Working while standing

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[edit] Why do it?

While it seems radical by traditional office standards, working while standing has many adherents. The principal benefits seem to be:

  • Fewer posture-related back problems
  • Sense of freedom, both of movement and thought
  • Enhances multi-tasking for some purposes
  • Measure of exercise, at least compared to sitting all day
  • Freaks out unknowing co-workers ;)

Some people have gone with a hybrid arrangement, with either two separate standing/sitting work surfaces or desks that can be adjusted vertically to accomodate both positions.

But here are some health warnings about working while standing.

It seems from the health literature that the optimal work set up is the one in which it's easiest to change your position frequently, from sitting to standing and back.

So perhaps a high table with a stool or high chair and a footrest (for shifting weight when standing) is the most ergonomic setup. This allows you not only to switch positions, but also to start moving around the room easily. Also essential would be a display that swivels effortlessly to accomodate both sitting and standing positions. Apple's Cinema Displays work well on this score.

[edit] Examples

[edit] Writing

Vladimir Nabokov, who liked to write his novels using index cards, also enjoyed writing while standing.

American novelist Thomas Wolfe, a very tall fellow, is reputed to have written standing up in his kitchen, using the top of his refrigerator as a work surface.

Donald Rumsfeld and Winston Churchill are also known to prefer working while standing.

Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon, and William Gladstone are reported to have preferred working while standing.

[edit] Healthcare

One group of individuals which traditionally spend a fair amount of time working while standing are those in health care. Physicians, nurses, and other health care providers on inpatient units will often accomplish a lot of their work standing as they move from room to room seeing patients. Many hospital units are equipped with tall counters or fold-down desks in the hallway to provide an adequate writing surface for jotting down notes. In some hospitals, laptops with wireless cards are bolted to modified IV poles for use at standing height -- these are then rolled down the halls and used to look up data, enter notes and orders "on the go" for efficiency's sake. Even so, longer episodes of note-writing and review often occur while sitting at a desk, although it's rare to be sitting for longer than 15 minutes at a time.

[edit] Animation

A visit to Pixar Studios, including a photo of a customised workplace.

[edit] How to do it

One note if you are planning to work with a standing desk: this comes from my physical therapist. Make sure to have something to rest your feet on under the desk (one at a time, of course), about the height of a footrest in front of a bar. This helps keep your hips and lower back straight. You don't need to do this all the time, but as you feel you want to change position, put one of your feet on this footrest. (I'm using a small, wooden wine crate that's about 12" high - it's the 6-bottle size crate.)

Also, I find that it's useful to raise your computer screen well above the desk, to about eye height. If you look down at a screen on the desk, gravity will slowly pull your head and shoulders down. If you're familiar with the Alexander Technique, an eye-level screen will help you with the neck and back lengthening ideas.

[edit] Desks to Stand At

These are both beautiful pieces of furniture. They are however lacking in desk space. A great alternative are drafting tables. They come in a wide array of sizes and materials. They can be equally as beautiful as the book stands, and provide lots of room to spread out those Hipster PDA cards and Moleskines. There are many sources, use Google to find the one you like. --JWS 16:13, 28 Apr 2005 (EDT)

[edit] Other Ideas

  • Convert a treadmill into a workstation to take advantage of Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) and get healthier.
  • If you don't mind having an industrial looking piece of furniture in your workspace (or you simply don't have the budget for tall workspaces which tend to cost more than their shorter counterparts), then shelving systems can serve the role of desk rather nicely. Just leave the front shelf braces out on all but the top shelf (to make room for your feet and legs) and you have a relatively inexpensive taller than average work surface. Be sure to use a shelving system that is sturdy even with some of the front braces removed so you can put whatever you want on your desk without fear. Some shelving systems even make accomodations for drawers and other storage features depending on how much you want to spend.
  • Rather than purchase an adjustable height work surface to accomodate hybrid standing/sitting workspaces, just get a taller chair. Draftsmen have been using stool-like office chairs for decades and any art supply or drafting store should have several comfortable models to choose from, complete with pneumatic adjustment, built-in footrests and any number of other comfort features.
    • My worskspace consists of a drawing/drafting table situated next to a set of gorrila shelves where my computer resides. I use a pneumatically adjustable chair that is tall enough to sit comfortably at either surface and is on casters so I can just push it aside when I want to stand and work rather than sit. --ThePolack
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