It’s not you… it’s the desk… no, no, it’s me… oh, I’m not sure I’m ready for this…
Personally I have spent most of my adult like as a designer, sat at a desk working on a computer, and it was only when our coworking space introduced standing desks that I first tried them out. This led to me falling in love with standing and working, but it wasn’t a smooth road I nearly ended up back on my bum on more than one occasion.
We tested out lots of different types of standing desks and spoke to lots of other standing desk devotees (and critics) before designing our wooden standing desk converters. So based on all that research, here is our top 7 tips for making your standing desk relationship long, happy and true:
Choose the right desk
Simple right? Search Google or Amazon, find one with a few good reviews that fits in your budget and then get to work. A lot of people go straight for a desk that will allow you to sit as well as stand, as they are thinking “I’ll ease myself in, and at least if I don’t get on with it I can still sit down and work”. This is the first mistake – if you’ve been sitting forever, then the transition to standing can be hard work, and the temptation to spend too much time sitting is always there if your desk descends to sitting mode at the touch of a button. The sit/stand desks in our coworking space spent 90% of their life in sitting mode, with the sockets for their electrical motors given up to iPhone chargers. A Varidesk owner we spoke to has had her sit/stand desk in sit mode for over 5 years! If you choose a desk that is for standing only, you’ll be more likely to stand at it.
Whatever desk you decide on, it needs to able to be adjusted to your height. I cover some information on ergonomics in point 5 below. We are not all the same shape so you need to be able to adjust the height of your screen and your keyboard independently.
Choose something you like to look at – believe in love at first sight. So many standing desks look like they were made from the spare parts bin of a hospital furniture warehouse. A desk is a large piece of furniture so it should be something you adore if your relationship with it is going to last.
Give it a chance
You’ve been going steady for 2 months. It’s been mostly good, but that chair you know so well keeps on making an appearance and throwing temptation into the mix. Most standing desk relationships fail at this point, but if you can make it past this, you’ll be together forever.
To begin with, it’s not unusual to experience discomfort after standing and working for a couple of hours. Your feet can feel sore and your lower back can ache. The key is to listen to your body and take the advice below in points 3 & 4. If you tried to run a marathon without any training you’d likely give up before you finish. Standing and working take practice and you have train you body gently to get used to it. Don’t try and be a hero and spend every day standing all day – you’ll hate your desk very quickly. Instead, start small and build up to longer sessions, and give it time. Before you know it you’ll be standing and working without even thinking about it.
Don’t stand still
Standing still and working for hours on end can be as bad for you sitting still all day. The key to healthy working is movement. While standing make sure you move. There are many ways of doing this, from just shifting your weight from foot to foot every so often to full on yogic stretches.
As I write this, I am every now and then walking away from my desk to think about how to phrase the next paragraph. I’m a wanderer – that’s my standing style. You may prefer to place one foot on a low stool or box and then shift your weight when one leg feels tired. Some people love to use balance boards that keep their weight constantly shifting. Whatever you do just remember to move about – your body will likely tell you, so if your feet feel sore or your back aches, go and take short walk, or stretch out.
Try sitting down
Errr, this is about standing right? Yes, it is, but if you want to be a loving, committed standing desk worker then it is ok to sit down every so often. Make sure you set up your standing desk working area so you can easily sit down when you need to. Some standing desk converters like our S-Desk Voro allow you to set half your desk for standing and half your desk for sitting. This means when you are feeling tired from standing, you can sit down for a while before getting back to it. I like to do my social media work sitting down, but my writing and designing standing up. Dividing your tasks up like this can lead to a long and happy relationship with your standing desk.
The correct ergonimics
Getting your setup right is crucial to the longevity of your time together with your standing desk. Comfort is key here and there are a few simple rules:
– Set the top quarter of your screen to just below your eye line
– Set your keyboard height so it is level with your forearms
– Have space for your hands/wrists to rest on your desk in front of your keyboard
– Have your screen 20″ to 28″ away from your face
This simple diagram should help:
Use an anti fatigue mat
Sore feet from standing for a long time is a common complaint from standing desk users. If you spend most of your life sat down your feet forget what it’s like to bear your weight for extended periods of time. Wearing comfortable supporting shoes can help, but the real game changer is an anti-fatigue mat.
From a simple foam tile to more complex, thick polyurethane moulded mats there are many options available, but your feet will thank you for using one.
Extra thick mats can also aid with movement, helping your shift your weight around, building the muscles that help you stand.
Some experts believe that if you use an anti-fatigue mat you should work in bare feet. This will allow your feet to move and position themselves naturally. Try a few things out and see what works for you. Just don’t work in heels!
One of my favourite things to spice up my standing and working day is using my body to time my tasks for me. The pomodoro technique is a well know productivity hack where by you work solid and focussed for 25mins straight then relax for 3-5mins. As you stand and work you can begin to feel aches and pains, so listen to your body and give yourself a milestone on your particular task, then reward yourself with some sit down time (or a good stretching or walking session) once you’ve reached that milestone. Let your body be the timer – you’ll be amazed at how much you can achieve standing up, in between your breaks.
Plenty of people spend years and years and years together with their standing desks in absolute harmony. If you follow some of these steps, you can too.
Much love, Helmm.