Why I’m (finally) using a standing desk

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You could argue that I’m a few years late to the trend of using a standing desk for my freelance home office. The truth is that I’ve been very happy with my antique architect’s drafting table (bought dirt cheap at a yard sale) for more than ten years. I didn’t want to abandon it, I didn’t want to have to buy another monitor, and I couldn’t stomach the idea of having another piece of furniture. After doing a bit of research, I came to the conclusion what I *really* needed was an adjustable standing desk—which seemed to offer the best of both worlds by allowing me to keep the drafting table while adding to its utility.

Why make the leap now? While I am mindful about getting up and out of my desk chair on a regular basis, it’s still far too easy to be sedentary. That’s especially true as a freelance writer working from home, when you’re not necessarily up and around an office going to meetings or coffee klatsching with coworkers. An increasing body of research tells the tale: It’s unhealthy to sit all the time, even if you’re a diligent exerciser.

The claim is that standing at your desk can offer health benefits such as lowering your risk of obesity, cancer and death, as well boosting your mood and alertness. Supposedly, you burn a couple more calories an hour. I can’t attest to the accuracy of all that, but I figure it can’t hurt the longevity of my freelance pursuits. (The caveat being that you don’t want to overdo it either, because some say the standing desk trend also carries health risks.)

After reading a pile of reviews, I concluded that my best bet as an iMac owner was the Ergotron WorkFit-A, Sit-Stand Workstation – for Apple. (They have other units for PCs, laptops, etc.) Just about a month into the sit-stand world, here’s my take:

Pros of Standing Desk

  • I definitely get up and standing on a regular basis, and I feel like it helps me focus on good posture. My goal is to alternate every hour, which fosters a “get this task done, and take a break” rhythm.
  • It’s very smooth and adjustable, even with a heavy computer. At the bottom, it’s exactly at the height I used to have my monitor, sitting on a dictionary. At it’s highest, I can look straight ahead. Some of the adjustable desks I looked at wouldn’t have gone high enough for my tastes. Depending on personal preference and the height of your existing desk, you could probably use this as long as you’re 6’2″ or less; I’d recommend finding a demo at your local computer shop.
  • It was simple to set up—it just clamps on the far side of the desk, and the foot of the computer slides securely into a tray.
  • The work surface is large enough to accommodate a legal pad and accessories such as my Time Machine backup drive.
  • The keyboard tray, which initially seemed like an aircraft carrier deck, is comfortable and plenty big enough for keyboard and mouse.

Cons of Standing Desk

  • The web reviews that complain about it being bouncy at the standing position are valid, so I plan to rig some sort of a post to isolate it. I’m not a terribly heavy-handed typist, but it’s enough to be annoying. At the lowest level, the bounce isn’t as bad, but shoving a hard eyeglasses case underneath does the trick.
  • You definitely need to invest in a mat, particularly if you spend a lot of time barefoot like I do. I’ve been very happy with the WellnessMats Original Anti-Fatigue Floor Mat, which is more comfortable than I’d expected.
  • It ain’t cheap. (On the other hand, some of the fancier, motor-driven adjustable standing desk options range well into the thousands.)

At the moment, I still do more of my writing when I’m sitting down, but I’ve found the standing position is particularly suited for doing tasks such as researching and transcribing. Obviously, there are many hacks that I could have used to accomplish the same thing; heck, I used cinderblocks and planks as a TV/stereo platform for years after the post-college statute of limitations. But at this point in my freelance career, I believed it was an investment in my health and well being to have something that fit exactly with my needs and aesthetically matched my computer and office.

And in case you’re wondering: No, there is no treadmill desk in my future. That, if you’ll excuse the pun, would be a step too far.

Share your experience: Do you do any of your freelance work at a standing, adjustable, or treadmill desk? What brand did you buy, or did you build a DIY unit? What do you like or not like about your setup?

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for sharing your research Jake. I’ve considered buying one; however, for now I just stand at local coffee shops that have window tables at about the right height. I like it for the first hour or so, but then I want to sit. Perhaps this would change with time.

  2. Princess Jones says

    Good luck! Please update us on how it goes in the long term. I’m just curious. I’m not considering a standing desk at all. I’m too lazy for that and I know it.

  3. says

    I can only say I’ve thought about it. But I find my 1 1/2-2-hour walks take care of the health benefits of a standing desk. Much cheaper, too. 😉

    One of my clients who I visit every November has one and swears by it. She has the adjustable sit-stand kind you have.

  4. says

    @John, that’s definitely one solution! I find an hour is just about right. The mat definitely helps–for the first week or so, I was just on the hardwood floor, and it was tiring. You might get some weird looks strolling into the local java hut with a mat, of course…

    @Princess, will do! Your honesty is laudable.

    @Cathy, that was the eye-opening aspect of some of the research I read–the issue appears to be the time spent sitting, which isn’t necessarily negated by the exercise we do. Obviously, this is highly individual, and a matter of choice/life balance as much as science. 🙂 I’ll definitely keep everyone updated on the research, as I recognize that the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.”

    Disclaimer: I won’t deny that the promise of an extra 150 calories burned a day equates to a guilt-free IPA.

    Thanks for all the tweets and Google shares!

  5. says

    Welcome to the club! 🙂

    My first standing desk was a DIY option. At the time there weren’t a lot of standing desks on the market, and the few I found didn’t quite work at my height. When I moved offices last year I wanted another option, and I’m not at all into the modern furniture look. So most of the desks on the market weren’t going to cut it for me.

    As it turns out, I had a secretary desk in another room and the wood fit in well with my library-turned-office. It also happened to be the perfect height to use as a standing desk with my existing laptop stand. So I moved that into the office. It’s beautiful, and it does triple-duty — a standing desk when closed, an extra seated desk when opened (where I work on sketches and anything I’m doing by hand), and the seated desktop also serves as a side table for the recliner where I do a lot of reading and editing when it’s opened up. Love it. 🙂

  6. says

    @Jenn, you were definitely ahead of the curve, and I vaguely remember reading your post and thinking, “Hmm, I should do that.” It just…took a while. The triple-duty secretary desk sounds like a great ergonomic and aesthetic solution!

  7. EP says

    I want one of those! I’m just not sure if I have the discipline to stick it out. Stand it out, I mean.

  8. says

    Thanks, EP. It does get easier once you get used to it.

    Thanks for pointing out the additional option, Elizabeth. Will be interested to see if they can figure out a solution that would work with a desktop computer in addition to laptops.

  9. susan rescigno says

    I’m a freelance editor/indexer and need to get up and stretch occasionally while working, as well as take walks before/after work. I’m also thinking about buying a “kneeling chair.” Does anyone know anything about these? Thanks.

  10. says

    Wow, Susan, I haven’t seen those in years. My sister, also an editorial type, used one back in the ’90s. My recollection is that it was OK for short time periods, but not comfortable as an all-day solution. Tough on the knees.