Standing Up At Your Desk: Insane Or… Not?

I’ve been on a little “office hack” roll lately.

First, it was my little feng shui remodeling. Then, I hung up a big whiteboard on a small budget. The office was shaping up pretty nicely, if I do say so myself.

But, then another idea hit me…

See, around the turn of the year, my lower back was bothering me. While eating like hell over the holidays probably didn’t help any, I also noticed something else…

I’ve been on a little “office hack” roll lately.

First, it was my little feng shui remodeling. Then, I hung up a big whiteboard on a small budget. The office was shaping up pretty nicely, if I do say so myself.

But, then another idea hit me…

See, around the turn of the year, my lower back was bothering me. While eating like hell over the holidays probably didn’t help any, I also noticed something else…

Whenever I sat down, the back would start to bother me. When I stood up, I was fine.

Now, I am using a Herman Miller Aaron chair in the office. It is ergonomic and quite a nice chair. That’s why I bought it. BUT… for all that special ergonomic-sauce to actually help, you have to sit in the chair correctly. In my case, I had this nasty habit of hunching forward. So, I wasn’t letting the chair’s back do the support. Instead, my lower back was being stressed as I hunched forward.

During some of my random musings about my office on Facebook, my friends Erica Douglass and Brian Fryer were talking to me about how much they love their stand-up desks.

What? A Desk That You… Stand Up At?

Now, I had certainly heard of this idea before. Honestly, it sounded a little…. well, crazy. 🙂

But, once you start researching it a bit more, you realize it isn’t so crazy.

A lot of entrepreneurs use stand-up desks. But, it goes all the way back to Thomas Jefferson, who also used a standing desk.

The health benefits of it are many, including:

  • Helps you not rot. I mean, the human body wasn’t designed to sit for 8-10 hours per day. Being upright and moving is what our bodies were designed for. Sitting for long periods not only causes your ass to expand (obviously), but it slows all the bodily functions of your body… including metabolism, digestion, blood flow, etc.
  • Helps you lose weight. You burn more calories while standing. Your heart rate is actually a little higher. Plus, standing will counteract all those slower bodily functions.
  • Helps your back. This one speaks to me, seeing as my lower back was the primary reason I decided to look deeper into this idea. My back doesn’t bother me AT ALL when I’m standing up. However, sometimes when I’m sitting I find myself trying to adjust in my chair in order to find a comfortable stature.

So, I was convinced.

Getting A Stand-Up Desk

My office space is big enough to accommodate more than one desk. And, needless to say, I like my regular desk. 🙂 Alot. So, I wasn’t willing to get rid of it and switch exclusively to a stand-up desk.

I did my research into different options. Come to find out, you can drop some serious coin on a stand-up desk if you wanted to. For example, a well-known one is the GeekDesk.

Screen shot 2012 01 10 at 11 32 20 AM

The GeekDesk starts out around $800. It looks to be really solid and well-respected. And, one of the selling points is that it is motor-adjusted so you can adjust your desk to stand-up or sit-down position, depending on your mood.

Seeing as I wasn’t going to use this desk full-time, I didn’t want to drop $800 on one of these. So, I looked for other options.

One uber-cheap way to go is simply to jerry-rig your setup to turn a regular desk into a stand-up desk. Some people will stack books or shelving onto the top of a desk in order to artificially raise the work surface. Check out this one from the blog of Melissa Douthit:

MyStandUpDesk

Some people will even put their desk on stilts in order to raise the thing higher.

But, I wanted a real desk. Just not a pricey one. So, I looked into Ikea.

You’ll find that there is a desk called the Ikea Jerker that was very popular. I say “was” because the model was discontinued. It was missed so much, though, that it even has fan sites and, apparently, a Facebook group to try to petition Ikea to bring it back.

The successor to the Jerker is the Ikea Frederik. And, to end the long story, this is the desk I ultimately bought.

My Part-Time Stand-Up Desk: The Ikea Frederik

Here’s a quick photo of my setup. In fact, I’m writing this very blog post while standing at this desk.

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The desk has three levels on it. Usually the two skinnier levels are seen above the larger desk surface. But, in order to accommodate my height, I simply mounted the desk surface between the two smaller shelves. When I’m standing up, the keyboard is now at elbow level.

I set up my old Mac Pro at this computer, along with a couple of monitors I already owned. Works QUITE NICELY. And the desk costs me $149. Certainly a lot cheaper than $800. Plus, if I actually use it and it helps me get more done (and ultimately make more money), then $149 is a drop in the bucket.

My Findings: Does It Work?

I now go back and forth between my two desks – depending on my mood. However, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time at the standing desk…. enough to the point that I’ve even pondered the idea of moving my iMac (which is my newer and much faster computer) over to it. Not sure if I will, however.

The test, though, is whether this works for me. Well, here’s my findings after having this for a couple of weeks now:

  • I am much more focused when I’m standing. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t find that I’m as easily sidetracked when I’m using the stand-up desk. Over at the other desk, I have to employ more self-discipline to keep myself on task. So, I find I get more work done. Sweet. 🙂
  • My back thanks me. I have zero back issues while working at this desk. Yet, I still have to be careful that I don’t hunch forward when I’m sitting at the other one.

As far as other health benefits, I haven’t been using this thing long enough to tell. But, for me, the increased focus alone means that it was worth it for me to set this up.

A word of warning, however. You will find your feet hurting. Your body eventually gets used to it and the problem goes away, but expect that as you are just starting.

So, perhaps you want to give this a try. As it turns out, it isn’t insane. 🙂 In fact, I rather like it. And perhaps you will, too.

If you have any experience with this – or comments – I’ll see you below in the comment section.

About David Risley
David Risley is the founder of the Blog Marketing Academy, a 20-year veteran blogger and online entrepreneur. His focus? Building a reliable, recurring business around his "lifestyle" and the lives of his students. He has this weird obsession with traveling in his motorhome around the country with his wife and 2 kids. David also likes to talk about himself in the third person. In bios like this one. Read his full story.
  • Natalie says:

    David,
    Have you given any thought to an adjustable height desk? This might make it easier for you to switch between standing and sitting, rather than having to move to a completely separate desk.
    I use a NextDesk at work and LOVE it– I just push a button and it goes from standing to sitting, or anywhere in between. It also looks just like a regular (if not irregularly good looking desk) and all of the gears, wires, and whatnots are concealed inside.
    I have been using a makeshift, DIY desk like you at home for a while, though, and now that I use an adjustable height desk at work, I can really tell what I’ve been missing out on at home. It is annoying having to move all of my stuff from my “standing desk” to my regular desk. So I feel your pain!
    Anyway, I just thought you might like to know about another option. Check it out on their website if you’re interested: http://www.nextdesks.com/
    Thanks again!
    Natalie

  • Mike says:

    I think it’s a great idea.  I used an improvised stand-up-desk at work for awhile.  I had some lower back issues and sitting was VERY uncomfortable.  I really liked standing.  Maybe it’s just psychological, but I felt like I could think better and work faster.

    The only drawback was the fact that I frequently needed to get into my desk drawers during the day…and that was a bit of a hassle.

    Let us know how it works out for you.

  • David,

    I usually stand up from time to time after an hour. Since I get lower back pains which is so annoying and painful. I asked my doctor about this and he said this is due to the weight pressure that our body is inserting while we are setting for a long time. So it is also necessary to stand for a while and do basic stretching.

  • Anonymous says:

    I saw this article today and I went out and bought a frederick. I’ve been looking for a standup desk or a table top desk forever. They just aren’t that common. Here’s to better health (and staying awake)

  • Ken says:

    I used to stand at the kitchen counter with the laptop. Problem was the refrigerator and coffee pot were too close by and I kept getting a bigger belly and staying awake all night. LOL.  I like that Ikea though. Might have to invest in that next month. Hey, it’s a write-off right?  🙂

  • PJ Brunet says:

    I sit Indian style man 😉  

  • Depends if you have a bad back.

  • Anonymous says:

    nice article

  • MarcLuber says:

    Looks good!  I made similar changes this summer.  I bought an adjustable height table at IKEA that I use as a standing desk.  When I feel the need to sit, I move over to my regular desk and take my laptop.  As for your foot problem, I’ve found that wearing shoes (or even flip flops) helps a lot. 

  • Looks great, David.

    I tried this before, about a year or so ago and it just didn’t work for me. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I simply didn’t enjoy standing up working for any major period of time.

    I’d be interested to see how you feel about it in a month or so – do a follow up, okay!

    Thanks, for the great post.C

    • Perhaps I will. But, of course, I’m also taking the part-time approach so maybe some of the usual problems won’t come to me… since I’ll just sit down when I get tired of it. 🙂

  • Chuck Frey says:

    A good friend of mine, creativity expert Gerald Haman, has used a stand-up desk at his loft creative space near downtown Chicago. He firmly believes it helps him to be more creative and alert.

  • I have a Geek Desk and love it! Working at home, it’s easy to grow roots on your chair. Standing forces me to be more physically and mentally active. I don’t enjoy standing while working, so it also motivates me to get my job done fast 🙂

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