Don’t Believe the Hype: Standing Desks

Standing desks are all the rage right now when it comes to productivity. So, first week of 2015 I got me one. It did not go well. Here’s how.

This is nice, but all the pain…

A few days after the start of the new year, I got myself a standing desk. These things tend to be expensive, so I was quite happy to find a small standing desk for cheap (€25) at a welfare store. Well, a small cupboard with doors and a desk plate on top, but still. In fact, that seemed even nicer, because it could store stuff.
There are two kinds of benefits a standing desk has to a regular one. One is health benefits – it’s good for the back, burns calories when compared to working in a chair, and has some minor benefits in other areas that are affected negatively by sitting in a chair for hours. The other is productivity – sitting down tends to lead to slouching or otherwise signaling the body that it’s tiem to get lazy. At least I constantly had to fight this feeling of ”I sit therefore I’m in leisure mode, let’s go to Netflix„ when in a chair.
So yeah, a standing desk, hyped enough in the US to warrant its own Wikipedia page, seemed agood idea.

Pro tip: hat is not a good idea is carrying this thing around in your arms for about half a mile on foot. Let’s just say the benefits for the back got pretty much destroyed for the first week. Yeah, that one was probably me being stupid and not the desk’s fault, so I’ll let it pass.

After that, work could begin and I noticed something off: It became even harder to get myself into working mode. Now it was not lazy mode taking over, I just really disliked the feeling of standing there while typing. My productivity plummetted. Reading and writing short stuff worked fine, but it became really tough to get myself to write anything longer than a twitter message.

After about a week my feet started complaining. I was not used to standing in one place for that long. Just for context, I regularly walk barefeet for several miles when the weather is good, but that’s walking, moving constantly, shifting weight from foot to foot with every step. It’s what feet are made for, what they’re good at. Now it seems, feet are not good at standing still. At least mine are not. Which is probably why we invented sitting (and why animals that stand still a lot almost all have hooves).
On the plus side, my back felt great now.

Get it away from me!

I took care of my feet using lotion and reintroducing my comfy chair specifically for lazy time. At this point I figured it was an issue of getting used to working while standing.

It’s March now and not only has this blog has been quiet for some time, I also did not yet finish a book I was plannign to finish by March, a zombie novella titled Boy. I got it 10% done and that is completely representative of my productivity at the standing desk: I generally got 10% done of what I got done before.

My feet got better but the thing was I just couldn’t bring myself to work much while standing. Which was weird because I’d always been working in a standing position before, in other jobs. I tried a few other desks in stores and it eventually boiled down to all of them having either of two problems: One half was a great height to type on, but too low to comfortably look at the screen of my laptop; the other was, of course, tall enough to comfortably look at the screen but unpleasant to write at because now the keyboard was to far up.
However, I do not want to get a desktop pc again for a couple of reasons – it takes up space, it uses much more electricity, and it is not portable enough, among others. Maybe it works better if keyboard and screen are separate from each other. I won’t check.

Back from the Journey

So today, I retired the standing desk. I will keep it in the room for its storage space, but instead of my laptop I will put a plant on it. Work will happen on my old desk again. I can already feel my spine complaining about the move back, but this I will remedy by starting to work in shorter bursts instead of several hours at once like before.
The very fact that I got myself to start and finish this very text about it seems proof enough to me that I’m just better off working while sitting on a desk.

So, here’s my advice to anybody thinking about getting a standing desk for writing work: Try to get a really cheap one first, preferably a used one off a flea market or welfare store. Just to try if this really is your thing. In the end, every one of us likes different things, every one of us works differently (in absolutely every meanign of the word ”works“). I am not going to say you shouldn’t get a standing desk. There’s always value in trying new things and figuring out wether they’re good for you — nobody can tell you what will and won’t work for you with absolute certainty.
I’m not here to counteract the hype with a nype (yes I just made up that word).
But I will say this: Don’t believe the hype. Any hype, really.