Sunday, July 26, 2015

Stand-Up Desk Experiment: 90 Day Report

A year and a half after returning to corporate America and working in a cubicle, I was stir-crazy and ready for a change. I knew that sitting for 8+ hours at my desk, sitting in traffic for another 2 to 4 hours and then going home to sit on the couch for another 3 to 5 hours before going to bed was a recipe for all kinds of health problems. Sure,

I went to the gym 5 days a week and would run or hike on the weekends, but I knew that this would not be enough to mitigate the long term effects of this sedentary lifestyle. 

I had occasion to discuss my concerns about all of that sitting while meeting with an orthopaedic surgeon relating to a shoulder injury I had sustained in October. He raved about the benefits of a "Stand-Up" desk (more precisely, he talked a lot about the negative health consequences from so much sitting at a traditional desk). The benefits of a stand-up/sit-down work station went well beyond just augmenting my physical therapy to rehab my shoulder. He wrote a note to my employer stating that I needed a stand-up/sit-down work station as part of my on-going physical therapy.

The bad news: Insurance doesn't cover the cost of a stand-up desk (prices range from $350 to $5000) and my employer was only willing to re-imburse me $150 of the cost. I was not prepared to drop a couple grand on a new desk without doing some homework.

I decided to start with an Ikea hack (I love re-purposing Ikea swag). I took some measurements and found that I needed something to raise my workstation 18 inches or so in order to achieve the proper ergonomics. I purchased a display cabinet (now discontinued) that was 42" wide by 17" deep by 17" - 19" tall (adjustable legs). [It's important to note that, while the model I purchased is no longer available, there are tons of similar items that come and go from their catalog.] The TV display case fit perfectly atop my existing cubicle workstation.

This closely resembles the item I purchased on clearance for $35.00

I knew that I was not going to be able to stand all day (and, in fact, it is not recommended that you stand 8+ hours each day as this also present certain health concerns). I brought in a tall shop stool I had in my workshop for those times that I would want to take the load off my feet. 

The first few days were rough: I could go about 30 minutes standing before fatigue set in and I needed to sit down. By Thursday of that first week, I was able to go up to an hour and still focus on my work without thinking about my feet or my back. The discomfort of sitting on the shop chair lent itself to my standing for longer periods (ugh, not as comfy in my office as it is in my workshop). 90 days in and I can easily go full 2 hour periods without complaint.

I am not a doctor so I won't talk about how studies suggest that standing reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes or other metabolic problems. Also, It is not likely that I would ever become obese, so there's no sense in saying that I benefited in this regard. Click here for an article that offers more discussion on these topics. 

I can say, however, that I have cured one major issue that many folks that work shitty desk jobs suffer from: falling asleep at my desk. I find that I am much more present in my work and engaged with my co-workers.   

In the last few weeks, I have begun adding a few wrinkles into my routine by standing on my tippy-toes for 60 seconds at a time or doing squats while I am waiting on hold for a customer. I will also stand with one foot on top of a box for a few minutes or just lift my leg into the tree pose. 

All in all, I am pleased that I followed my doctor's recommendation. I am ready to move forward with investing in a more long term solution. The two options are (1. A desk that raises and lowers or, (2. A stand-up height desk with a drafting chair that raises to the height of the work station. 

I will be going out and testing some of the products that are on the market in the next few weeks and report back my findings. 

I'd love to hear from anyone who has tried or is in the process of converting to a stand-up/sit-down workstation. Leave a comment with your story or any suggestions.