Standing Desks: What I've Learned - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // IT Strategy
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6/20/2014
07:00 AM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Standing Desks: What I've Learned

After a year of using one, I'm sold on the idea of the standing desk -- also known as the all-day fidget desk.

I've been using a standing desk for about a year now, and I've learned some things about it, and about myself.

I started using a standing desk because my knee was bugging me, and sitting made it worse, and because of the general "sitting is the new bubonic plague" kind of articles I'd been reading. I tried sitting on an exercise ball a couple of times and felt ridiculous, like I was getting punished for goofing off in gym class.

So I set up my keyboard and monitor on a standing desk. It's really just a dresser in my home office, but by chance it is exactly the correct height for me. I kept my standard, sitting desk. Here's what I've learned:

It's more like sit-and-stand. I use a tall, backless stool (actually an antique wooden bank teller stool), because I find I need to go back and forth between standing and sort-of sitting on the stool. I'd describe it as an all-day fidget.

I still use the sitting desk. Sometimes I'm just too tired to stand all day, even with the stool. If I haven't been getting enough sleep, or took a long bike ride that morning, I wimp out and go for the conventional desk.

I concentrate better sitting. If I have a task that will take a long and intense bout of concentration, like writing a long article or editing an in-depth report, I do better sitting. Standing, on the other hand, is much better for responding to email, writing and editing shorter articles, or interactive activities such as radio broadcasts or conference calls.

I still pace. Even when I'm at the standing desk, I often pause and pace a couple of feet to either side of the desk. That does not mean I find the idea of a treadmill desk any less absurd.

It's helped, not cured, my knee. My doc said I probably have something the Brits call "theatre knee" -- what we in America wishfully call "runner's knee." I didn't run and still don't, but cutting back on sitting does seem to have helped a great deal.

So I'll be sticking to the standing desk as much as I can, but keeping my wimp-out conventional sitting desk at the ready. Of course, the perfect solution would be one of these adjustable beauties from the likes of NextDesk or UpDesk, if it fits in your office and budget. (Or maybe I'll try the fetal position desk, a trend The Onion recently spotted.)

How about you? Have you tried, contemplated, or abandoned the standing desk? Does it work well for you all day, or do you prefer standing or sitting for particular tasks? Let us know.

InformationWeek's June Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of big data. Find out one CIO's take on what's driving big data, key points on platform considerations, why a recent White House report on the topic has earned praise and skepticism, and much more.

Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and co-chair of the InformationWeek Conference. He has been covering technology leadership and CIO strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in ... View Full Bio
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Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
6/20/2014 | 10:28:00 AM
Best of both worlds
Seems like a standing desk is great for banging out emails other quick hits. But prolonged focus requires sitting. The way I see it, standing boosts your physical energy but sitting drives your mental energy. So I can see the value of an adjustable desk. On certain gloomy Mondays, the fetal position desk (Thank you Onion!) makes a lot of sense.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/20/2014 | 10:49:38 AM
A Standing Desk Fits My Work Style
I began using a "standing desk" back in the early 80s when I put my Selectric II on top of a filing cabinet in the office that I shared with a couple of other folks. I've been through a bunch of different desks but now I stand at a desk cobbled together from a postmaster's table and a drafting board. I have a drafting stool that I can use when I just need to get off my feet but in general I find that standing leaves my back and hips feeling much better at the end of the day.

My Aeron chair is now relegated to being a very expensive messenger bag holder most days.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
6/20/2014 | 11:43:17 AM
Exercise Ball
I feel silly sitting on an exercise ball at any time. Reminds me too much of driveway play in the 1970's:

Hoppity Hop
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
6/20/2014 | 12:05:22 PM
Re: Thinking on your feet?
I definitely didn't mean to suggest it on the extremes of Sitting = Deep, and Standing = Shallow. On an InformationWeek Radio broadcast, I'm totally and intensely focused while standing. It's more that combination of deep concentration and writing that brings me back to Sitting. Maybe it's a simple muscle memory thing -- I've been writing from the sitting position so many years, it's a more natural way to get into that long-form, writing mindset.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/20/2014 | 4:56:38 PM
Re: Thinking on your feet?
I believe one reason behind "standing meetings" is to avoid the endless drone of that one attendee who likes to hear himself/herself speak! By having everyone stand, the thinking is everyone will stay on-topic because they'll want to get out of the conference room and back to their comfy desk chairs!
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/20/2014 | 4:58:11 PM
Re: Exercise Ball
I loved those when I was a kid! But I don't think i could balance myself and type or talk on the phone at the same time!
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/20/2014 | 4:59:50 PM
Re: My standing desk experience
For thinking, I guess I'd need a walking or driving desk. Seems I get my best ideas when I step away from my desk completely. Any time I'm stumped for a lede or a hed or have stared at a blank Word doc for too long, I take a little stroll around the garden and usually some form of inspiration (or at least a better starting point) strikes.
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