A week standing

November 18, 2012

Latest Post The Hound of the Baskervilles by Owen Soule

Following my established practice of being at least one year behind the latest trends coming from those hipsters on the west coast, see my 2011 MacBook purchase a few months ago for further proof, I decided to bite on the standing desk craze.

Donald Rumsfeld, trend-setter?

Well, not so much bite, but nibble by crafting a jerry-rigged standing desk of my own!   First off, for those that haven't heard there are supposedly tons of experts who feel standing while working greatly promotes not dying.   Here is what I learned from a random Google search that yielded an article by Shoshana Berger from Wired:

Your job is killing you. If you sit at a desk for more than four hours a day, you increase your risk of death from any cause by nearly 50 percent and boost your risk of heart problems by 125 percent. Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic was so spooked by his own research that he slid a hospital tray over a $400 treadmill and started walking as he typed. Here are two uprights that will help you stay alive.

Wait, what?  It's amazing I've made it this long as I typically spent 8-10 hours at my desk every day either coding or working on VFX/3D projects.    To prevent my impending demise I grabbed the following this past Monday to build my mighty makeshift standing desk:

Given these building blocks actual construction of this standing desk took less than a minute as it essentially just stacked on top of an existing desk as shown below:

Stand in the place where you work, now face West?

Brilliant, Harry!   The books allow for infinite adjustment of keyboard height - as I've raised the keyboard a bit since this photo was taken to make sure it sits about elbow height.   The total cost of this setup is unknown as the exact age and price of these components has long been forgotten.

My VFX/3D work station, to the left in the above photo, has yet to be raised.  I'll need another scavenger hunt around the house to jerry-rig a height adjustment for those two monitors, my Wacom tablet  and keyboard.  I tried using an old filing box but without raising the monitor this just turns into a neck torture device:

Blurry photo of attempting to use Wacom on filing box, this setup didn't last long

What I've learned after a week using this setup for development?   I can tell it will take some getting used to, the largest issue I've found is general leg/foot soreness as the day progresses.   This was much more pronounced Monday through Wednesday of last week - by Thursday and Friday I was getting adjusted to standing while working and I also grabbed a bath mat and doubled it over to better cushion my work area.  Even with my muscles adjusting I needed to sit down for a few minutes every now and then just to take a load off.   Also, I tried working out after a full day of standing and it was brutal, I'd recommend anyone who tries a standing desk to schedule their workouts in the morning as you're going to be bushed after standing all day!

On the plus side, the standing posture definitely seems to help keep me focused while working.   I also don't get the afternoon sleepiness/post coffee malaise as standing does a good job of keeping you wide awake.  I can also easily walk back and forth to the whiteboard in my home office, dance around to music while coding, or simply shift my weight back and forth.   I guess working from home helps with this experiment too as I don't have to worry about looking like a lunatic with a laptop on top of a cupboard on top of a desk to my fellow coworkers.

This first week has a pretty good experiment and I plan on continuing the standing operation in the weeks to come.   If this takes off I'll have to either build or buy an actual standing desk - I've heard great things about GeekDesk:

GeekDesk v3, it's purdy

But at $749-$799 this desk is slightly out of my $0-$20 price range.   Google yields a ton of Ikea-esque cheaper standing desk alternatives - but none with the style, panache and price-point of my beloved jerry-rigged standing desk ;-)


Owen Soule

Published November 18, 2012