11,750 Foot Yoga Moment
Creative Commons License photo credit: a4gpa

One of the biggest changes that I have made in the way that I work in the last year had nothing to do with technology. It is nothing — it is not expensive. But it has radically redefined the way that I both view my work space but interact with my colleagues and then plan my day. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not something you can buy, it’s really something you need to do. It’s as simple as this. Stand up.

Standing is, I strongly believe, the next generation way of working. No, it’s not just a way that your evil corporation or dot com can force more workers into a smaller and smaller space, saving money on square footage — it’s ultimately good for your health. It’s good for the way that you think. And it really forces you to change how you plan your day.

Let’s Get Physical: Active individuals benefit from standing at work for a range of reasons, from posture, to flexibility, to even counting calories!

  • Counting Calories: The top physical benefit to standing up to work is simply that your burning calories while your there. You’re already working because your standing. You’re active, okay. So there’s that for the equation. Let’s add that right there. This alone probably negates your coffee habit or whatever else your drinking during the day…all by simply standing at work.
  • The second element of that physical benefit is for your hips and your glutes. Spending most of your day sitting down really tightens up your hips and shortens those hip flexors. This is the result of the fact that the majority of your time is spent in a docile, unengaged position. After six to eight hours a day of sitting in the car to work, sitting at work, sitting in the car home…sitting when you get home…it all means that you’re really putting your body at a disadvantage. Instead, standing at work means you’re constantly engaging your back, your core, your glutes. If you want to be proactive and geek out, you can do stretches and some exercises to do some strengthening in there. It’s amazingly different.

The Ups and Downs of Standing: This can be a pretty radical change, so it’s important to consider what moving to a standing workstation really means for you.

  • The Ups: The upsides of this are this is very simple, very natural just to stand in place and to work. You’re constantly moving. It’s easier to think from being free from the sitting position.
  • The Downs: The downsides of standing at work do exist. Aside from getting ridiculed by your fellow employess, there are some initial limitations that you’ll face. First, it’s not easy to put something next to your computer and read it while you’re typing. If you’re someone who does transcription or if you’re someone who does a lot of multiple reading sources, not just online but paper to online, that becomes challenging and it’s easy to elevate your computer but not so to elevate other items that you might use on a regular basis. Examples include the rolodex (if you still use that), a fax machine, your phone, etc. You may need to get, for example, a hands-free headset or something to make it easier for you to stand in place. I personally work from home, so it’s very easy for me to convert the countertops that we have to a standing workstation just by adding a stool to the top of it for my laptop and I’m done.

Changing the How, Not Just the Where: So how does standing change the way that you work? This was the most surprising advantage, aside from the fact that I needed to get healthy, it simply changes the way that I work.

  • Focus: I couldn’t zone out on any particular task. Because you’re standing you’re constantly moving, you’re agile, both physically and mentally. It’s a transition, a connection there, it works together, and as a result I was very focused on a task and able to focus on things for an intense period of time. I can’t zone out on them, it’s not easy for me to sit down and write for two hours. In fact, if I have a project like that I’m more likely to go somewhere where I can sit down and find some quiet and really but it really forces me to be rapid fire, so standing to process my e-mail, for example, is a no-brainer.
  • Multi-Tasking Done Right: Now that I stand, I’m much more likely to walk around while working. I actually prefer to take calls when I’m walking now, which again allows me to incorporate physical activity into my day. Forget talking, taking notes, and reading emails simultaneously — your brain can only do so much. But your brain and body can work in synchronized manner all day long. I can do this with my bluetooth headset, and it really keeps me focused.

Equipment for Standing: So what’s required to make this happen? There are obviously work stations you can go out and buy that cost a great deal of money…these elevate your desk and can be infinitely adjustable.

  • The Walking Desk: Some folks have built a work station on top of a treadmill for example, which is off the charts crazy. You can pretty much test this out at work by stacking things on your desk. I use a small footstool on top of my desk that helps me out. I would recommend that you do a hack first to see if this whole set-up is going to work for you and then go ahead and integrate it into your official work space on a bigger level should you find it to be most congruent with how you work, how you want to work, but also for your overall physical well-being.
  • A Paid Solution: Once you have confirmed this is going to work, you can check out if there’s a little money in your budget, definitely invest in a full-on standing work station for yourself. There are some more resource links at the bottom for reading about creating your own standing desk and why you want to do one.

Additional Reading / Links:

Best of luck to you and if you’ve done this before or you’re thinking about doing it, let us know in the comments, I’d love to hear about it.

28 Responses to “Sitting vs Standing At Work: Why You Need to Raise Your Working Game”

  1. Wes1030m says:

    After two a days, I need a RECLINING workstation, and some toothpicks to keep my eyes open…

  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/18/health/nutrit

    Pat – I've seen an article in USAToday or the NYTimes which focused specifically on Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at Mayo Clinic…probably the first time I had heard of cobbling together a treadmill and a workstation. Since I work for the govt., the chances are slim/none I could get away with something like this. Standing, on the other hand, might not be such a hard thing

  3. Thanks for the feedback! I think you can start with some baby steps on
    your way to standing…let me put together a few thoughts on this for

    iPhone Mobile Response Team

  4. KK says:

    I walked while studying in med school– all 4 years! I was told that I am a “kinesthetic learner”. I truly think we all learn in this fashion, but only a few of us have figured it out. Walking stimulates the brain, and allows one to focus better. -KK

  5. Kinesthetic learner…I love it. Thanks for the tip, I'll research that


  6. Justin says:

    Having recently transitioned to a stand-up desk I am very pleased. I work much more efficiently and consistently, so much so that I am sure my boss enjoys the change more than I do. It has been just over one week and the benefits are innumerable; while the negative effects, such as soreness and lack of focus, have decreased dramatically. Standing for extended periods of time has also led me to hate shoes.

  7. @Justin, thanks for the input and excited for your positive change. I'd love to see a picture of your set up if you get the chance!

  8. Justin says:

    After thinking up elaborate plans to build an easy and functional standing desk I ended up using a night stand, a file organizer, and a few old books. You can check it out on my blog, http://weeklyendeavor.wordpres

  9. Me says:

    this article is total bullsh1t!!! I stand for 9.5 hours a day and it wrecks havoc on me!!! When I get  home I can't move, I have stress fractures in my foot, my back is messed up, and my knee is killing me!!! HOWEVER with that being said I am all for a combination of both sitting and standing. Having something like an architects chair where I can at least lean back some and take the pressure off of my feet and back at times.

  10. What do you do at your job? I was particularly talking about office workers; sounds like you might have a more demanding job than the average person?

  11. Brownhousesweets says:

    I work on my kitchen table doing arrangements with cake, decorating cakes and general baking in the kitchen. My upper back hurts a lot and tenses up. I have been looking for a device that can raise a portion of my work surface. I am thinking a round area that lifts with a button. A kind of jack up device. Do you know where I could find some thing like this. I stand while working and it creates a lean over effect.

  12. bikepower says:

    My employer is offering to give employees a standing workstation if they would like one and I was curious if you still stand and work (it's been almost two years since the original post). Thinking about making the change, but I'm wondering if there is any downside. I cycle and run and wouldn't want to stand all day if it's going to affect my recovery. Thanks.

  13. Thanks for checking in. I think it's fantastic that your employer is considering such an option. You don't hear a lot of stories about businesses contributing to the health of their employees in such a way.
    Yes, I am still standing! We've moved houses, however, I brought my workstation with me and continue to stand at work as much as possible. While certainly there are some considerations around recovery, the upside of being mobile an stable in my work environment has been too large to ignore.

    Since coming back from a hip injury, I have almost exclusively stood at work. This was at the advice of my physical therapist. While I can't directly say that standing at work has reduced my level of injuries, anecdotally there is no denying that it has had a profound effect, and on my overall wellness as well. Let's not forget that you burn almost 500 cal a day simply standing.

    As long as you take adequate measures to recover from your exercise, I think you'll be fine. As I stand here right now typing to you, I'm wearing my compression socks after doing a 12 mile long run. It's all just part of the game.

    If you have any specific information about what kinds of workstations or employer is considering, feel free to post them here for others to give you
    feedback. Best of luck with your transformation!








  14. bikepower says:

    Thanks for the reply — I appreciate having the opinion of an athlete who actually has a track record with standing 🙂

    I don't know exactly what type of work station that they will be providing for us (they are in the process of building a new office that will be ready this summer), but they did say that the work station would be adjustable and that a stool would also be provided.

    Based on the research I've done it seems like it's worth trying so I'm going to sign up for the standing option. Thanks again for the help!

  15. Robert says:

    I bought a small “coffee table” from a dollar store yesterday.  About 16″ high and 17″ deep, about 27″ long.  Got it on tomp of my L-shaped desk against the wall.  $18 plus tax.  Not adjustable, but it’s perfect for me.  Already spent 4.5 hours out of my 10-hour workday standing today.  Plan to do .5 more before I go home.

  16. Robert, good stuff…I am so used to standing that it’s hard for me to work sitting down these days!!!! 🙂

  17. ll says:

    This means ur extremely weak and ur bones and muscles aren’t used to standing all the more reason to stand

  18. dadofjay says:

    I raised my WS about 7 mo ago–fantastic. I’m 61–28 yr ret Marine–got tired of sitting after 4 1/2 yrs at this job-I really notice the diff at home–going up and down stairs. My leg muscles have noticeably enlarged also. After quitting smoking-and getting a divorce–the smartest/healthiest thing I’ve done 🙂

  19. Swing Daddy says:

    I’ve got an Ergotron “Workfit-S” Sit-Stand Workstation. It clamps onto the front of my desk. I love it. I wish the keyboard area was stronger and more robust – the force limit is three pounds on the keyboard support. C’mon Ergotron, the keyboard is probably one pound. Now I worry I’ll put too much tension just by resting my arms and maybe using a little leverage for balance. The workstation also allows the monitor to raise and lower a bit relative to the keyboard. I wish the monitor could go two inches higher relative to the keyboard. Still – I LOVE THIS THING. I can sit or stand at will without spending $900 on some poorly-designed piece of furniture that has a single purpose.

  20. Andrew says:

    I have been standing up at work for about a year now. I have noticed a loss in weight and less back pain.There are times when I can not stand, and at those times I use a
    balance ball chair. Although it is not as good for you as standing, it
    does engage core muscles which prevents your body from going into
    complete muscular shutdown. I find it to be a great compromise for times
    when I must sit.
    I use this exact chair for those interested: http://standupatwork.com/gaiam-balance-ball-chair-black/
    Just thought I would point this out for those people who have to sit at work.
    Great article by the way. Thank you!

  21. LawrenceChard says:

    What’s wrong with sitting an a properly supportive ergonomically designed chair, and getting up to walk around periodically.
    Every member of our staff has a Hermann Miller Aeron chair, and nobody is forced to sit on it 8 hours a day.
    My knees are OK when I go on or off piste skiing for weeks at a time, but they don’t like standing still for longer than necessary without being flexed frequently. I don’t believe we have evolved to stand up for hours at a time.

  22. StlChica74 says:

    I stood all day at work today for the very first time. My coworkers were intrigued but mildly ridiculed me; even so, before the end of the day, I had another recruit. My original reason for trying this are the health benefits. I expect it will have numerous positive results for me physically. The main concern I have at this point is what shoes to wear. As a woman working in a corporate environment, tennis shoes are not an option. I’m going to search for comfortable but fashionable dress shoes this weekend, if such a thing exists! 🙂

  23. Fernando Seminario says:

    same here

  24. Cliff-Rich says:

    The key to the transition is to take it in stride.. pun intended 🙂 It took me about a week to before I found sitting a total drain. Btw- we make these near San Diego now.. http://standeeco.com

  25. deee72 says:

    Who do you contact when the stand up station are not put together right and not big enough? We don’t even have room to put our keyboard on the station to type. The monitors are way above our heads, to the point I’m getting a crick in m neck from looking up all day. We don’t even have stools and we have to work 10 to 11 hours a day.

  26. Paul says:

    I want to convert my cube into a standing work station. I’m young, 26 and very active. I noticed over the past 4 years how detrimental sitting has become to my fitness and waistline. Even though I continue to run and lift, I tend to be more drained after sitting all day and less motivated to exercise the way I have in the past. Has anyone converted their cube into a standing work station? If so how did they do it. I would like the option to sit or stand easily. I was looking at this product as an option but money is a little tight at the moment.


  27. Tina says:

    For the past 6 months, I have been using my desktop computer at a 36″ high table. I really like it for 15-20 minute work sessions. However, when I want to write a report or work longer, I would like to sit at a regular height chair. I am trying to find or devise something to easily/quickly raise and lower the table height. Envision a shelf mounted on wall tracks which could be raised or lowered. Perhaps a pulley system from the ceiling? Does anyone have suggestions on existing products?

  28. Darren Lunn says:

    Patrick, I own two Relax the Back stores in St Louis. We have about one hundred franchises across the US. We offer several standing desks. They are sit/stand desks that allow a person to take a break from standing if needed. They convert from standing to sitting with a motor, or with a release lever and a balance system that will convert from sitting to standing or vice versa in literally 2 seconds. We also offer special seating for stand desks to allow you to rest feet and knees. But you are spot on. sitting is th enew smoking. It may not be 20 years from now, but standing will be the way we work in the near future. Great post. http://www.relaxtheback.com

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