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My Experience With A Standing Desk | Kestrel's Aerie

My Experience With A Standing Desk | Kestrel's Aerie

My Experience With A Standing Desk


Before we go any further, you may be wondering just what is a standing desk? The “duh!” answer is that any desk stands on the floor…doesn’t it? Well, yes. But in this case, I’m talking about a desk at which you stand to work, rather than sit.

Last Sunday, I read Gina Trapani’s account of why and how she switched to a standing desk. Some of you know I built myself a new desk this past summer, and I’ve toyed with the idea of creating some form of standing desk. With Gina’s article as catalyst, I immediately took a standalone shelf, placed it on my desk, and put my keyboard and mouse on it. That was pretty comfortable, but I still had the issue of raising the iMac and second monitor to a suitable height.

The How

After a bit of online research, I found some items at Target that should work for both monitors and my keyboard/mouse. However, instead of ordering online, I finally braved the elements and drove over to Target on Thursday. I was able to find what I wanted, and although not exactly what I’d scouted out at, they were only half the cost of the online solutions. After a few minutes to assemble, I ended up with this:

My desk, converted to a standing desk.

I realize the picture is a bit cluttered, so allow me to describe what you’re looking at. (Sorry about the distracting photo of Minnie Mouse on the iMac: that’s what my screensaver happened to pop up as I snapped the shot.)

The iMac (right) and Dell monitor (left) are perched on identical shelves, which are 24″W x 11.5″ H x 11.5″ D. They are made of wood composite and simply screw together with two screws at the ends of each shelf. The keyboard and mouse (and Hawaiian Islands coffee mug) are on a shelf that is identical, except it’s 31″ wide.

While that setup worked alright last night, this morning I realized as I was typing, that my wrists were bent at an uncomfortable angle, so I went out to the garage and grabbed some scrap decking material, left over from another summer project. Raising the keyboard shelf about two and a half inches made it just about perfect. (I should mention that the shelves I was looking at online were 15″ high, so they’d have been perfect, at least for the keyboard and mouse. They might have been a bit high for the iMac, since it’s at a fixed height.)

The Why and the What For

My reasons for moving to the standing desk are pretty much the same as Gina’s: I spend most of my day (and evening) at my computer. That means most of time, my butt is planted in a (fairly comfortable) chair. And I don’t get a lot of exercise that way. I figured the worst that could happen by standing would be sore feet. But I also reasoned that my circulation would improve (it has: despite the cold weather we’ve had, I don’t have cold feet or knees when I go to bed), and even if I stood perfectly still, I’d still expend more calories than by sitting.

In reality, I find myself moving quite a bit, even if I’m doing nothing more than shifting from one foot to the other. Yes, my feet do get tired, and wearing good shoes is much more comfortable than just standing in stocking feet. I’ve also ordered an anti-fatigue mat from Amazon, but it’s out of stock, so no telling when that will arrive. However, when I have music playing, I find myself swaying a bit in time to the music (no, you are not going to get a video of that; sorry!). But the single most salient benefit I’ve discovered is that my lower back doesn’t ache anymore at the end of the day.

It turns out that when I sit, I tend to lean (or slouch) to my left side. So, when I go to bed, there’s a bit of a strain many nights. Except for the very first night after standing all day, my back has been completely pain-free. Huzzah! Now, I will admit that my feet do get rather sore. I also figured out why that is. While most people spend maybe eight or nine hours at their desks, I get to my computer around nine in the morning, and I’m generally in front of it for the better part of the next twelve hours, whether reading, writing, or playing.

That’s way too much time to be on one’s feet in a day. So today, I figured out that I could sit in my nice leather chair and use my laptop for some of my writing and reading, thereby saving the wear on my feet and legs. As a side benefit, I can also watch television more easily, since my chair is directly in front of the TV in my office. (Generally, however, I don’t care for the added distraction of the television when I’m on the computer.)

The Bottom Line

Do I think I’ll stick to this new regimen? Absolutely. If worst comes to worst, I can easily move my keyboard and mouse, and till my monitor, so I can sit down for a bit at the desktop, if necessary. But for the most part, I’m really enjoying the comfort of computing while standing.

Would I recommend the switch to others? Unreservedly, assuming you don’t have any overriding medical issues that might be exacerbated by prolonged standing.1 (And no, I did not consult with a doctor before embarking on this endeavor. It it makes you feel better to do so, by all means do it!)

Does anyone else have experience with standing desks, to share with us? Any questions you have that I failed to answer? Let me know in the comments!

  1. Okay, I realize that’s not exactly “unreservedly.” So sue me.


5 Responses to My Experience With A Standing Desk
  1. Joel B.
    January 21, 2011 | 19:59

    This is almost exactly how I started w/standing. For me, standing FULL time turned out to be non-optimal, so I went with an adjustable standing desk instead (a GeekDesk Original, in my case). Being able to switch back and forth has been the big “missing piece” from my earlier standing trials. HIGHLY recommended, if standing full time ends up being uncomfortable. I can’t imagine going back to just sitting all day now.

    • Kestrel
      January 22, 2011 | 09:04

      I’d love to have that convertibility option, but it’s just not feasible currently. However, the fact that my keyboard and mouse are easily moved to the original desktop does allow me to sit if I choose. The disadvantage being, of course, I’m craning my neck up to see the monitors.

      Since that’s not really a good thing, I won’t do it for long periods. Instead, I’ll probably buy a barstool I can use to give my feet and legs an occasional rest (or, as I mentioned, resort to my recliner and laptop!).

  2. Mazil
    January 24, 2011 | 04:43

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve always been curious about standing desks, as my favourite hobbies lead me to being pretty sedentary too. I’m not sure whether I could get away with a standing desk setup at my current workplace, but if my situation changed, I’d certainly be tempted to give it a go.

    It’s a pity that it isn’t easier to switch between a sitting and standing setup, as Joel B mentions. Maybe, hopefully, it might gain in popularity, and therefore more furniture options will arise :) (arise! tehehe!)

    • Kestrel
      January 24, 2011 | 09:01

      All puns are welcome. :p

      I can certainly see an increasing demand for what we call drafting chairs: higher chairs used at drafting tables. (Bar stools would work, too.) That gives you the option of sitting, but keeping your workstation in the same position.

      A possible drawback, of course, is that drafting chairs (and bar stools) aren’t designed (necessarily) with ergonomics in mind. On the other hand, my current desk chair was—and I know it has been a contributor to my poor posture.

      It seems to me the better alternative is to stand most of the time, with sitting breaks, at the same level. (Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking a break completely away from the computer, and I’ve been doing that a lot more too.

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