroom).
I love the standing arrangement for a lot of reasons. I’ve always preferred changing my position frequently whenever I had the choice, and now I have an even larger range of options. I can shift from leg to leg every few minutes, take a temporary seat on a high stool from time to time, rest one of my feet on a low stool, or move to one of my other nearby chairs to do work on my phone (like read an e-book, post to social media, or use one of my iPhone apps).
If I’m thinking or watching a video on my computer (I watched a 2-hour webinar this week using the new arrangement), I’ll move around a lot – pacing, sweeping the floor, doing squats, calisthenics, dance warm-ups, stretches, or aikido basic movements. Then when I need to use the keyboard or mouse again, I just move back to the laptop.
The only downside to the long-term standing that I’ve noticed so far is that my feet and ankles get really fatigued. I’m dealing with a sports injury to my right ankle, and I have to watch that the swelling doesn’t get too bad. I think all the frequent changes in position are good for my leg injuries overall, though – I’ve noticed that I don’t get stiff the way I used to when I sat in a desk chair all day.
In addition to my work I’ve also started doing some of my extracurricular visual arts (drawing) at my “standing desk” too, and I absolutely love that! I can quickly move in and out to get different perspectives on the piece I’m working on, and my dominant arm definitely doesn’t get as fatigued as when I used to do work on my lap, or at a regular table.
All in all, I regret that I waited so long to try to work standing. Now I just need to wrap my mind around standing at meetings…
You may also be interested in:
- Get out of that chair and get moving
- Chairs are evil
- Standing desk one year in
- Excessive sitting, more studies, more really bad news, but what to do?
- Emma Donoghue guest posts about her treadmill desk
Michelle Lynne Goodfellow works in nonprofit and small business communications by day, and also enjoys writing, taking photographs, making art and doing aikido. You can find more of her work at michellelynnegoodfellow.com. Michelle has also written about her breast cancer journey on her blog, Kitchen Sink Wisdom.