12 Steps to Make a Standing Desk Work for You
Did you know that someone who spends all day sitting, particularly office workers, has approximately a 50% higher rate of heart disease leading to early death, compared to those who stand most of the day?
I’ve seen a few of my co-workers move to stand desks and couldn’t really understand what the attraction was.
But as I already have heart disease, and I do sit all day (and evenings when I get home), I’m starting to rethink the idea of standing all day at work, and this review of top electric desks is convincing me to make the change.
It seems that standing desks have many health advantages.
I often work from home, using a cheap desk and chair that lack any ergonomic design, and will only be making the negative effects of sitting while working even worse for me.
During my university studies, I did a couple of part-time jobs where I had to stand throughout the shifts. I found each day exhausting and my feet and legs ached constantly.
In the first job, I was wearing rubber gumboots and standing on a bare concrete floor.
At least at the second job, I was able to choose my own footwear while standing on a rubber mat at my workstation.
I also made use of special socks designed to keep circulation flowing through my legs and insoles in my shoes to lessen the impact of my weight on my feet.
Over time, I guess my body and legs got used to the standing and it wasn’t as bad as when I first started. But I still preferred the idea of sitting at work.
I always thought, why stand all day in an office when you can do the same work far more comfortable sitting down?
So, if I am going to change to a standing desk at work and at home, I needed to do some research to make sure I choose the right desks and learn how to use them properly.
Here are 12 steps I’ve found that you can take to make sure your standing desk is set up in a way that will give you the maximum benefits of standing over sitting.
Adjusting your Workspace
- Adjust the table so that it is at the height of your elbows
For typing and using your computer mouse, you will want your arms to be at a 90-degree angle. This allows you to move your arms naturally and avoid wrist strain.
- Position your screen at eye level
Adjust your computer screen so that it is positioned directly in front of you. If you use a second screen this should be positioned to the side where you use your mouse.
Make sure the monitor is approximately 1 arms-length away from where you will stand.
- Purchase ergonomic accessories if needed
Ideally, you will have a desk that can be adjusted to the perfect height, but some desks can only be adjusted so far, while others come with just one fixed height. Of course, the more complex the desk, the more expensive. Your budget, or your employer’s budget, will determine what sort of standing desk you get.
If the height isn’t right for you, then get some accessories to help you adjust your workspace to your needs. This might require an adjustable keyboard platform and an adjustable monitor arm to attach to your standing desk. With these, you can adjust the height of your keyboard and monitor to a position you find comfortable.
Your monitor arm should be at eye level. If you find you are straining your neck, try raising the arm slightly.
Adjust the keyboard platform so that your arms form a 90° angle. If you lower the desk to a sitting position, make sure that you re-adjust the keyboard platform to a comfortable height.
- Keep a chair nearby
When you first move to a standing desk, you will most likely find the adjustment difficult. Keep a chair nearby so that you can take the weight off your feet several times a day so that you can easily lower your desk and sit down during the day.
With each new day, try to increase the periods of time when you are standing and reduce your sitting time.
Positioning your Body
- Wear comfortable shoes
OK, this may not seem practical in an office setting. But if you are not stepping out from behind your desk to mingle with customers or members of the public, it shouldn’t matter.
If you do meet clients during your workday, you can always have a pair of shoes for standing at your desk, and quickly change into your ‘work shoes’ for any appointments.
Standing increases the pressure on your feet so wear shoes that don’t hurt your feet. You might want to place insoles into the shoes to provide extra padding and wear socks to encourage blood flow.
Avoid wearing high heel shoes and flat shoes with no padding when standing at your desk for long periods.
Running shoes or thick-soled business shoes are good options as they offer arch support. You could even try wearing no shoes at all, go barefoot, or stand in your socks or stockings. You might first want to check to see if your work colleagues are OK with that
- Maintain a straight back and neck
Just like sitting, good posture will avoid back pain and fatigue caused by constricted blood vessels. Stand up straight, keeping your spine in an ‘S’ curve, with your shoulders back, neck straight and head up.
Avoid leaning on the desk because this causes your back and neck to curve.
- Rest your feet on a leaning stool if your feet are aching
A leaning stool can help if you are suffering from aching legs. You can perch your body on the stool at a 120-degree angle to improve your circulation and take pressure off your feet.
If the stool has wheels, make sure these are locked, and use the stool by resting your weight on the seat and keeping both feet on the floor.
- Position your wrists horizontally
Ensure your wrists form a straight line with your arms. If your wrists get tired, try lowering your desk slightly to a more comfortable position. If you have had issues with your wrists previously, get a wrist rest for support.
- Standing on a rubber anti-fatigue mat
This provides extra cushioning for your feet and is especially important if you are working on a hard floor.
- Alternate between sitting and standing
When you start off with a standing desk, it is recommended to limit your standing to one hour a day, then slowly increase this to at least 4 hours a day.
Ultimately, aim for a three-to-one ratio, e.g., 45 minutes standing followed by 15 minutes sitting.
- Stretch throughout the day
Regular stretching increases your energy and reduces stiffness in your body. Stretch your hamstrings and calf muscles a few times each day. 12 Steps to Make a Standing Desk Work for You
- Regularly shift your weight from one leg to the other
Changing your stance keeps you alert and increases circulation but remember to maintain the correct posture.
If you find your feet aching, you can use a footstool to give your feet a break. Rest one foot on the footstool and lean on the other, then switch after a few minutes.
You might be surprised at how quickly you are able to adjust to standing for much of the day. You might not immediately notice any health differences, but over time, your heart, your back, and your waist will thank you.
12 Steps to Make a Standing Desk Work for You