Standing Desks: How to Get Going

Mikael Cho recently moved to a standing desk, but found the experience short lived. Cho:

After two weeks, I was able to stand for about four hours a day, but I still needed to take multiple breaks. This was fine with me because I often need breaks throughout the day to refresh and maintain a good flow. And: If a standing desk works for you that’s great. But if it doesn’t, don’t force it — especially if it negatively impacts your work. Standing while working might not be for you. It wasn’t for me. And that’s okay. Standing for long periods of time isn’t much better than sitting anyway.

Cho gets really in-depth into the standing desk ideology, and what he has done in hopes of making his sitting desk situation better. Even though I don’t agree with Cho, this is an article that I think everyone who works at a desk should read.

That said, it is my opinion that he went about standing to work all wrong. At the beginning of 2011 I started standing full-time. I wrote my reasoning in that linked post, but you all know why already: standing is healthier.

But standing hurts right? Cho was driven nuts, my buddy Shawn Blanc couldn’t bear to stand all day (Shawn corrected me) much preferred to sit while writing, than he did standing. It’s a pain in the foot to stand all day. But only for a little while.

Like anything in life you have to ease into standing to work, and then even after that it will take a while to build up the strength to stand all day — trust me. It is three years later and I still stand to work, but even at that I get tired.

My journey to standing all day looked like this:

  • Day One: stood for two hours, and didn’t get much work done. Finally sat down and just wanted to cry.
  • Day Two: basically the same thing as day one for the next week.
  • Week Two: Things were better.
  • Month Two: I can now stand for about 6 hours a day, but more importantly I have finally broken the urge to sit down when I need to concentrate on something.
  • Month Four: I stand all day, and can work effectively now while I stand. I still go home with sore feet and legs.
  • Month Eight: The soreness is mostly gone and I can stand fine.
  • Year Two: I can’t focus as well when I sit, and my legs/feet rarely feel sore. I’ve also ditched the anti-fatigue matt.
  • Year Three: It feels weird, and too loungey, to sit and work.

In other words, it takes more than a year to fully adapt the standing habit. Think about how much you hated sitting a desks when you were a kid to work, but then you got used to it — now you are trying to undo all of that training.

The biggest issues you will face when trying to move to a standing desk are:

  • Sore feet, knees, legs, and lower back. This is common, and is due to you not being used to working those muscles all day like this.
  • Trouble focusing on detailed tasks while standing. You just aren’t used to standing and so standing itself is taking some of your concentration.
  • People won’t get why you are doing it and will constantly remind you how comfortable sitting is.
  • Your chair is right there — calling to you.

Standing all day isn’t easy, but I firmly believe that it is a lifestyle choice that will pay off in spades long-term. So, here are my top tips for getting started with a standing desk:

  • Wait at least six months before you build/buy any sort of a permanent standing desk. There are tons of ways to build a makeshift standing desk for pennies. Just search around. After that you can get something nice, but I waited until just recently to buy and actual standing desk.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, like athletic shoes, for at least the first month. Even if you can’t wear those for you job, bring a pair to switch into while working. Don’t try to go bare foot.
  • Don’t be afraid to take your shoes on and off as you feel you need to do.
  • Anti-fatigue mats are nice, especially if the floor in your office isn’t carpet.
  • Your feet will swell, so be sure to wear shoes with laces so that you can loosen them.
  • Don’t try to stand for more than an hour for the first week.
  • Then, if I were to do it again, I would add 90 minutes to my standing time each week until I got to eight hours.
  • BUT, break up that time in halves. Stand when you first get to work, and right after lunch. Sit the rest of the time.
  • If you need to sit, sit. Don’t force standing, but also try to have enough discipline to hit your standing time goal each day.
  • Marvel at how much shorter “meetings at your desk” are now that others are forced to stand too.
  • Don’t eat while standing.

Most important: give it time. Six months in, you should have a good sense if standing is going to work for you, but it won’t be until about a year in that you are fully comfortable with standing.

These days I stand for about 85% of my working day and sit for the rest. If I am tired from the kids keeping me up, I just sit. There’s no reason to have my work suffer just so I can stand, but I still try very hard to stand as much as possible.

Even an hour a day of standing is better than no standing. Keep that in mind and go easy.

The biggest downside to standing is how much faster you wear our your shoes and socks. I go through socks like crazy now.

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Article Details

Published
by Ben Brooks
5 minutes to read.


tl;dr

Mikael Cho recently moved to a standing desk, but found the experience short lived. Cho: After two weeks, I was able to stand for about four hours a day, but I still needed to take multiple breaks. This was fine with me because I often need breaks throughout the day to refresh and maintain a […]