(NOTE: This post was originally drafted in early June 2012, but derailed by the events of the past two months. Update at the end.)
I have joined the standing desk (r)evolution of modern worklife. Or, for the more cynical-minded, jumped the latest office-geek bandwagon. (I guess we’ll see how it goes over the long term and judge then.) Sitting/standing desks have been the hawt thing in geekdom for a few years now, and are finally reaching middle-adopters like me. I’d been thinking about the possibilities since I found out about the Kangaroo line of adjustable desk appliances–much easier than committing to a full-time standing desk. My company wouldn’t shell out for it unless I had a doctor’s note, so I brought it up at my annual physical in May–and my doctor was whole-heartedly in favor of the idea. She cautioned that she didn’t want me standing all day, any more than sitting–the healthiest path is to alternate between them. She offered to provide whatever documentation the company wanted to get it approved.
The Accomodations department dragged their feet a little, since they’re set up to address existing injuries or impairments covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. They don’t address the prevention of injuries, and wanted to bounce me back to our Risk Management department. As it happened, I’d started in Risk Management, and they’d booted me over to Accomodations. I pointed this out, and I was lucky that I had an Accomodations counselor who was willing to step out of her assigned zone and investigate the situation for me. She looked at the Kangaroo, and since it doesn’t require any permanent installation, she approved me to order it, pending my manager’s permission. The boss was really cool about it, and approved it immediately.
My Kangaroo Jr. arrived a week ago today. My approach has been to alternate between sitting and standing every 60-90 minutes, so I don’t get too much of either. I can do between 3-4 hours cumulative standing; usually by around 3:00 p.m., I’m ready to sit down for the rest of the day. I’m working up to 90-minute stands and hour sits, to push the balance of the day more toward standing. And that, I hope, will be my ongoing routine.
A couple of things: the standing hours seem to go much more slowly than the sitting hours if I’m not occupied with tasks. But if I get engrossed in something, I hardly notice the standing time passing–for the first hour Thursday, I was designing a new report and hardly noticed the first 45 minutes of a standing hour fly by, so I went ahead and stood for another half hour. I’ve also started planning out my tasks by whether they’re better done sitting or standing–I still feel the need to sit during heavy-concentration tasks, and anything that requires me to spread out documents over the desk demands a sitting spell. Standing spells go best with pure computer work–producing reports, answering email, building spreadsheets, etc.
I’ve had some inquiries, but not as many as I expected. The way my desk is set up, people walking by can see that I’m standing, but not see the raised monitor and keyboard platform. You have to come into my cube to see the Kangaroo, so only a few people have asked about it. Reactions have varied from “Good for you, but I wouldn’t want to do it,” to “Can I get one of those?” Only one has seemed interested enough to pursue it, and even she wants to follow up with me after a month or six weeks, and see how it’s going. That’s probably wise–I realize that it’s all still new, and the habit hasn’t coalesced yet. So ask me in another five weeks or so how it’s going.
UPDATE (August 13, 2012): Well, ten weeks in, I’m still using the Kangaroo desk and like it a lot. Transitioning between states takes just seconds, and it’s a nice, sturdy appliance. After about a week of use, I ordered a second stabilizer leg; there was a slight-but-noticeable shake to the platform in the raised position with only one leg. Maybe I’m just an emphatic typist, and your experience may vary, but if you opt for a Kangaroo, I would recommend ordering the second stabilizer when you order your desk.
I’ve established a pretty comfortable routine–two sessions in the morning, totaling 2 to 2.5 hours of standing, including the hour leading up to lunch break, then an hour after lunch. I usually plan it so I don’t put the desk down between the latter two sessions–I just go off to lunch for an hour’s sit, and come back to stand again. I take a late lunch, so that means I end my last standing session of the day around 3:00 p.m. I had some days where I pushed it over four hours, but found I was really exhausted at the end of the day. Three to three and a half seems just right.
My feet and ankles have adjusted to the added work, and my back complains almost as soon as I sit back down–it likes the standing! While we were at CONvergence last month, I lined up early for a popular event; the line manager came through and said it would be at least 45 minutes until the doors opened, so we might as well get comfortable. All the youngsters around me plopped down on the floor, but I figured it would be harder to get up than to stay up, so I continued standing–and had no problem with it at all. Not a gripe from the feet or legs the whole time. AWESOME!
As many other standing-desk users have reported, being on my feet encourages more movement in general. I don’t just stand, I pace, I sway, I dance, I bend and stretch. It’s a lot easier to just do a task that requires running to another part of the office or getting down into lower file drawers when I’m already on my feet. (Remember when I talked about passive barriers? I’m here to tell you, just being sat on your butt is a major passive barrier. It seems like a small thing, but the difference between walking twenty paces to fetch something, and GETTING UP and walking twenty paces to fetch it, is enormous.) I’ve lost 14 pounds since I started using the Kangaroo, but there have been so many changes in the past two months, I can’t attribute it all to the desk. With Ken’s diabetes diagnosis, we’ve drastically reduced the carbohydrates in our diet; I’m sure that’s had a lot more to do with the steady 1-2 lb./week loss. But the frequent, gentle spells of standing and stretching are certainly doing their part, too.
Here’s the biggest marker of the change: I can’t WAIT until the next time I need to see the doctor. I’ve got something to show her, eh?