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I believe in the benefits of a standing desk, namely, that it's better for you. On a couple occasions I tried sitting on an inflatable ball, but somehow getting the right size and inflation became off-putting in its confusion and gave up on it.

I'm in decent physical shape - I run 10k's, do yoga and rock climb - but have mediocre posture (which is part of why I want to stand). Standing will certainly be a little distracting, and if there is another option I'll at some point give up on standing for its convenience. However I'm starting a new position where it's possible to get a standing desk with no on-hand alternative, so I thought I might try it.

My question is: for someone in decent shape who wants to improve posture, is a standing desk easy enough to adapt to so that it's not too distracting from work, and doesn't stay distracting for long?

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    Don't know, but I've been promising myself a compromise -- raise my desks to standing height, BUT get a draftsman's chair (with good ergonomics!) to go with it. That will give me the freedom to move between standing and sitting at the same workstation.
    – keshlam
    Oct 3 '14 at 1:29
  • @keshlam good point. I'm interested in compromises that won't just turn to giving up.
    – user1084
    Oct 3 '14 at 1:36
  • Not planning to give up -- planning to alternate depending on mood, energy level, what I'm doing, phase of moon, ...
    – keshlam
    Oct 3 '14 at 1:37
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    @jcm ergonomics is defined as "the study of people's efficiency in their working environment." This question is 100% about ergonomics.
    – user1084
    Oct 3 '14 at 2:23
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    Regarding ergonomics being on topic, see a meta discussion here if you are interested.
    – enderland
    Oct 3 '14 at 3:34
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I have been standing while working now for three and a half years. I knew that sitting all day every day wasn't good for me, and considering a chiropractor warned me in my mid-teens that I may have back problems when I get older, I decided that I must do something to avoid that prophecy from coming true.

The research I found suggested, for ergonomical reasons, one should position the keyboard and mouse at a level where one's forearms are parallel to the ground. This prevents wrists from bending backwards and creating strain on the tiny muscles in the hands. The research also suggested obtaining adjustable desks, as it is difficult to transition to standing up full time, at least at first. The research on avoiding wrist strain is also backed up by Dr. Aaron Davison at Davison Chiropractic, who has helped advise me on the necessary changes to be successful while standing.

The other critical issue is the positioning of the monitor. Looking down for eight or more hours per day strains the neck, so solutions that position the monitor at eye level help users stay focused on good posture.

I ran into two problems in the getting started process. First, adjustable desks can easily cost hundreds of dollars. Second, many of the solutions involved the monitor sitting on the same surface as the keyboard and mouse, meaning one would look down instead of straight ahead.

Over a period of months, I continued researching and found that Ikea made a desk called the "Ikea Fredrik"; however, they unfortunately discontinued it. Luckily, I found one on Craigslist for less than $100, and I set it up in my apartment. Below is a picture of my setup:

My Ikea Fredrik

Here is my recommended configuration:

  • Use boxes or other materials to position the keyboard at the appropriate level, to keep your arms parallel. I purposely setup the desk too low so I'd have room to experiment, and I just never got around to changing the height of the desktop surface once I figured out what worked best for me.

  • The mouse is slightly higher. It's recommended that it be even so your arms are parallel to the ground; however, I've become used to this configuration and have no problems.

  • The laptop, and an external monitor, are positioned on the top shelf at eye level. Flat screens and small laptops work best with the Fredrik. It can be wobbly, but I've never felt like there is a danger of anything falling. Still, I wouldn't recommend something large, like a CRT or Thunderbolt monitor.

  • I stand on old, worn-out shag carpet. This is the one area I need to change. I plan to try a mat similar to what enderland suggests. When barefoot, I do experience discomfort. But when wearing shoes, I find I can stand for much longer periods if I keep my weight on the balls of my feet and my knees slightly bent.

When I first started, I switched between a sit-down desk and the standup desk. The sit-down desk at the time had an old Dell Dimension setup, so the slower computer motivated me to stand more often at the faster, newer computer. Today, the sit-down desk is so cluttered I can no longer sit at it.

I also find I must take at least one brisk 30 minute walk per day in order to keep from getting stiff. If I do this, I can concentrate just fine and accomplish my goals. If I don't, then I find that even after three and a half years, I become incredibly stiff and find standing to be a distraction.

If you're going to stand, be prepared to experiment. Working at a standing desk isn't something you can do full time without a lot of dedication and persistence. Even today, it is something I must constantly work at to maintain. If at first you don't succeed, definitely try again.

is a standing desk easy enough to adapt to so that it's not too distracting from work, and doesn't stay distracting for long?

To answer your question more directly, you will be distracted at first. Mitigate this by having both a standing and sitting option, and if on some days you find you can't stand, don't take that as a sign you can never stand. Just take it one day at a time, and be prepared to fail.

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  • In lieu of an anti-fatigue mat, try using camping pad (foam folded several times or Thermarest) and wearing crocs (cheap knockoffs can cost $10 at dollar/Asian discount stores). The two together will conform to your feet contours, reducing hard pressure points, allowing you to stand without pain/fatigue, much longer than with regular shoes + firm floor.
    – Baker
    Oct 17 '15 at 8:21
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My question is: for someone in decent shape who wants to improve posture, is a standing desk easy enough to adapt to so that it's not too distracting from work, and doesn't stay distracting for long?

Great question! I have used a standing desk fairly extensively over the past few years.

A standing desk is great, especially if:

  • You don't have lengthy periods of focus. Bad posture tends to become uncomfortable relatively quickly with a standing desk. I found myself getting focused and leaning too much.
  • You can take short breaks and move around, stretch a bit. This is really helpful.
  • Having a mat like this is really helpful if you intend to stand all day: enter image description here
  • You can easily adjust it. Many now have electric motors and give very fine control. The less easy it is to adjust up/down the less likely you are to find a comfortable position.

It doesn't take too long to adjust to standing up all day long, either. Don't do it all day initially, take breaks - it's much more difficult than might seem the case to go from sitting all day to standing. But it's definitely possible, especially if you have an ergo mat.

I will caution you, if you do tasks where you get really "into the zone" it may be more difficult. I find this hard, because I am moving more often (though perhaps situation is actually a good reason to use a standing desk..). Your work will also become considerably more public as well as your monitors will be much higher.

Additionally, the height and angle of your keyboard/monitors/mouse become more important as you cannot adjust your legs the way most office chairs adjust. You will need to be able to manipulate how your desktop setup is much more significantly. This generally isn't a problem for any workspace in 2014 but I am sure there are people out there without any such flexibility.

For managers or those on the phone often who can move around a fair bit or people who do not lose their "focus" easily like this is great. Everyone has differing levels of ability to adapt though.

When I first started using this, I created a "fake" standing desk with some boxes. It wasn't ideal but it helped me realize I did in fact enjoy it.

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  • Do you have to adjust the desk after you find the initial position that works for you?
    – user1084
    Oct 3 '14 at 4:04
  • @djechlin sometimes. When I'm using it I will often sit down for an hour or two a day. So I'm sure there are subtle adjustments that happen.
    – enderland
    Oct 3 '14 at 12:32
  • If you have room to store it, switching to a bar stool when you need to sit might let you avoid having to adjust the desk several times a day. Oct 3 '14 at 15:08
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I've also had problems with bad posture, and I have other issues that make standing up for long stretches really painful. I was fortunate enough to get a chance to try out a Back App chair. It's worked really well for me; my riding instructor has told me she's seen a clear improvement in my seat and I'm much better able to sit up straight instead of slouching.

Of course, they're a bit more expensive than just raising the desk...

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Get a desk with a motor, they are usually adjustible from 65 to 150 cm in height. For the monitor try a flexible arm or even better is if the desk has a second motor that lifts the monitor.

If both motors are programmable, you can easily switch between sitting and standing position, which is said to be healthier than just sitting or standing.

Cost for a simple motor driven desk is around 1000€ here in germany, with a second table part and own motor for the monitor below 1500€.

example image

Could not find an example for the extra monitor thing, so here is a normal table.

Also checkout the diagram on page 42 of this manual, where you can see how much free leg space you should have (red line). Often the cheaper tables have a horizontal bar in the middle or a very thick plate or an extra reinforcement at the front where your legs are.

I'm not associated with the company where the images come from, but I guess they won't mind the advertisement. ;P