How to Use a Standing Desk Like a Pro
Sitting all day at a desk isn’t good for your health.
It can lead to weight gain, and even an increased risk for diabetes and heart disease. The Mayo Clinic analyzed 13 studies and found that people who sit for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity have the same risk of dying as those who are obese or smoke.
Another study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that, even if you exercise, sitting for excessively long periods of time could put you at risk for an early death.
Standing Desks Are on the Rise
Many office workers are turning to standing desks to help alleviate this problem. A standing desk is literally a desk where you can comfortably work at a computer while standing up. While no one quite knows how many people are using standing desks, these desks have certainly become increasingly popular.
According to a 2017 survey by the Society of Human Resource Management, 44 percent of HR professionals said their company is either providing or subsidizing the use of standing desks, up from 13 percent in 2013.
However, getting used to a standing desk can be tricky. Here are 13 tips to use a standing desk like a pro.
Test the Concept
If you’re not sure if you’ll like standing while you work, you could mimic a standing desk with boxes to try it out before you commit.
“I put my computer on boxes to see if I'd like a standing desk,” said Helene Cestone, a registered vascular sonographer, in Triangle, N.C. “I had it that way for about a week before deciding it was workable.”
Gradually Get Used to Standing
Don’t expect to stand for eight hours the first day you switch to a standing desk. Build up to standing for two hours a day, and then gradually increase your time to four hours a day, alternating between standing and sitting, an article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine recommends.
Get an Adjustable Chair, Too
Make sure your chair is adjustable too so you can change the height, back position and tilt of the chair to find the right position for when you want to sit down.
Wear the Right Shoes
The shoes most people wear for work, especially women who will often wear high heels, aren’t the best for standing for long periods of time. Consider having a special pair of shoes stowed away at your desk for when you’re standing.
“Most women's shoes for work are not incredibly supportive, so to protect my knees and ankles from getting stiff I have a pair of Merrells,” said Arleta Brodell, a program manager at a large Washington, D.C. bank, who stands at her desk all day, every day.
She also invested in a standing mat to provide extra cushion under her feet.
Do Some Stretches
Standing in one place all day can be difficult, so Brodell takes time to stretch out her hamstrings and calves several times a day. She also incorporates calf raises into her routine to keep her leg muscles from getting too tight.
Don’t Forget to Walk
Just because you’re standing doesn’t mean you don’t have to move around. Standing burns more calories than sitting, but walking burns even more calories.
Taking just a 15-minute walk around the office can help you avoid weight gain, according to a study published in Human Kinetics Journal. Incorporate short walks around the office even if you are using a standing desk every day.
Make Sure Your Desk Is the Right Height
Be sure to adjust your desk so you’re not hunched over your computer when you work. You should be able to stand up straight and work at your computer without slouching your shoulders. If your desk is too high or to low you might experience neck and shoulder pain.
Adjust Your Keyboard and Mouse
Your keyboard and mouse will be in a different position when you are standing and when you are sitting. Your keyboard and mouse should be on the same surface when you are using your standing desk and at a distance that allows you to keep your elbows close to your body, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Keep your wrists straight, your upper arms close to your body and your hands at or slightly below the level of your elbows while you are typing at your standing desk.
Make Sure Your Screen Isn’t Too Low
The most common mistake people make is to have their computer screen so low that they end up looking down at their screen when they are standing. This can lead to neck and upper back pain. Your screen should be at eye level when you’re using your standing desk.
Schedule Time to Stand
Brandy Madera, assistant director of donor relations & stewardship at Rochester Institute of Technology, uses a convertible standing desk that allows her to sit when she needs to, and stand when she wants.
To ensure she is standing several hours each day, Madera sets her desk to the standing position when she leaves work at the end of the day.
“I am standing the moment I walk in the door until lunch and I raise it again around the 3 p.m. to stretch my legs,” Madera said.
Feel Free to Dance
One of the benefits of a standing desk is the ability to move around. Don’t feel like you have to stand still all day. “I feel as if I have more energy since I am standing — sometimes I even dance at my desk,” Madera said.
Use a Headset
If you need to speak on the phone while you’re at your standing desk, the Mayo Clinic recommends that you “place your phone on speaker or use a headset rather than cradling the phone between your head and neck.”
Keep Your Desk Clutter Free
If you’re using a convertible standing desk, it’s important to keep it clutter free. Not just because falling items can cause more harm from such heights.
“I tend to have a lot of stuff on my desk,” which makes converting the desk to the standing position a little less convenient, said Patrick Scott, an admissions counselor at a private Washington, D.C. school.
However, Scott takes the time to convert his desk to standing because standing helps him to be more alert. He said: “I tend to be fidgety as well, so sometimes just standing up helps me because I can sway a bit, which helps my focus, too.”