Almost five months ago, I switched to a standing desk. I am in love.
Yes, it is absolutely sane to be in love with a desk.
The idea with a standing desk is your body stays more active while you are at your desk, so you can read those health warnings about sitting all day with a sense of superiority. And we all like to feel superior. But I didn’t just switch to a standing desk because of how everything is killing us. I had a few reasons of my own! When I sit, I end up sitting wrong within minutes. This is a problem, because my choice of obsession (and profession) means I am doomed to a lot of fooling around with computers. For a long time, I assumed that doom required equal amounts of sitting. During my little internship at the David Suzuki Foundation, one of my awesome coworkers was thrilled with her standing desk, so that finally got the wheels turning for me.
Meanwhile, I was noticing that I never really solve much while I’m sitting at a desk. My brain works a lot better when I’m at least moving. The problem is my work environment wasn’t really made for moving around. There was a giant, allegedly comfortable chair in the way. I say “allegedly comfortable” because this is one of the other neat things. I considered actually buying an actually comfortable chair, then I realized I could change my desk, instead. Hundreds of dollars in savings, I thought.
Didn’t turn out that way, but it was still worth it.
I started off looking at different articles around the web for inspiration. Jorge Castro wrote a nice blog post about his own adventure building a standing desk on top of a metal frame, and Priceonomics has suggestions for cobbling together a standing desk from Ikea stuff. I momentarily entertained the idea of buying from Geekdesk, but, besides the price, I decided I would prefer to jump in head first with something that is not adjustable to sitting. If I make it easy to go back, I probably will.
So, I was looking at different bits of Ikea furniture that I could somehow jam together into something coherent, and soon enough my dad talked me out of all that. Instead, we (mostly he) built a new desk frame from scratch. This way we could get something at the right height from the start. After all, you don’t want to stand at an uncomfortable desk, and unlike sitting on a fancy chair, you can’t really adjust your standing height. There’s a sort of general guideline that the desk should be at a height where you can look straight ahead with your elbows at a 90° angle, and we ended up with something pretty close to that for me.
As well as the desk, I have collected some standing desk paraphernalia. After about two weeks I got a new, cheap office chair that adjusts almost as high as the desk. I haven’t used the chair as much as I expected — I can remember maybe eight specific occasions — but it is great for those long sessions of Crusader Kings 2. (Its height even resembles a throne, and it terrifies me. As it turns out, I would make a terrible king). Just last month I got a brand new anti-fatigue mat, which is under my rug in the photo. It’s an Imprint Comfort Mat, which has a durable surface and some sort of memory foam cushioning. It feels a lot like wearing a good pair of shoes. I got along fine without it for the weeks before, but I can see why that extra stress on the feet can make a big difference for some people, and I’m glad I have something for them now.
Speaking of gadgets, I quickly began to appreciate long cables. My headphones have an unusually long cord, and that used to bother me, but now that I’m a few feet higher and I like to wander away from my desk, the extra length is indispensable. Cables have been a problem in other spots, though. Many of them, like my video cable, are only just long enough. As it is, I can’t do much to hide them from view. They just reach to the top in the quickest possible way, which of course involves a giant knot. I really should hunt for some new cables, but at this stage it seems almost insurmountable. It makes me wish I had chosen differently every time I thought “I don’t need a longer cable — it just needs to reach around my desk.” So, uh, there’s my helpful advice.
My favourite thing with this standing desk is what it means for taking a break. Sitting down almost feels like a worthwhile, and entirely justified, change of pace, which is very refreshing. I still have my perpetually unfinished home-made “take a break” app running, and I have an easier time prying myself away from my computer when a micro break or a rest break comes along. I’m always one step closer to it, after all. Also, I think I’m biting my nails less! Weird, but exciting.
As for the standing part, it definitely took time to adjust. For the first few weeks, I had a weird habit of standing completely still at my desk. I guess that’s because I was so used to sitting still at my desk, but my feet didn’t thank me for it. As I have become used to the idea, I’m prone to stretch and move around more, so my feet aren’t being pressured in one way for the whole time. At this point, I definitely find it easier to walk around and look out a window when I’m pondering something. I haven’t decided if that really helps me to think, but at least it seems healthier. The bottom line is I feel more free when I’m doing computer stuff, and that’s really cool.
So, add me to the standing desk fan club, please! I don’t think I will be going back.