April 29, 2011

Stand Up! Sit Down! Fight! Fight! Fight!

by Chris Randall

I'd been thinking of going to a standing office solution for some time now. I kind of got half-way there when we moved to our new house in February. Most of my music gear was in a standing work configuration, but my main desk was kind of in an in-between stage, where I could sit at it with a tall office chair (the kind you'd find in a lab or something) and I could stand at it. But standing at it wasn't terribly comfortable, because I had to look down at the monitors, so my neck ended up hurting at the end of the day. As a result, I mostly sat at it. Plus, it wasn't quite tall enough, so my wrists were bent when typing, which added to the general discomfort.

After hearing a couple pieces on NPR on the subject of being much healthier if you stand/move around for at least part of the day, plus seeing the radio desk solutions at NAB (some of which were motorized, like this) I decided to go whole hog. So I broke out the measuring tape, and figured out that the exact right height for a desk for me was 40" (I'm 6' 4" tall). This would result in a comfortable typing position while standing.

A trip to the excellent Industrial Metal Supply here in Phoenix was in order, wherein I bought nigh on 30' of 1.5" square steel tubing, then over to my friend Mike Fisher's house, where a MIG welder can be found. A couple hours later, and I have the perfect sized standing desk, no motors necessary.

The next thing, and this was, as it turns out, the most important part, was to get my monitors to eye level, so I didn't have to look down at them. After some browsing about, I settled on this contraption. It works perfectly, and gets my pair of 23" LCDs right up to where I don't have to bend my head down to look at them, thus alleviating the neck pain part of the operation.

A tabletop from Ikea later, and my standing desk is in full form. I got all this done on Sunday, and have now spent a week doing my normal work at it. My feet hurt from standing the first couple days, and the small of my back hurt from standing up straight for 8 hours. I was warned about this, and all is to be expected. After a few days, it is more comfortable to work at, and I've adjusted the height of the monitors a couple times to get them in just the right spot.

I can't strongly recommend this course of action at this point, because I don't know what the long-term effects are going to be. Whether I'll be healthier or not is kind of a subjective thing. I would vastly prefer to sit in a comfy chair all day, leaning back and pondering life's complexities. But after 10 years of basically sitting at a desk all day every day, I'm starting to notice the effects, and it's time for a change, even if it is painful at first. I'll post again on this subject at this time next year, and we'll see how things went.

Has anyone else gone to a complete standing workspace? Have you been doing it for a while? Notice any major differences, good or bad?


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Apr.29.2011 @ 5:25 PM
Several years ago I used to do a lot of work at a technicians workbench for which I would alternate between sitting at a lab chair and standing. All this this recent talk of the health effects of standing vs sitting has reminded me how much I miss it, even though I never thought twice about it then. I'm definitely planning to do some experimenting with it this summer.

What you say about arm length and monitor height is very interesting, have you done anything to raise your speaker height as well?

Apr.29.2011 @ 6:03 PM
just thought i'd pass this along.. wall mounts for synth racks.. those of you standing might find something like this useful since you can put it at any height you like.

link [www.lmproducts.co...]

Apr.29.2011 @ 7:37 PM
Interesting topic, as usual.
I spent five years standing at a workbench 9 to 6. The first two were murder then I complained my way onto a nice rubber mat. World of difference.
The last two years I've been behind a computer and sitting mostly but I have a tall swivel chair on rollers with a counter top for a desk. Not too high not to low, a nice blend for what I need to accomplish in the day.
At home everything is low and comfy. I could adjust my monitors a bit upwards after reading this though. Since I'm just enjoying the process and taking my time I like a relaxed setup. Hobby status! : ) I'll lean forwards if more concentration is required though.

I think a standing person is more alert. A link to our not so distant past. Saber tooth tigers, tyrannosaurus rex the d00dz one valley over...

Apr.30.2011 @ 7:43 AM
As an inspiration for your experiment..when I was in Key West last, I visited Ernest Hemingway's old house. He used to write in a room over the garage. The room had been restored to the way it was when he worked there..his typewriter was on a high table, the guide said he wrote standing up.

Apr.30.2011 @ 11:11 AM
Chris Randall
Yeah, well, he wrote "To Have And Have Not" in Key West, which is accepted by all to be his worst book. I don't know if that's a stellar endorsement. ;-)

(I like the movie, though. Bogie and Bacall. Can't go wrong.)


Apr.30.2011 @ 12:01 PM
Computer Controlled
I find when i'm working on music, i stand 90% of the time. The 10% when i sit is when i'm doing something in the DAW. I need to go back n forth between machines while recording, so sitting isn't an option. Plus, its too weird for me to jam out while sitting down. Doesn't feel right =o]

Those Standtastic wall mounts are awesome. I love that company!

Apr.30.2011 @ 12:24 PM
I built a BFD (big fuckin desk) specifically for me about 6 years ago. It was left in ol' Wisconsin as I've been moving about the country since then, but it worked out really well, and was born out of the same needs as you mentioned: found myself standing more than sitting and figured that should be the basis of the workstation. But I wanted to be able to do both...

So I did what I usually do to build things of this nature: take the One Most Important Measurement, then roll to the hardware store and wing the rest. The important measurement in this case was tabletop height, which I found by measuring from the floor to the bottom of my hands with arms bent in typing position.

The table was all wood, for ease of construction (didn't care about the looks, it was CLUNKY), and the nice thing I did for the sitting position was a 2x6 plank that ran across the length between the end legs, about 18 inches off the floor, and angled up about 35 degrees or so for a footrest.

Once I had the desk built though, I realized I needed to then build a chair, as nothing easily purchasable existed for the height of desk I was working with. I never got around to actually building said chair, as I ditched the whole setup and headed west the next year... but the temporary chair solution of an old wooden dining chair sans legs, attached to the top of three stacked milk crates, was the perfect height, and the standing and sitting positions were both super comfortable to work in.

Anyhoo, sorry for the long-winded story, suffice to say that if you're over 6 feet tall and want to build a standing/sitting desk solution, be prepared to make a chair as well.

Apr.30.2011 @ 4:02 PM
I've been standing at my computer for a while now; 6 or 7 years, I think. My back is much better as a result, and I do think I'm more alert when I'm working. Getting your monitors at the right height is essential, as CR pointed out.

I do find I take a lot of breaks during the day, although I'm not sure if that's due to my essential ADD nature or the increased fatigue of standing all day. I don't yet have a stool to sit at, and I'm guessing that would help for variety.

Apr.30.2011 @ 11:16 PM
Ever since you posted this you have me wondering how many hours a day I spend standing versus sitting or laying down. And the answer is 'not enough.'

May.01.2011 @ 3:31 PM
It's pretty much standard for 911 operators and dispatchers to have fully adjustable workstations now. When I did that job, I'd stand for at least half of my shift. You get used to it after a week or so.

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