So—as you might be aware if you're a faithful reader—I've been having some health problems, and trying to effect some lifestyle changes.
My practical photographic expertise was as a custom printer, back in the day as they say, and, say what you will about the darkroom, at least in the darkroom you were standing up and moving around all day long. Now there are days where I get up in the morning, sit down at my desk, and, apart from occasional trips to the bathroom and the kitchen—and sometimes fifteen minutes sitting in front of the television while I eat—I'll still be sitting in front of the computer 14 hours later.
And the topic of the dangers of sitting too much has been making the rounds of the media lately. (Google "sitting bad for you" for multiple examples.) So I've been trying to rig up a standing desk.
I had one of these in the basement:
So I hauled it upstairs and set it up next to my sitting desk. I bought a second monitor which I mirrored to my iMac. There remained the problem of the keyboard; you can't connect two keyboards to the same computer, at least as far as I know. An Apple employee provided the obvious answer: use a wireless keyboard and just move it from the sitting desk to the standing desk by hand.
(Why both kinds of desk? Simply because I don't think I can stand up all day. At least not at first.)
But the Balt Diversity Stand pictured above is really a lectern, not a desk. It barely has room the keyboard and mousepad at the same time, and it's not very sturdy.
And of course I've been having all sorts of problems with the computer. I use the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, and the wireless version has a peculiar funky glitch (in keeping with tradition—I don't think I've ever used anything made by Microsoft that doesn't misbehave): it won't work right when Time Machine is updating. What's up with that?
The great sourcing search
Visits to several local furniture stores, including one that boasts of having five acres under one roof, turned up not a single example of a standing desk. In fact, most of the salespeople I spoke to didn't know what a "stand-up desk" or a "standing desk" was. Dead end.
Then I discovered standupdesks.com (Amish Country Furniture Sales). They specialize in stand-up desks. Not only do they offer dozens upon dozens of choices, but they'll custom-make one for you to your specifications. This has got to be the option for people who need a presentable piece of fine furniture in their homes or workplaces.
But there's a catch. (At least for me.) Sitting desks are pretty easy to size, because chairs are adjustable and most people are of similar "height" when they're sitting down. The standing desk is a touchier proposition. Small changes in elevation make a big difference in comfort and ergonomics, and the desk needs to be customized to your height and arm length*. If I were to buy a custom-sized stand-up desk from standupdesks.com, it would be utterly typical of the mocking Universe for me to spend a lot of money on one that turned out to be two inches too short or too tall. So I started to fret and worry about the ideal height of the desk, and which desk to order. And did nothing. Too many choices. Indecision will turn me to stone as surely as gazing on the head of the Medusa.
Then, on the way home from the doctor yesterday, I passed an office furniture store, and, purely on a whim, turned in.
Lo and behold: what should catch my eye virtually first thing inside the door, than the Jesper Sit-Stand desk from Jesper Office of Branchburg, New Jersey (relocated from Denmark [the country]). It's a pleasingly well-made and apparently very sturdy table in several shapes, sizes, and wood finishes that's motorized. It moves up and down, quietly, at a rate of two inches per second, at the touch of a button. It goes from a height of 25" to 52" (63 to 132 cm). The site boasts that it will fit individuals from 4'11" (150 cm) to 6'11" (210 cm).
Having just one desk at which I could both sit and stand would mean I could go back to the wired keyboard, i.e., the one that actually works. And having an infinitely adjustable height means I won't have to worry about getting the height exactly right sight unseen.
This will happen down the road a piece, because I'll have to reorganize my entire office to make this fit. (And because I lack the scratch at the moment, being, um, Nikon-poor.) But this is the solution.
Here's a video of the Jesper Sit-Stand in action (start it at 45 seconds in if you're in a hurry. You can leave the sound off, as it's nothing but bad disco music).
Cool, huh? That's the one for me. Eventually.
*Here are the sizing guidelines if you're interested: a standing desk should come up about to your elbow when you're standing comfortably and bend your arm; adjust from there. Similarly, the top edge of the monitor should start at eye level, and you can adjust for personal preference from there.
Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
A book of interest today:
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Jack: "Can I order one through your Amazon link?"
Mike replies: Jeez...YES ! I didn't even think to check. Amazon has everything.
Diego: "Why get a stand up desk, when you can get a treadmill desk!"
Mike replies: Wonder if Amazon sells hair shirts, too?
Dale: "For what it's worth, I also use that keyboard—I liked it so much, that within about a week of first using it at the office, I also went back to the store to buy one for use at home. For longer composition and 8-hour days at the computer, they're much nicer than 'straight' keyboards—and my wrists thank me at the end of the day."
Mike replies: It's not only all I ever use, it's all I can use now...I can hardly even type at a regular keyboard any more, I'm so used to this. The wireless one is the fifth or sixth one I've had.
NL: "I sit at a desk all day and had back issues for years. Here's my simple solution: get a standard office chair, and take the back off. It is usually bolted on somehow, and comes off easily. You end up with something like an adjustable padded stool. What's really bad for your back is slumping against the backrest, so that your lower back is convex. During an eight or ten hour day, it is almost impossible not to do this. However, with no backrest, you can't slump. It works great for me."
Bill Pierce: "This is not an 'off topic post.' You have saved a lot of us who are turning into desk jockeys, in small part because the wet darkroom is now the dry desktop."
Bruce Crawford: "I've had a motorised sit-stand desk for 6.5 years now after injuring my back and spending five weeks at home staring at the ceiling. In the early days after returning to work it was very useful to be able to take breaks from sitting but still get work done. I don't stand with it much now (foot problems) but the easy adjustability is still useful as I can readily change the desk height for different tasks, i.e. typing, reading, eating (yes I eat lunch at my desk), etc., without necessarily going to standing height.
"Another useful feature of a standing desk is that it reduces the amount of time people camp in my office since if I'm standing they feel they have to as well."
Bryan Willman: "I have a large-as-possible version of something called a 'Geekdesk.' Good news—it's a nice desk, and you can set it to any possible height you might need. Bad news—you will very likely fine-tune to some sitting position and leave it there. The ergonomics will be the best ever—the reduction in sitting, not so much. Good luck."
David Aiken: "Before I retired I worked in the health and safety area for an Australian federal government department, and office ergonomics was one of my major areas of concern. Standing desks are a very good idea but you also do need the ability to sit as well, and there are two ways to achieve that. The first, the one you're pursuing, is an adjustable height desk that can be raised for standing and lowered for sitting. Motorised are definitely the best option but can be expensive. There is, however, an alternative.
"You can also use a fixed-height desk that is the right height when you're standing, and use a draughtsman's chair, basically an ergonomic chair with a high support stem, to raise your height when seated to an appropriate height for the desk. Ergonomically this is just as sound an approach and it may well be cheaper.
"I'd correct your height recommendation and suggest that the desk height be a centimetre to two centimetres below standing elbow height, and add that you should make sure you don't have your shoulders raised when you measure this height. Your arms should be hanging naturally from the shoulders at the time. If in doubt, get a slightly higher desk—you can always raise your own height a little by standing on a sheet of plywood, or two, or three. Basically, you can raise your own standing height fairly easily just by standing on a low platform, but you can't lower your standing height. Since most people buying a fixed height desk won't be able to have it made to size, this is the bit that rarely gets mentioned. Buy higher rather than lower, then stand on something to raise your height to that of the desk. The alternative is to stick something under the legs of the desk to raise it, but it can be trickier getting something exactly of the same height, and of the correct height, to stick under each of the legs. It's a lot easier to play with a couple of thicknesses of plywood or MDF and a small mat or some carpet tiles to make a low platform to stand on, especially if you're not good at carpentry.
"The people who will have the most problems are those at the extremes of the height range, the shortest and the tallest. The tallest may have difficulty finding a desk high enough for them; but if they get an adjustable one, they shouldn't have any problems at the sitting end of the adjustment range. Short people may run into the opposite problem, they should be able to find a desk that adjusts high enough while they're standing but won't go low enough when they're sitting. Their solution at the sitting end is to adjust the height of their chair to the desk in the sitting position and to then use a footstool to provide support to their feet.
"And, as someone else observed, break up your working day by varying your activity and posture."
Peter: "I bought the Jesper sit/stand desk about nine months ago and I have to say, it is possibly the best purchase I have ever made. I now stand almost the entire time I am at work, except when I am having lunch. When I do want to sit, a simple press of a button brings the desk smoothly down. I can then move it back up to accommodate any particular task; reading, working with a keyboard, drawing, what have you. Being fully adjustable, the desk top is always exactly the height I want. It makes an enormous difference in how I feel at the end of the day, and completely eliminates that sludgy feeling we get when we are trapped in a chair. I recommend it for anyone who has to spend long hours at a computer. One of the unanticipated benefits is that it helps avoid eye strain, as you can readily step back from a monitor and aren't forced to view it from the same distance all the time."