Standing On Our Own Two Feet

I’ve had a desk-based job for nearly six years, and as you’d expect, I’ve sat on a chair for the vast majority of that time while working. Since working with Venture Banners, that’s been the case again. But the thing with sitting on an office chair for nearly all of nine hours a day, is that it just isn’t that good for you. The tendency to slouch or slump can be all too easy and become a hard habit to break. This makes for a bad posture, and given enough time, can develop into back problems in later life. Now, some might say that I’m fairly young anyway. The thing is, although I wouldn’t say I have any particular signs of back trouble now, I’m not sitting around to wait until I start getting them before I do anything about it. And yes, the pun was very much intended.

Flexing Our Muscles

We’ve been extremely busy over the last few months—enough to the point where it was clear we needed to expand. We were already limited for space in our sales office, and we needed more hands on deck, so we began looking for A: a bigger office, and B: some new people to fill it with. While we didn’t find any offices nearby in Chelmsford that we liked enough or had the right location or facilities, we were fortunate enough when the opportunity arose to use another office just opposite our current one. This proved ideal for us, as we we’ve been able to expand into the office in our own time and without any real disruption.

Muscle Memory

Our standing desk being built And a pair of legs.
Our standing desk being built. And a pair of legs.

Just before we started to re-decorate the new office, we began to plan the layout (with an accurate scale representation in Adobe Illustrator, no less). At this point, I remembered an article by Gina Trapani from January: Why and How I Switched to a Standing Desk. She mentioned the reasons why she decided to go from sitting to standing, and the benefits that brought. I remember thinking ‘that’s a cool idea, I’d like to give that a go someday’.

Now that we had an empty office to play with (and I knew I’d be one of the three team members moving in there), I suggested the idea of a standing desk to the Directors. I must admit, at first, there were mixed reactions in the office about the idea. Some thought I was being ridiculous, and that I was being one of those ‘crazy creatives’! Fortunately for me, I managed to win the decision-makers over on the idea, and even convinced Wayne to join me on the other side of a standing desk. So we got to planning.

We found that most pre-built standing (or ‘raisable’) desk systems were either extremely expensive, or just didn’t suit the size we were looking for. Instead, we decided to build our own, plain and simple. We bought some basic 40mm-thick 2000mm × 720mm pieces of beech breakfast bar wood (from The Chippy Shop, oddly NSFW!), some 1000mm-tall metal leg supports (from John Porter Kitchens), along with a supporting beam and bracket for the wall end. The total cost of these came to about £510.

Once the office had been painted, we got to building. Or rather, I should say, Wayne did. He did a sterling job to plan and execute the construction of the desks. The total building time was only a few hours, with the planning and treating of the wood phases taking place over a period of time.

Wayne doing the finishing touches.
Wayne doing the finishing touches.

Hitting The Ground Running

Before I moved into the new office and began using the desk, I was a little nervous about how I’d find it. I’d read in several places that the first week with a standing desk can be very tough, so I wasn’t overly looking forward to that part.

As it turned out, during the week prior to us moving in, I’d spent a week in Florida, where we had a whole lot of fun, so I’d already spent a most of six days standing up and walking around. I think this ‘stood me in good stead’, so to speak!

The first day using the new desk in June just happened to be one of the hottest days of the year, so the heat actually was worse than any initial aches I got from adjusting to standing. One added advantage I soon realised is that you don’t stick to a chair on a hot day.

The first few days were a bit strange in that I found it harder to concentrate on my work, as part of my brain seemed very conscious of the fact my legs were working harder than normal.

The finished desk, complete with cuddly toy mascots.
The finished desk, complete with cuddly toy mascots.

The Current Standing

After only a week, I’d found that I’d nearly completely gotten used to the new working position.

You can read the tweets I made during the first few weeks of using the desk, but the gist of it is that I’ve enjoyed it, and would recommend it to anyone who is able.

My posture was better, I felt more energetic, and a couple of tiny foot and knee weaknesses were already feeling stronger.

Pull The Other One

Of course, when it comes to your joints and muscles, too much of anything can be bad for you. There are disadvantages with standing all day too. Among them are Carotid Atherosclerosis and varicose veins. After reading a few articles on the subject, whether you’re at a sitting desk or standing desk, it seems the main things to remember are:

  • Make sure your posture is correct for the type of desk you are using
  • Don’t stay in the same position for long periods of time
  • Move regularly (as in walking around and doing other things)

This made me think seriously about standing for nine hours straight. I now make sure I sit for at least a couple of hours over course of the day, but aim to stand for most of the time.

Some Good Reading on the Subject