Standing desks allow you to read, write, and work while standing up instead of sitting down. Some of the world’s most famous politicians, statesmen, and writers all did their work while standing, including Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, and Thomas Jefferson.
Standing desks come in a variety of styles. Some are designed to offer a permanent standing arrangement. Others provide you with a sit-stand combination which allows you to move up and down. They come in several different height options, often between 28 inches to 50 inches, to accommodate the specific height of the user. Cranks, hydraulics, and similar technologies allow for some desks to be adjustable.
The primary reason to consider a standing desk is the health benefit it offers. Compared to people who sit for prolonged periods, those who stand have a significantly lower mortality rate. There are additional health concerns to consider when standing, however, which is why a comprehensive look at the pros and cons of a standing desk is necessary to review before using this technology.
List of the Pros of a Standing Desk
1. It gives you more energy to use throughout the day.
If you’re standing at a desk while working, it isn’t as easy to feel sleepy as when you’re sitting for up to 8 hours (or more) each day. When you stand up while working, it keeps your blood flowing. For many people, it feels like their minds stay more alert and creative. You’re constantly aware of your body and how you feel. Since most standing desks give you the option to sit as well, you’re able to accommodate your physical needs at any given time.
2. You stay more engaged with your co-workers.
When you’re working in a busy office, sitting behind a cubicle wall feels like you’re isolated from the rest of the world. That makes it feel like you lose opportunities to talk with one another, develop new relationships, or notice something important happening around you. When you get to work at a standing desk, then you have more chances to start a conversation. If you do start chatting with someone, you’re already at eye level. Instead of sending emails, you’re encouraged to actually speak with others.
3. You decrease downtime between transitions.
When you’re working on your own, either in a private office or at home, a standing desk reduces the amount of transition time that is required between projects. Your mind is more active when you stand, which means you don’t need as much time to get comfortable and in a state that is ready for work when compared to sitting behind a desk. That means you could find up to an hour of additional productivity waiting for you if you make the transition to a standing desk.
4. It helps to develop your core strength and better posture.
Sitting for long periods is cumbersome for the human body. Even with proper posture, a lot of weight is placed on your tailbone and lower back. Neck strain from looking at your computer is eye. You might even experience headaches because of eye fatigue. Many of these issues are reduced with a standing desk. Some even go away completely. You’ll discover that standing adds more strength to your core, reduces the chances of your ankles and feet swelling, and reduces pain in your neck and lower back.
5. You’re always ready for action.
When you work at a standing desk, then you become more aware of the environment around you. If one of your co-workers needs help, you’ll be able to spot the issue immediately. When you’re running late for a meeting, you just run over to where you need to be since you’re already on your feet. Although this benefit only saves you a few seconds in the best of situations, it makes you feel like you’re being more productive. That feeling then transitions to the other moments of your day, which ends up making you become more productive.
6. You can use accommodations to improve your comfort levels.
If you don’t have a sit-stand desk that allows movement up and down, then there are some tricks you can use to reduce fatigue levels in your legs. The first thing you should purchase is an anti-fatigue mat. It will offer cushioning to your feet that reduces the discomfort in your lower body. Nothing is worse than standing on a hard floor all day when you’re not used to it.
Comfortable shoes will also be your best friend. Even if you have a specific dress code to follow, having something comfy to slip on your feet while you’re behind the desk can provide you with a lot of relief.
7. You will burn more calories when using a standing desk.
When you are sitting at work, then you’ll burn an average of 140 calories in an hour with your internal body processes. If you’re standing instead, you can burn up to 190 calories during that same hour. The boost in calorie burning happens because your leg and back muscles are doing more work when you’re standing compared to when you’re sitting. Even if you can only stand for a portion of the day, you will find a big difference in your focus and creativity.
8. There are affordable standing desks available right now.
One of the best-selling sit-stand desk options available on Amazon right now is produced by FlexiSpot and it sells for less than $300. If you shop the AmazonBasics brand, there are options below $200 available. Standing frame desks are priced below $500, while Varidesk options begin around the $400 price point for some adjustable models. Although that might be outside of the budget for some companies and individuals, there are solutions for most price needs in today’s market.
List of the Cons of a Standing Desk
1. Your legs and feet are going to become extremely sore.
If you’ve been working behind a desk in a seated position all day, every day for several years, then it will take a good 2 to 3 weeks to become accustomed to the new working arrangement. Staying on your feet for most of the day shifts the soreness from your neck and lower back to your legs and feet. Even if you’re used to being on your feet, working full-time at a standing desk will be uncomfortable when you first get started. To offset some of that discomfort, consider using a sit-stand desk that raises and lowers when you need to shift positions.
2. Lunch can be annoying when you have a standing desk.
Many offices allow you to take time away from your desk to eat your lunch. Some places are more of an “eat where you are” place. When you have a standing desk, you’ll discover that trying to eat and be productive is almost impossible. It’s better to find a place to sit when you need a bite to eat because spills are going to happen. There’s also the fact that other people are going to see you eating, which can be disconcerting to some people.
3. Long days get rough on your feet in even the best of circumstances.
Most people can get used to spending 6 to 8 hours on their feet behind a standing desk. It is when you’re asked to put in some overtime at the office that things begin to feel sketchy. A long day gets rough toward the end of your shift. The knees begin to ache from the strain of fatigue. Your feet might get sore, even in comfortable shoes. It is difficult to remain productive if you work more than 8 hours, so flex schedules might not be an option if you’re thinking about a shift from sitting to standing.
4. People can see you all the time.
With a standing desk in a typical office environment, people are going to see what you’re doing whenever they look your way. If you pick your nose, then someone is going to call you on it. Having a bad hair day? People are going to know. That accidental soup stain on your tie isn’t going to be seen the entire afternoon. Of course, this issue won’t apply as often if you have a private office, but it may be problematic in an environment where there are several people who have habits which are distracting to everyone else.
5. You might not be healthy enough to use a standing desk.
There are specific health issues which do prevent some people from using a standing desk successfully. If you’ve suffered a leg, back, or knee injury in the past which causes stiffness or soreness for you, then you’ll be feeling the injury every time you work. People with arthritis may struggle to work at this type of desk too. Even with ergonomics available to you, there may not be enough support available to make the standing desk a successful experience. You may need to speak with your doctor about new strategies that could reduce your discomfort.
6. Standing all day can also be bad for your health.
Even though sitting has been compared to smoking for its effects on health, there are ill effects associated with standing for long periods of the day too. Standing all day will compress the spine, which can lead to a different set of lower back issues over time. Standing increases the risks of varicose vein development, deep vein thrombosis, and heart health concerns. In a 12-year study on heart disease reported on by U.S. News and World Report, people who primary stood on the job doubled their risk compared to people who mostly sat.
7. It may not have a positive impact on personal productivity.
Although some people report feeling more productive compared to when they sit, there is no research evidence to suggest this actually occurs. In a study looking at call center employees published by Science Direct, adding sit-stand desk technologies to the office decreased sitting time by up to 100 minutes in their intervention group. It increased standing time in all the workers by at least 73 minutes per day. It did not make significant changes to their hold time, talking time, or after-call work statistics.
As Mikael Cho, Chief Executive Officers of Unsplash, said in an interview with U.S. News and World Report, standing all the time behind a desk can be a drain on creativity too. “It’s really hard to [work] when you’re thinking about the pain in your leg, when you’re trying to force yourself to stand, when your shoulders are starting to cave in.”
8. It won’t help you to lose weight.
Even though you burn more calories when using a standing desk appropriately, it is not a magical solution for weight loss. You must combine the use of this technology with lifestyle modifications, including better eating choices and 30 minutes of moderate exercise, to begin burning the extra fat you may have developed when sitting.
9. You must create micro-environments to create a successful experience.
The issue, whether you’re standing or sitting, is that you do so in a static way. If you stand still while working for 8 hours a day, it is almost as bad for your body as if you’re sitting for your entire shift. To be successful when using a standing desk, or even a sit-stand desk, you must be able to create micro-environments for yourself. Movements of any type help to eliminate the issues which develop when you stay put in a single posture all day. Bring a foot rest to take the weight off one foot at a time, take stretching breaks, or allow yourself to fidget. The extra activity will help.
10. Some fine motor skills work better when sitting vs. standing.
Even though some famous writers stood when working, the human mind performs some tasks better when sitting down. Your brain tends to work in a sequential manner, which is why it is difficult for so many people to be effective multi-taskers. You may find it easier to work with a sit-stand desk combination where you can operate in “sprints.” Work for up to 90 minutes in a seated position, then do another 90 minutes in a standing position after a short break. That structure will help to eliminate distractions so you can stay focused on your work.
11. It can be expensive.
Some standing desks costs in excess of $2,000 per unit. Before you spend any money, try doing some specific actions at your desk or in the office while standing. Answer the phone while standing. When you’re doing some reading, stand up while you go through the documentation. If you feel like this activity benefits you, then the investment into a standing desk might make sense.
The pros and cons of standing desks suggest that you can burn more calories, be more productive, and keep your creativity levels high with this technology. You may also struggle with extreme discomfort when transitioning to this type of desk, have more distractions in the office, or be unable to use a standing desk because of your health. If you’re unsure about whether or not this desk is right for you, then talk to your doctor about the health benefits and risks as they apply in your specific situation.
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