I’ve been using a standing desk for about a year. My first standing desk was a stack of books on top of a printer on top of a bookshelf—it was pretty unsightly but it got the job done. I felt way better at the end of any day that required a lot of screen time. For several years now, the data have been rolling in that sitting all day isn’t good for your health, and even a daily workout can’t counter the damage.
But switching to a standing desk doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor. An eight-hour work day on your feet can feel daunting and uncomfortable, but working your way into standing more can help you feel the benefits without the pain. Here’s my advice for transitioning to a standing desk.
1. Keep it mobile
I work on a laptop, which is easy to unplug and take anywhere: the kitchen table, the couch, a coffee shop. This does have some drawbacks, as an ideal standing desk set-up puts your elbows more or less at the same height as the keyboard and your monitor at eye level. So, exclusively using a laptop means you’re looking down quite a bit—but for me the trade-off of mobility is worth it. It also makes transitioning to a standing desk a lot easier, because you can un-plug and sit whenever you feel fatigued.
There are also many desks that can be adjusted to heights for sitting or standing, although most designs are quite expensive. One study suggests that most people with adjustable desks eventually end up sitting more then they stand. Some people find a tall stool helpful, but when I tried it I ended up sitting most of the day.
2. Make standing for certain tasks a habit
When I started using my standing desk, I decided to stand whenever I had a Skype call and to do social media work. Deciding to do a few limited tasks while standing can get you out of a chair for a manageable amount of time, and creating a habit will help you stick with it.
3. Keep your plug at the desk
My current standing desk is a narrow shelf. All the cords for the scanner, speakers and computer are tucked behind a shelf, making them inconvenient to unplug from the wall. I’ve found that only charging my laptop at the standing desk is a good incentive to stand—I can only sit for as long as the battery of my computer lasts.
4. Think of your feet
Standing in one spot can make the muscles of your feet pretty tired. I work from home, where it’s easy to spend the day in socks, but putting on a comfy pair of shoes makes it easier to stand for longer. If your standing desk is in a more traditional office, keep this in mind before you leave the house. You can also consider using a mat at your desk. Fellow TreeHugger Lloyd Alter recommends the Sublime Imprint anti-fatigue mat, but even a folded yoga mat can be a help.
5. Take breaks
Sitting or standing in any one position for too long isn’t that great for either your body or your work. Be sure to take periodic breaks to walk around, stretch, twirl or do whatever feels good. Being healthy shouldn’t just be about improving our stats, but also about listening to our bodies and responding with kindness.