Disclaimer: This post is about standing desks (or stand up desks if that’s what you prefer to call them), how awesome they are and how designers can benefit from them. Just saying.
A long time ago, in a studio far, far away… I got my first design job as a junior graphic designer for a marketing agency. The hours were long and the pay was awful, but it enabled me to learn at a rapid rate and get exposed to some really big projects. It also taught me a lot about the office environment. This was my first ever office job. Prior to this my only working experience was in a wood workshop, so the whole office thing was very new to me.
First, as an office junior, I learned how to make coffee. A lot of nasty, instant coffee. The whole place seemed to run on it. The account managers and MD would require at least one cup per hour. Back then, you could also smoke in an office. In fact, it was encouraged. Along with pub lunches, £20 office chairs, dial up internet and monitors that were so big you’d need a separate desk for them, you could say the term ‘workplace wellness’ was an alien phrase to pretty much every office back then.
I would regularly reach about 3.15pm and my face would hit the desk in the most overwhelming wave of lethargy you could possibly imagine. This was my first exposure to the condition known as D.D.S. Aka ‘Drowsy Designer Syndrome’.
A few years down the line, and a couple of agencies later, I landed a job at a very similar company as creative director. In charge of a small studio, the monitors may have got a little smaller and the smoking was limited to a room at the back, but the working habits were just as bad. I could see my team reach the magical point in the afternoon where it looked like a mystical being had literally swooped down and sucked the living energy out of them. Trying to get anything creative out of designers and writers was impossible after this point was reached. Nescafe was intravenously administered, drum and bass was piped in via headphones and even short walks for a quick fag in the car park were taken. Funnily, nothing seemed to work. I even found my self asleep at my own desk one afternoon (and I didn’t even have kids back then…).
Working in various agencies over the years it wasn’t until I set up my own company that I realised enough was enough and something had to be done about D.D.S. Very recent research has shown a direct link between the physical and mental fitness of staff, and the productivity and profitability of a company. When I launched my business 10 years ago, we had kicked out smoking and the the coffee had got better, but I could see the party animals lagging where the fitness conscious thrived. We tried discounted gym memberships for our team which was well received but fizzled out after the initial excitement. Something needed to be done about the physical working environment to stop our designers getting drowsy.
Bright, airy open plan environments, plants, art, good chairs, spacious desks, personal storage, spring water, fresh fruit. We did it all.
The single item that had the biggest impact on D.D.S. was the standing desk.
They were first introduced to the studio as a try-out. Some Ikea hacks that were put in a corner of the office for people to use as and when, but the real difference came when people started adopting them as their full time way of working. They remained sharp throughout the day and were as creative and energetic at 3.15pm as they were at 10.15am.
When I adopted this way of working myself I found I could motor through my tasks way more quickly. My mysterious back problems faded into memory and I felt generally more focussed and sharp than when I was sitting at my desk. I’ve seen even the most health conscious of designers slide down into their expensive office chair in the afternoon and get just a little too comfortable. When standing at your desk this isn’t an option. You can be comfortable standing up, but not sleepy. Just by being on your own two feet you are more alert, more awake. I don’t know many people that can sleep standing up – do you?
Good mental attitude towards your work is paramount and I have found that whilst standing, work is more like, well, work. I take it a bit more seriously, focus on it a bit more, am less casual towards it. All this enables me to procrastinate less and be more productive so I can run a more profitable business and get back to my family a little bit faster.
In fact the effect standing and working had on me was so profound, I switched my business to developing products that help people create better working environments and improve wellbeing at work for themselves and their teams (they also help beat D.D.S!).
You can check out our standing desk designs here and I am always open to custom collaborations with agencies to help create the ultimate studio environment. Just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk!