“There is no real difference between work and play – it's all living.”

-Richard Branson

Getting Started With a Standing Desk

Standing (or stand-up) desks have been increasing in popularity, though they’ve been around for centuries. Some notable users of standing desks are Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, and Gina Trapani.

Why switch?

Health benefits. I switched to cure and prevent posture problems. 4 out of 5 common posture problems share sitting as a possible cause. [1] I’ve already gotten compliments about my (supposedly) improved posture.

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

However, as with anything, don’t do it in excess. Standing up (or sitting down) for long periods isn’t good.

My equipment

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. Stack multiple mats or just get one really good mat. It’ll help reduce fatigue even more.

  2. Use a stool that’s high enough to get work done while sitting. [3]

  3. Get an adjustable desk. They’re super expensive but look good, are easy to adjust, and provide a lot more desk space.

My experience

I’ve been using my standing desk for a couple of months now. Overall I’m satisfied, but it’s not all rainbows.

It sucks at first. You get tired very quickly and your feet hurt. Because I work from home and also use my laptop for personal use, and because I don’t have a stool, I stand for way too long and started out being in more pain than you should be. Take it slow, don’t be stupid like me.

If you work from home, you may be tempted to go barefoot. However, I find using shoes helps with the fatigue. I wear boots with insoles (because I have flat feet).

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, so 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. Make sure the keyboard and monitor are at a good height. Your elbows should be at a 90 degree angle and you should be looking straight forward. This is difficult to pull off with a laptop as the keyboard and monitor are attached. In my case my arms are slightly raised and I’m looking slightly downward [4].

I feel I’m more productive, because I’m less focused on distractions as they’re not worth getting tired over while standing. As I get more used to standing and become less bothered by fatigue, I may have to start relying on something like the pomodoro technique to stay productive.

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] I currently use a chair which is too low to reach the computer from, so when I sit I’ll do some planning, or tilt the screen and read, or tackle a problem with pen and paper. But because sitting for me means I don’t get to use the computer, I don’t take enough sitting breaks and that’s dangerous.
[4] 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.