Observations from a few months with a standing desk

standing desk illustration

Late last year, after seeing one too many studies and infographics about the dangers of sitting all day, I decided to push back my chair and give a standing desk a try. It was a little rocky at first, but once I got used to it, it actually feels pretty great. I initially tried to hack together my own standing setup, but eventually I went all-in and got a GeekDesk adjustable height desk. It was pricey, but luckily we were moving to a new office and I had to get a new desk anyway.

Here are some things that I’ve learned during the process

The first few weeks were a roller-coaster

The first week I worked totally standing up felt great. I couldn’t figure out why everyone wasn’t doing this. I couldn’t see a downside. Well, maybe my tendency to pace back and forth a bit, which lead to hilarious situations like this:

The second week, however, was a nightmare. My legs and lower back started hurting really bad, and I was completely wiped out by the end of the day. I wasn’t really prepared for it, and started wondering if I had made a huge mistake.

Things sort of evened out in the third week. I didn’t feel quite as rickety at the end of the day, and it slowly got better over the next few weeks to the point where it started feeling pretty natural.

A good mat is super important

One of the things I did to make standing easier was invest in a good mat. I got a Wellness Mat, the thickest one I could find, and it made a huge difference. Pretty much all the discomfort I was experiencing went away within a few days after getting the mat.

I’m focused, more alert, and I’ve been sleeping better at night

I never have to fight off mid-afternoon drowsiness anymore. I’m alert and energetic pretty much all day. It’s a pretty amazing shift. I feel great when I get done with work, and according to my FitBit, I’ve been sleeping on average an extra 20-30 minutes a night. Also, my RescueTime productivity score has never been higher, but I’m doing a few things to boost my productivity, so I’m not sure I can pin that entirely on the standing.

I found I do some things better standing, and other things better sitting

This was interesting, and something I hadn’t expected. It turns out coding, writing blog posts, and email all feel really natural standing up, but doing any design work just feels wrong. I have to sit down for that. That’s great though, because it presents the opportunity for a pretty neat mind hack. By raising and lowering my desk, it’s just enough of a physical change to get my brain to switch gears and fully get into the zone on what I’m now working on.

Verdict: It’s awesome (but a little expensive)

All things considered, I love my standing desk. The biggest drawback was the price. That made me really nervous about it. I mean, what if I spent all that money and ended up not liking it? Luckily, I love it, but I really hope the price comes down. I see that being a pretty big barrier for people who are curious to try a non-sitting workstation. That said, there are several lower cost options, but they’re not adjustable.

If standing all day doesn’t seem right for you, consider some other ways to reduce the amount of sitting you do at the office. Maybe get up from your desk to check emails or take phone calls? Or, consider trying walking meetings? There are lots of ways to get creative.

Have you tried a standing desk? Are you considering it?


3 Comments on “Observations from a few months with a standing desk”

  1. Carl Harris says:

    I read similar articles and built a stand up desk from the parts of an old sit down computer desk and some brackets (the type where you can move the shelves up and down). It’s fixed to a wall but works great. For typing work I prefer to sit down but for some stuff I like to use that.

  2. Does your fitibit report more steps during the day as well?

    • Robby Macdonell says:

      Honestly, no, and I think that’s kind of weird. I *think* the reason it’s not reporting more steps has something to do with Fitbit trying to filter out noise until it detects a pattern of steps. That’s a wild guess, but seems like what’s happening when I keep an eye on it for a while. It doesn’t seem to start counting steps until I take four or five in a row.