Pros & Cons: The Standing Desk Test Drive

Pros & Cons: The Standing Desk Test Drive

Elizabeth Licata
Sep 13, 2012

The only stick of furniture in my apartment for the better part of the last month was a desk left behind by the previous occupant. I was actually excited about the leftover because I'd always wanted to try a standing desk, and this way I could give it a test drive without having to pay for a whole new piece of furniture I might hate. After a little more than a month with it, I'm sold...

A standing desk is pretty much what it says on the tin: A desk for writing or working while standing up instead of sitting down. I thought they were a new thing when my friends started adopting them after Men's Health and The New York Times wrote about recent studies that show sitting all day is really unhealthy, even for people who exercise.

"It doesn't matter if you go running every morning, or you're a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting -- in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home -- you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you," wrote Olivia Judson in the NYT.

I wanted to give it a try, but I was still skeptical. I'm not as active as I should be, and I'm kind of a baby about physical discomfort. Would I actually be able to work while standing up all day? While there were some definite disadvantages and discomforts involved, it turns out I could. Here are some of the pluses and minuses I've experienced in the past six weeks:


Faster metabolism — "In the first week of using my standing desk, I think I lost five pounds," said an early-adopting friend. (Here is where I admit that statement motivated my standing desk desire far more than the NYT article about how sitting kills.) I don't know how much I can attribute to the standing desk, but I have noticed some weight loss recently without making any other changes, so perhaps the desk is contributing.

Improved attention — I could be imagining it, but I feel more productive at my standing desk. I'm a highly distractable person at the best of times, but standing up seems to remind my brain that I'm supposed to be working.

No back pain — I spent the better part of the summer in physical therapy for intermittent wandering back pain that the therapist traced to a problem running from behind my right ear to just above my left knee. He said it was because of the way and time I'd been sitting and gave me a long list of exercises, which I did religiously for the first month and then forgot. But since I've been spending the better part of the day standing up, I've experienced far fewer instances of back, neck, or leg pain.

Retiring the old desk — When my lovely old desk arrived, I didn't want to work at it anymore. But it makes a perfect dressing table, which my husband thinks is the greatest thing ever because now my very extensive wardrobe of cosmetics lives in its drawers and not in the bathroom.


Tender feet — My feet hurt more in those first couple weeks than they've ever hurt in my life. "What are you doing, standing on us? That's insane!" I'm told they will get used to it eventually, but every evening so far has just been terrible.

Having to wear shoes — As a corollary, I find I have to wear shoes all the time. Where I'd normally go around barefoot or in delightful slipper-esque flats, now I wear big cushy running shoes with insoles. They don't go with my outfit, but as long as The Sartorialist doesn't break into my apartment, I think I'm OK.

Not great with laptops — I guess there's a reason it's called a "laptop computer." I didn't have much luck when trying my standing desk with my laptop, because the distance between screen and keyboard is significantly smaller than the distance between my eye and elbow. But with a desktop, the standing desk is great.

Standing out in a crowd — I work from home, but my husband has an office. He wishes he could use a standing desk, but he maintains that he cannot because there are people in the office and he would look "weird."

Fewer design choices — My standing desk is kind of ugly. Sad, but true. It's tall and efficient, but it's minimal and practical and doesn't quite gel with the sequins and gold leaf covering the rest of the house. But while the first generation of standing desks tended towards the perfectly utilitarian, as tall desks catch on some designers have been finding ways to make them look cool or pretty, and there are nigh endless standing desk Ikea hacks out there. So it's possible to find something as aesthetically pleasing as it is comfortable; it just might take a bit of elbow grease.

Would you or do you use a standing desk? Let us know in the comments.

(Images: 1. Safco, 2. Nick Wynja, 3. David N. Ebner, 4. Stoller Works, 5. Ninja Standing Desk)

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