Standing desk

One of the advantages of working from home is that I have complete flexibility in my work area. Over the past year or so, I’ve been experimenting with using a standing setup for part of the time.

To get started with pretty much zero investment, I set something up on top of the bar between my kitchen and living room. The height of the bar was pretty much at elbow height, which is ideal for the keyboard/mouse. I had the awesome mStand from Rain Design, which I’ve used off and on with my main desk, so I set that up on top of the bar, which elevated my laptop screen closer to the optimal height (some info on that here and here). I eventually ended up adding some books under that, so the screen was even higher. Initially, it was hard to stand all day and my legs would get pretty tired. I also noticed that it is critical to wear shoes of some sort while standing for long periods of time, otherwise your feet get sore pretty quickly. I’ve also seen several blog posts that recommend using a pad of some sort to stand on. I haven’t found the need for this, but I imagine it would make standing a bit more comfortable. Pretty quickly, my legs got used to standing all day, and I was able to make it through a day. I still found, however, that on some days/parts of days, for example after running the night before, I wouldn’t want to stand all day. The other disadvantage to this setup was that I had only my laptop display to work with, which isn’t quite as nice as using my external monitor. Here’s what that setup looked like:


After using the setup for a while, I think I like it. I can’t say it’s dramatically improved the way I feel or anything like that, but given how sedentary the life of a programmer is, I think anything that burns more calories and causes you to move around more is good. I think desk workers also have a tendency to hunch over and mess up their posture, and standing up seems like it helps avoid that.

I used the bar-top setup for a year or so, but it’s a pretty ugly thing to have sitting there in my kitchen all the time. I had seen the infamous $22 Ikea standing desk a while ago, but ideally I’d like something that can move up and down, so I don’t have to always stand. I think the GeekDesk would be just about perfect, but I already have a nice desk that I bought a few years ago, and I would hate to get rid of it. So, finally, I bit the bullet and built the $22 Ikea desk, and now I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks. I have the monitor set up on top of the desk, with the mStand below for those times when I need to sit down. Now, when I sit down I just have the small laptop display, which hopefully motivates me to stand more often. If I really want to, it is feasible to move the monitor down below, although it’s a bit of a hassle. Enough talk, here’s what it looks like:Image

So, here are a list of some of the main things I learned in this experience:

  • Don’t expect to stand all of the time. Maybe you will be able to, but it’s nice to be able to sit down from time to time
  • Wear shoes when standing and/or use some sort of mat
  • It’s pretty easy/cheap to experiment with a standing desk, so I would definitely recommend it.
  • Putting the monitor at a height that lets you look straight ahead seems to provide the most comfortable position for the neck.

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