Multiple Workspaces and The Myth of the Sit/Stand Desk

Hey look, I just saved myself money and found a great trick.

Where I was perfectly happy standing before, I am now prone to switch heights two to three times throughout the day.

That’s what I wrote about the Jarvis adjustable height desk at the end of February 2014. It’s a really great desk, but back in November 2014 I switched jobs and no longer had that desk. This meant trying out new things as I had become accustomed to adjusting my desk height throughout the day.

The first month of the new job I sat at a desk, after that month I stood at a small desk. Finally, about a month ago, I moved to sitting again, but mixed with my standing desk in another part of he room.

Now I have two workstations:

  1. Large desk to sit at.
  2. Small desk to stand at.

Working with a laptop makes it easy to jump between those two workstations, especially since I have pared down how I used computer.

But the question that popped up when I wrote that review of the adjustable desk, still bothers me: is this setup good, or inefficient? I’ve been trying to decide if I need to buy a sit/stand desk again, or what I need to do to create an optimal workspace. I worry that moving back and forth is just a parlor trick for some other thing I am not seeing about my work.

Shawn Blanc writes about this very issue in The Creative’s Workspace:

Multiple Spaces: This one’s a luxury, but it’s also so great. If you checked out the photos of Sean, Cameron, and/or Jeff’s offices you may have noticed that there were multiple “stations”. They’re offices have more than one physical place to do work.
In my office there is my desk, but on the other half of the room is a couch and coffee table. And, even my desk converts between a sitting and standing desk. I have these different stations because not all creative work is created equal. I spend at least as much time writing as I do reading and researching. And that latter activity is better spent not in front of my computer.

When I read the above passage it occurred to me that I have several stations I work at throughout the day.

I sit for most of the time at my desk, but when I am testing an app, thinking something through, or reading on the iPad, I tend to kick my feet up and lean back in my chair.

When I am writing, or feeling restless, I am standing and pacing.

When I am dead tired, sick, or really want to read — I jump on the bed and lounge with the iPad (I work in our master bedroom).

That puts me all over the room at different times, for different activities and reasons. I realized in thinking through all of this — spurred on by Shawn’s post — having these different areas makes my work a lot different than how I was ever used to working before.

It’s a lot better too.

This isn’t much different than people that spend time working at a library or a coffee shop for parts of their days — it’s moving to another location plain and simple.

We go to the library with the goal of trying to wrap up that article. Or to a coffee shop with the goal to do XYZ.

I’m going to stand over there, three and a half feet from this chair, to write something. I don’t just move from one workstation to the next arbitrarily, I am actually planning what I am going to work on next and choosing the right space for that.

I’ve balked at the idea that people need to go to a certain place to do a certain thing. “I can’t think here”, or “I think better there” are statements that always seemed silly to me.

But I get it now.

It’s about that small shift and the planning that goes into that shift. When you are working in solitude — either remotely, or as a one man team — these shifts are massively important because they keep you focused.

Don’t resist the urge to head to another workstation, unless you don’t have a plan for what you want to do once you are there.

The often cited rule is that the hardest part of any task is starting. When you move to another work area you do so with a plan of what you are doing. So when you arrive at that workstation you start doing that work. And you’ve now just accomplished the “hardest” part of most tasks.

What a great little trick. No need for another adjustable height desk here.

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