Last May, I started the big standing desk experiment to help me beat my by-then chronic sciatica into submission. I started out with a coffee table on top of my regular desk, and a month or so later, I liberated two standing desks from Borders at their Everything-Must-Go sale. That means I’ve been using a standing desk as my main workspace arrangement for twelve months now, so I figured it would be a good opportunity for a long-term opinion on the whole standing desk thing.
After a year of standing up to work, I wouldn’t want to go back to a chair. In fact, whenever I do sit down in an office chair, my lower back and butt start to get progressively more uncomfortable, until I get to the point where I have to stand up and move around again after ten or fifteen minutes. It took about two or three weeks for my legs and feet to get used to all the standing, and for the first month I had a bar stool nearby so I could rest my lower chassis for a bit whenever things started hurting a bit. After a month or so, my legs adjusted, and then I was able to stand pretty much for eight or ten hours without problems.
You don’t really stand for that long in front of the standing desk, which is sort of the point. You shift your weight and change positions all the time, and it’s very easy to step back from your work, stretch or do a lap around the room, and then get back to your work, all without the inertia inherent in having to push back the chair and getting out of it. I feel less fatigued during the day, and the afternoon slump is no more.
What has it done for my back? I am pain- and symptom-free the majority of the time. In the last few months, I’ve had two instances of careless lifting where I tried to move heavy boxes by myself without help, and both times I gave myself that stabbing pain in the lower back that usually gets progressively worse and then sidelines me for a few days. This time, I kept moving and walking after the incident, and in both instances, the pain had subsided completely within a few hours. I really do think that standing at my desk for a year has strengthened the muscles in my lower back enough to keep things on the straight and narrow, as it were, although I’ll always have to be careful with heavy lifting and remembering to bend the knees and not the back.
So yeah–standing desk? Huge fan, and definite convert. If you have lower back issues at all, you may want to give the standing setup a try. Just give it a week or two at first, because during the first few days, your brain and your feet will definitely insist that it’s a dumb idea, that you OMG CAN’T WORK LIKE THAT, and why don’t we sit the hell down already? Also, get one of those rubber anti-fatigue floor mats to stand on, and your feet will thank you, especially if you have laminate or hardwood floors in the house.
I mentioned that I have two standing desks from the old Borders in town. I got to keep one, and the second one has been confiscated by my dear wife, who is also a standing desk convert now. She’s thinking about requesting a standing setup for work as well. And a bonus benefit is the fact that the standing desks clutter up the place less than the regular desks we had in the living room before. The standing desks have a smaller footprint–both of them side by side are just a little bigger than my old office desk by itself–and you don’t need to use the space in front of them for chairs.