Standing desks are becoming popular. From a WSJ article:
A growing number of workers at Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and other employers are trading in their sit-down desks for standing ones, saying they feel more comfortable and energized. They also are motivated by medical reports saying that sitting for too long leads to increased health risks.
I started standing while working fifteen years ago, after I found that I slept better if I stood a lot. I got a standing desk. (Parts at Ikea $100.) I made what was apparently the first treadmill desk. But since then I learned a lot and my preferences changed. I never went back to a conventional desk, but I found that a standing desk wasn’t optimal. Here’s what I learned:
1. Standing a lot is not all good. Standing in one place for a long time is psychologically difficult. If I stood for more than 8 hours or so, my feet started to hurt. Yet I needed at least 8 hours of standing to get the sleep benefits. I also found epidemiology that suggested that if you stand a lot, your blood puddles in your legs, with bad effects. Above all, standing in one place is distracting, probably because it is inherently unpleasant. I find it much easier to write in the lounge-like position I describe below.
2. Walking a lot is bad. I work perhaps 8 hours per day. No way would I walk that much. The main use of my treadmill desk was standing, not walking. There was also a noise problem. Occupants of adjacent office complained.
3. Walking a little is good. If I walk about 20 minutes per hour, I found I can work really long periods of time–without stimulants. I have also found that walking makes my brain work better. The measure I used to detect this improvement was arithmetic speed but I’m sure it applies to all sorts of thinking.
4. One-legged standing can produce the sleep benefits of normal standing. The benefits of better sleep are huge. After I started sleeping better, mainly because of standing a lot, I stopped getting obvious colds. I also felt more energetic during the day.
When you put these together it is easy to grasp that the best workplace will not involve, as its main component, a standing desk.
Nowadays I mix lounge-like sitting (there is no one word for it) and walking. By “lounge-like sitting” I mean I sit in such a way that I lean back somewhat (so that some of my weight is on my back) and my knees are both bent and supported. The chair pictured above is the closest piece of furniture I could find designed for this. The goal of such a piece of furniture is to make the surface area (i.e., skin) supporting you as wide as possible so that the maximum pressure is minimized. A normal chair does a terrible job of this, but even the chair in the picture is not ideal: (a) It should have armrests. (b) It should have adjustable weights so that the angle at which it reclines can be set to the best position. How much walking I do depends on the time of day. During the day, when I feel restless, I might walk on a treadmill 20 minutes per hour. In the early morning and evening I don’t walk at all.
It’s fascinating there’s no word for an action I spend many hours every day performing and that perhaps a billion people would do many hours per day if they could. (At least a billion people have jobs where they must sit in ordinary chairs.) What I do is roughly a billion times more comfortable. Given the size of the market and the size of the benefit, it is equally fascinating that you cannot buy anywhere the proper furniture for doing this. The company that made the chair in the picture seems to have stopped making it. This should give pause to anyone who thinks that any or all of (a) free markets, (b) governments, or (c) academic/pure research can produce all the products we need to live a healthy happy life.