I joined a co-working space four weeks ago, mainly because I was sick of handling all the headaches that come with a home office. You name it, I hated it: dealing with home internet connections, working within 20 feet of my fridge, being alone, paying for heat or ventilation all day.
Also, my shoulders were killing me. And I lacked the patience for researching how to rejigger my home-desk setup to be ergonomically exquisite. I knew from previous reporting on Workbar--a co-working space based in Cambridge, Massachusetts--that the furniture and desk setups were the latest and greatest from Allsteel. So I joined.
Almost immediately, I started using a standing desk. Like you, I'd read raves about them, in Inc. and elsewhere. Sitting is the new smoking, and all that jazz. I'd also read, and frankly preferred, the comical rejoinders, such as The Daily Beast's reminder that "100 percent of standing desk users still die."
After four weeks of life at a standing desk, I've compiled a list of seven things I wish I'd known before switching.
1. Your feet are going to hurt.
Well, maybe yours won't. But mine do. Granted: I'm a heavy dude, 260 pounds soaking wet.
But even those with gossamer treads will likely experience foot pain if they're standing all day. Veer Gidwaney, CEO of Maxwell Health, who transitioned his company to standing desks, suggests that you also "purchase proper anti-fatigue mats to cushion your feet and support proper spine alignment, along with high-quality adjustable high desk chairs to give you the option to sit when you like."
2. You'll have less juice in your legs for postwork exercise--or even the walk home.
I practice yoga almost every night after work. For the past four weeks, my standing poses have been a mess. I'm just gassed. I'm getting used to it. It's getting better. But the adjustment has been slower than I hoped.
Again, I suspect this little drawback won't apply to everyone who's transitioning to a standing desk. I'm not in the greatest shape to begin with. My only point here is this: If you're a regular exerciser, and you're used to a certain level of, ahem, performance, you might experience a dropoff in the early weeks of your standing-desk transition.
3. You don't have to stand all the time.
This might seem obvious. Most standing-desk setups come with chairs, so you can take a break when you need to. For some reason, in the early part of my transition, I spent too much time gritting my teeth, believing that the adjustment was going to necessarily involve pain and fatigue.
Well, it does. But just how much is up to you. You can be gradual about this. You can plan to stand for an hour a day your first week, two hours your second week, and so on. I didn't do this. Now that I'm in week five, I'm more generous about taking breaks when I need to.
4. You can still get stiff and sore from standing all day.
Yes, standing is better than sitting. But that doesn't mean you won't need to move around. In fact, the winner of Inc.'s 2015 Best in Class Readers' Choice Design Award, the Level by Fluidstance, is designed to help workers keep moving while they stand.
The Level is a standing desk platform with a rounded bottom. The idea behind the platform is that staying too long in any position--yes, even standing--can lead to soreness and injuries. To stay balanced on the Level, you have to keep your legs in motion. When you use it, you generate a comparable lower leg motion to what you'd experience while walking.
I don't have a Level, but I now grasp why a standing-desk worker might want one. I often find myself shifting my weight from one leg to the other, or shuffling my feet back and forth anyway, just to avoid the discomforts of staying stationary.
5. Your shoulders will feel better.
I'm not quite sure what it was about switching from sitting to standing that has made the act of typing and general laptop-usage easier on my shoulders. All I know is that it's happened.
I suspect it has to do with posture. Michael Dura, the small and medium business area sales manager (East) for Herman Miller, recently told Inc. that whether you're sitting or standing, maintaining great posture is crucial. It can certainly be done while sitting, if you have the right chair. But by standing, you'll avoid the slouching tendencies that often occur if you're sitting in a low-quality chair.
6. You'll begin to enjoy standing, especially for tasks that don't involve heavy concentration.
There are certain parts of my workday that are easier than others. Surely you know the feeling.
For instance, it's much more relaxing for me to compose a tweet about an article I just wrote than it is to actually write the article.
Likewise, I always have a blast when I'm on the phone, doing the work of the reporter, chatting and taking notes on, say, how the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils plan a kickass offsite. Or on how a local café raised more than $5,000 for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
I'm at the point now where it's almost second nature for me to be standing at the desk whenever I'm doing something aside from actually writing a story. And when I'm writing, I'm usually still standing--but I'm more likely to take a break and sit, especially if I feel the need to concentrate and not be distracted by the effort of standing.
7. You'll sleep better.
One benefit of the fatigue of standing all day--you'll be more tired at night. In my first few weeks, I found myself easily able to turn in at 9 p.m. Suddenly, I was waking up earlier, too, and becoming more productive.
If all of the above makes me sound like a standing-desk evangelist, let me be clear: I still like to sit at a desk, sometimes for hours. On days when I'm just plain tired, from the previous day's workout or work-based all-nighter, I have found I prefer sitting all day. So far, in my four weeks, there has been at least one day each week where I sat all day. And I've enjoyed it.
So in a way, sitting may indeed be the new smoking, in more ways than one. Is it bad for you if you do it all the time? Surely. But it can still be a fun way to take a break by yourself or in the company of colleagues.