Running|Code

About software development and trail running.

My First Week With a Standing Desk

After a year of procrastination, I finally have a standing desk and am committing to standing at work (or more accurately, not sitting 100% of the time). There are plenty of resources online for the why and how of standing, and there are plenty of reviews and how-tos for standing desks. So with this series of blog posts, I want to focus on personal experience and offer practical observations and tips as I make the transition to standing.

Other posts in this series:

The plan

I am following my coworker Josh Earl’s 28-Day Stand Up and Work Challenge (actually 20 work days over four weeks). This plan starts small—just 12 minutes spent standing on the first day—which I believe will allow for incremental adaptation and adjustments make it easier to focus on good habits. Once a week, I will post a blog update with observations on each day of the challenge: overall progress, what is working or not working, and plans for the next week.

The setup

The desk: as a gift my wife had a local woodworker build a beautiful custom standing desk. Though not adjustable, it is solid, built to my measurements, and looks great. Having both desks will suit our needs, as my equipment is fairly portable and the traditional desk’s large surface area and drawers are useful.

Peripherals:

Observations: week one

Day 0, 2 hours. On my first day of work with a standing desk, I spent a couple of hours standing, which felt fine, without too much fatigue. I knew I was probably doing some things wrong and did not want to develop bad habits, so I decided to start over with the 28-day plan.

Day 1, 12 minutes. Easy and comfortable. I didn’t bother trying to get any real focused work done in such a short time span. I spent this time observing my pose while reading about correct posture and fatigue reduction.

Day 2, 24 minutes. Got a stitch in my lower left back, but I blame it on generally lazy behavior from the holidays rather than the standing exercise.

Day 3, 36 minutes. Started to feel a light burn in the calves and back, the good kind that feels like I’m building strength. Started a nightly stretching routine.

Day 4, 48 minutes. With the standing periods getting longer, I scheduled a focused coding session for today. Felt a light burn again, but did not end the session with significant fatigue or soreness. A little tight in the lower back, addressed by a few seconds of stretching. Still taking significant focus to ensure good posture and shifting weight, but I can start to notice the benefit.

Day 5, 60 minutes. Going smoothly. I’m becoming more aware of bad posture habits during prolonged seated periods.

Posture

It quickly becomes clear that correct posture is a key to healthy standing desk usage (and for that matter, healthy sitting). Use the short time periods during the first week to focus on making a habit of good posture. Engage the core muscles, especially the stomach. Keep the spine and neck straight and upright, head level, shoulders square and rolled back but relaxed. I have found that my torso, arms, shoulders, and neck feel more relaxed and comfortable with an upright posture at the standing desk than they feel with a slouched posture while seated.

A simple footrest

One should not stand perfectly still; regular adjustments to position and balance are important to good standing desk practice. I found a yoga block in the closet, and it is serving as a simple footrest to support various standing positions.

Next week

Next week, I want to try standing different times of the day to see if there are preferred times to sit or stand. During seated periods, I need to fight the habit of staying in one position the whole time, with reminders to get up and move and stretch periodically. Continued focus is necessary for optimizing posture, so each standing session will start with recalling some instructions for correct posture.

This post was modified after its initial publication.