Good choice! You’re well on your way to feeling more energized and happier at work.
Unfortunately, most of us come around to the idea of using a standing desk after dealing with some form of pain—physical pain from sitting uncomfortably, sluggishness from lack of movement, and the list can go on. Personally, mouse-induced neck and shoulder pain lead me to several intense Google sessions, looking for what I could change about my workflow. I started standing at work almost four years ago, and I recommend it to anyone who is struggling with discomfort or fatigue at work.
The ins and outs of standing desks and office ergonomics can be a little overwhelming, and then when news articles and bloggers start tossing around phrases like “sitting is the new smoking,” it can feel even more dire and complicated. But the good news is I’ve made most of the mistakes you can when making the switch to a standing desk, so hopefully now you won’t have to!
Where to start?
The first choice you’ll need to make is the type of standing desk you want to try. Some are able to convert between traditional sitting position and standing and others are fixed in the stand-up position. Until you’re certain standing is right for you, it might be best to go with the sit-stand option—worst-case scenario you’ve still got something you can easily use sitting down.
If you like your current desk, you can put a sit-stand riser right on top of it, like this style. These usually come with a monitor stand and keyboard tray built in, and are adjusted by pulling or pushing the top surface. If you’re skeptical about standing or have limited space, this might be the best option for you since it’s a little cheaper and easily removed.
If you’re ready for an entirely new desk, you can find sit-stand desks that adjust via crank, like this one, or via an electronic push-button system, like this one. Both provide a wide range of elevations that will suit users of all heights and can be adjusted quickly and easily throughout the day. The biggest difference between these two styles is cost—manual crank desks are significantly cheaper (plus the bonus mini-workout when using the crank).
The same general rules apply to a non-adjustable desk, but if you go this route, you’ll want to invest in a stool. Most standard office chairs won’t reach up high enough for comfortable use with a non-adjustable standing desk. There are tons of different types of stools, some that are used more as support to lean against, like this style, or others that function just like an office chair, just higher and with a foot rest, like this style.
Be kind to your feet and legs
Once you’ve picked your desk, the next task is to pick out an anti-fatigue mat for your feet. Your first foray into standing will go much smoother with one of these mats, especially if your workspace has a concrete floor. There are tons of mats to choose from (Amazon is a good place to start looking) that are suitable for all budgets. Don’t be afraid to look at restaurant or kitchen anti-fatigue mats if you aren’t finding something you like in the office section—they work just the same!
These mats are okay to stand on with or without shoes, but keep your footwear choices in mind. Supportive shoes with good arches are your best bet, but if you have to wear heels, it’s best to slip those off before hopping onto your mat if you can get away with it, or bring along some flats you can change into for desk time.
Setting up your workspace
Now that you’ve got your desk and your mat, you’ll want to find the right position for your computer. You need to be able to see your monitor without craning your neck or tilting your head, and reach your keyboard and mouse without scrunching up your shoulders, hunching, or reaching uncomfortably.
A good rule of thumb is to align the top 2-3 inches to upper-third of your monitor with your natural line of sight while looking straight forward, chin forward and neck and shoulders relaxed. To find the best place for your keyboard, put your arms loosely at your sides, stand up straight, completely relax your shoulders and neck, and make a 90-degree angle at your elbows—this is the highest you’ll want your keyboard. I find it most comfortable to drop my forearms a little lower, just make sure you aren’t going so low you have to stoop or drop your shoulders to reach. Depending on your height and if your desk has a dedicated keyboard tray, this adjustment step might require raising your monitor with a stand (or your old textbooks work well in a pinch).
Everyone’s perfect formula is a little different, so don’t be afraid to change things up if it’s not working for you. Folks with bifocals or trifocals might want their monitors arranged a little differently to correspond with the best place to see out of their lenses, someone who is tall might need a higher monitor stand, etc. If anything is hurting or causing frustration, then tinker a little more.
Note: If you’re working on a laptop, I highly recommend using a riser plus separate keyboard and mouse for long periods of work in order to keep your neck and shoulders healthy. While convenient, laptops just don’t provide an ergonomically friendly workflow.
Don’t get discouraged
Don’t be hard on yourself if you’re struggling with your setup or can only stand for short bursts of time at first—it’s okay! Take breaks to sit and then stand back up when you feel ready. Standing in one spot for eight hours straight is going to be just as uncomfortable as sitting, so the key is to shake things up. If you’ve been sitting for a bit, try standing after a water or bathroom break. If your feet or hips are getting sore or stiff, sprinkle in some stretches as you read your emails.
We’ve all heard “stand up straight!” at some point in our lives, but it really does help you feel more energetic, comfortable, and confident. Don’t be afraid to stand tall at your sweet new desk! 🙂