Why I Love My Stand Up Desk

Ernest Hemingway working at his stand up desk in Malaga, Spain, a gift from his friend, Bill Davis.

Ernest Hemingway working at his stand up desk in Malaga, Spain, a gift from his friend, Bill Davis.

It turns out that opting to use a stand up desk at a government office can create a stir.  But why? Thomas Jefferson stood at his “tall desk” while conceiving architectural blueprints for buildings such as the Virginia State Capitol. Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck used one, as did statesman Winston Churchill, as does Donald Rumsfeld. And it is not just government officials who stood or stand at folios–so did literary greats such as Philip Roth and Ernest Hemingway, who worked at a standing desk his entire life.  The President of the The National Geographic Society has one in his office, as does the associate administrator overseeing human spaceflight at NASA. And now, the “fad” as some call it, is spreading to start ups in Silicon Valley and beyond.

After moving to a new floor following green renovation at my government office, our entire floor had the opportunity to raise our desks. Just a few of us elected to make the switch. For me, the reasons were simple — I had noticed that I was increasingly slouching in my chair, I was tired and lazy after a full day of sitting, and I was in the mood for a slight lifestyle modification. Standing would be a logical choice to combat these ailments. As I researched, I learned more about the benefits and knew that if I stood I would certainly be on track to better health. My favorite online professional guru, Mashable, reported on studies in Men’s Health magazine and The New York Times, separately discussing life expectancy dramatically improving for people who didn’t sit for the majority of their days. Reason enough for me!  I didn’t expect, though, how much explaining I would be doing because of my decision to stand up while working. During the first few weeks, coworkers and people I’d never met stopped by numerous times throughout the day to ask questions like, “you’re going to stand all day?” and “don’t your feet hurt?” and my favorite, “what’s the point?” I shared my reasoning — reasoning that I assessed early on with fury, the minute that I realized that these drive by’s would occur regularly. I wish that these conversations would have taken place a couple of months later so that I could share my awesome experience with my stand up desk, rather than my choice to use it.

Winston Churchill at his stand up desk. Courtesy Library of Congress

Winston Churchill at his stand up desk. (Courtesy Library of Congress)

My body hurt for about a week but I got used to the change quickly and I’ll never look back. Now, all I can see is the benefits of standing:

  1. Burning calories and improving posture are two benefits that are directly attributed to greater overall health. I haven’t lost any weight to speak of (hopefully that will come over time) but I do stand much taller.
  2. Psychologically, the feeling that I am doing something to improve myself in turn, makes me feel better about myself. The ancillary benefit is improved productivity — my boss loves that.
  3. My brain feels much more engaged. I think more clearly, have more dynamic and creative conversations and brainstorms, and I apply better focus to tasks at hand. The days seem to fly by.
  4. I actually look forward to meetings, it’s my opportunity to take a load off.. Still armed with my stand up mentality, I perform better. And at the end of the day, sitting feels much more rewarding, earned (and at the end of the day, I sleep like a baby!)
  5. And perhaps one of the most important benefits to me has been the result of receiving people at eye-level.  You are never beneath them, below them, or above them — standing creates an equal playing field. You are no longer faced with the decision of whether or not to stand up — you are always standing up, always eye to eye, everyone gets and deserves fully engaged attention and you are always equipped to give it.

A stand up desk does not have to cost an arm and a leg. You can buy one for a couple hundred or a couple thousand dollars, reconfigure a cubicle by raising the desk, jimmy-rig some boxes and books to perch your computer atop of, or stand at a counter top. The logistics are easy, but finding a method of working that makes slacking on the job not only impossible but completely undesirable? It’s priceless.

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Categories: Business and Professional, Editorial + Longform, History + Legends, How to do things, Language, Life. Style., Stories

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2 Comments on “Why I Love My Stand Up Desk”

  1. Martin
    November 6, 2013 at 3:09 PM #

    I agree, it surprised me how much better I felt from standing. No more 3:30 blahs and I have lots more energy! I use a Stand Steady standing desk and would recommend it to others ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00E0ODMB6 )!

  2. November 7, 2013 at 3:15 PM #

    I help maintain a website about the benefits of standing and treadmill desks (www.WorkWhieWalking.com) and you are absolutely correct. Working at a treadmill or standing desk is absolutely the healthier way to work. More focus, more productivity, and more confidence!

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