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11,750 Foot Yoga Moment
Creative Commons License photo credit: a4gpa

One of the biggest changes that I have made in the way that I work in the last year had nothing to do with technology. It is nothing — it is not expensive. But it has radically redefined the way that I both view my work space but interact with my colleagues and then plan my day. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not something you can buy, it’s really something you need to do. It’s as simple as this. Stand up.

Standing is, I strongly believe, the next generation way of working. No, it’s not just a way that your evil corporation or dot com can force more workers into a smaller and smaller space, saving money on square footage — it’s ultimately good for your health. It’s good for the way that you think. And it really forces you to change how you plan your day.

Let’s Get Physical: Active individuals benefit from standing at work for a range of reasons, from posture, to flexibility, to even counting calories!

  • Counting Calories: The top physical benefit to standing up to work is simply that your burning calories while your there. You’re already working because your standing. You’re active, okay. So there’s that for the equation. Let’s add that right there. This alone probably negates your coffee habit or whatever else your drinking during the day…all by simply standing at work.
  • The second element of that physical benefit is for your hips and your glutes. Spending most of your day sitting down really tightens up your hips and shortens those hip flexors. This is the result of the fact that the majority of your time is spent in a docile, unengaged position. After six to eight hours a day of sitting in the car to work, sitting at work, sitting in the car home…sitting when you get home…it all means that you’re really putting your body at a disadvantage. Instead, standing at work means you’re constantly engaging your back, your core, your glutes. If you want to be proactive and geek out, you can do stretches and some exercises to do some strengthening in there. It’s amazingly different.
  • The Ups and Downs of Standing: This can be a pretty radical change, so it’s important to consider what moving to a standing workstation really means for you.

  • The Ups: The upsides of this are this is very simple, very natural just to stand in place and to work. You’re constantly moving. It’s easier to think from being free from the sitting position.
  • The Downs: The downsides of standing at work do exist. Aside from getting ridiculed by your fellow employess, there are some initial limitations that you’ll face. First, it’s not easy to put something next to your computer and read it while you’re typing. If you’re someone who does transcription or if you’re someone who does a lot of multiple reading sources, not just online but paper to online, that becomes challenging and it’s easy to elevate your computer but not so to elevate other items that you might use on a regular basis. Examples include the rolodex (if you still use that), a fax machine, your phone, etc. You may need to get, for example, a hands-free headset or something to make it easier for you to stand in place. I personally work from home, so it’s very easy for me to convert the countertops that we have to a standing workstation just by adding a stool to the top of it for my laptop and I’m done.
  • Changing the How, Not Just the Where: So how does standing change the way that you work? This was the most surprising advantage, aside from the fact that I needed to get healthy, it simply changes the way that I work.

  • Focus: I couldn’t zone out on any particular task. Because you’re standing you’re constantly moving, you’re agile, both physically and mentally. It’s a transition, a connection there, it works together, and as a result I was very focused on a task and able to focus on things for an intense period of time. I can’t zone out on them, it’s not easy for me to sit down and write for two hours. In fact, if I have a project like that I’m more likely to go somewhere where I can sit down and find some quiet and really but it really forces me to be rapid fire, so standing to process my e-mail, for example, is a no-brainer.
  • Multi-Tasking Done Right: Now that I stand, I’m much more likely to walk around while working. I actually prefer to take calls when I’m walking now, which again allows me to incorporate physical activity into my day. Forget talking, taking notes, and reading emails simultaneously — your brain can only do so much. But your brain and body can work in synchronized manner all day long. I can do this with my bluetooth headset, and it really keeps me focused.
  • Equipment for Standing: So what’s required to make this happen? There are obviously work stations you can go out and buy that cost a great deal of money…these elevate your desk and can be infinitely adjustable.

  • The Walking Desk: Some folks have built a work station on top of a treadmill for example, which is off the charts crazy. You can pretty much test this out at work by stacking things on your desk. I use a small footstool on top of my desk that helps me out. I would recommend that you do a hack first to see if this whole set-up is going to work for you and then go ahead and integrate it into your official work space on a bigger level should you find it to be most congruent with how you work, how you want to work, but also for your overall physical well-being.
  • A Paid Solution: Once you have confirmed this is going to work, you can check out if there’s a little money in your budget, definitely invest in a full-on standing work station for yourself. There are some more resource links at the bottom for reading about creating your own standing desk and why you want to do one.
  • Additional Reading / Links:

  • http://www.marksdailyapple.com/standing-at-work/
  • http://37signals.com/svn/posts/1001-standing-versus-sitting
  • http://ask.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/07/14/0015212
  • http://www.emaxhealth.com/1506/standing-work-can-improve-your-health-and-productivity.html
  • http://www.doityourself.com/stry/how-to-build-a-standing-work-table
  • http://wiki.43folders.com/index.php/Working_while_standing
  • http://www.smallbusinessbrief.com/forum/showthread.php?t=10186
  • http://webworkerdaily.com/2008/04/30/are-you-ready-to-stand-while-you-work/
  • Best of luck to you and if you’ve done this before or you’re thinking about doing it, let us know in the comments, I’d love to hear about it.

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