Standing desk adventures

I’ve been using a standing desk for a bit over four months now, and thus far it’s been quite successful.

I decided to test out the idea because I spend a lot of time in front of the screen, and my back has been getting progressively sorer over the last year. Not wanting to transform into the Hunchback of Notre Dame before I turn 30, and aware of the current research suggesting that sitting down for long stretches increases the risk of heart disease, a standing desk seemed like a good alternative.

Because I work from home and the office, I actually have two standing desk setups - one for each location.

The home setup is incredibly makeshift, with the monitor placed on a box of our things left over from the last move, and the laptop sitting on a discontinued IKEA storage box not too dissimilar from the current Prant offering.

The reason for the home setup dodginess is twofold:

  • I wanted to try out the standing desk thing without a large financial commitment
  • We’re between houses, and have to use what we’ve got on hand

Once I discovered that the standing desk was the way I wanted to work for the foreseeable future, I decided to up the ante and buy a real desk for work.

There are plenty of purpose built standing desk options that are far beyond my budget, so the search was on for finding a desk for a reasonable price.

I stumbled across a Frankenstein IKEA desk on Lifehacker, but it:

  • Was too long for the space in the office
  • Required a non-trivial amount of construction with tools not on hand

The same Lifehacker article linked to another blog about repurposing an Utby kitchen table as a standing desk:

Standing desktop and base

This was the model I settled on.

The Utby kitchen table is sold as two separate products, the 105cm high stainless steel underframe (not be confused with the 90cm one), and the 120x60x3.4cm Vika Amon table top.

At the time the local IKEA store did not have stock of the Vika Amon table top, so based on the advice of a shop assistant I picked up the Galant table top instead, minus the normal Galant frame.

I was assured in-store this would be a reasonable substitute, however as I was finishing off the construction in the office I discovered that the Galant table top I purchased is 2cm thick, as opposed to the Vika Amon which is 3.4cm. This meant that the supplied screws to mount the table top to the underframe would have broken through the surface, so alternative screws are required.

Chalk that one up to a lack of research.

To date I’m very impressed with the desk, with the bottom rail of the frame providing a suitable place to rest my feet against and store my bag behind.

Standing desk at office

As for the longer term effects of using a standing desk 12 hours a day 5 days a week: I haven’t been able to find many others sharing their experiences. The sum of what you generally read online is “I just switched over to a standing desk a few hours ago and it’s feeling great!!!”.

In my experience, the two key factors are:

  • Start out with a comfortable, well worn pair of shoes
  • Make sure the surface you stand on isn’t too hard (timber floorboards or carpet are best)

My desk at home has me standing on tiles in Chucks, and boy can I feel it if I’m working long hours. If I use the desk for more than 12 hours at a time, my feet start aching pretty badly.

I see this is a good thing though: if my feet are aching, it means I need to stop work for the day.

I’ve tried working around this by wearing in different types of shoes (Birkenstock Arizonas and Shimano SH-MT40s), but I generally end up with a pretty nasty headache within an hour.

Once we move into our new house I’ll be working on timber floorboards, so I have my fingers crossed that the pain will ease up.

I find that I’m shifting my weight between legs every 5-10 minutes, and am much more inclined to bop along to music now that I’m standing up.

There’s also an unspoken advantage to having a standing desk in a busy office environment: people will interrupt you for much shorter periods of time if they have nowhere to sit.

If you’re doing pair programming this can be pretty brutal on your partner if they’re not used to standing up for long stretches, but it has a distinct advantage when you’re trying to shut the world out and keep in the zone.

I also find that the by the end of the day I have a mild tingly sensation in my calves, not too dissimilar from the sensation felt when returning from a bike ride with lots of climbs.

Since setting up the standing desk in the office, there are two more setups that have showed up on IKEA Hackers:

I quite like the idea of the extra storage space gained with the CD-riser design, and may opt for that design when we move.

Would I go back to sitting at a desk? Not in the foreseeable future.

I find most of my back pain has gone, and I now value sitting a lot more. :-)

Would I recommend standing desks for others? If you are working long hours in front of a screen and have trouble finding a comfortable setup to work from, it might be worth a shot.