Stand and Work…without a Standing Desk

Ladies and gentlemen, the verdict is in:  

Sitting, for eight hours or more a day, will kill you deader than Donald Trump’s casinos.  A whole grab-bag of distinguished medical organizations, from the American Cancer Society to the Annals of Internal Medicine, will tell you so.  Sadly, they also emphasize that exercise isn’t just the cure-all, either; for once, it seems that physical activity can’t offset the harmful effects of sitting.

Death in plain sight...

Death in plain sight…

And these harmful effects are pretty terrifying, to say the least.  The American Cancer Society found that women who sat for six or more hours a day have a 37% greater risk of death, whereas it’s 17% for men.  And for those who don’t exercise, it’s even worse: women face rates of 98% mortality (48% for men), not to mention an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart problems, and cancer.

Whew.  So Bruce Springsteen was right, and baby, we were born to run–or at least stand.  But for those of us who want to prolong our stay here in this life, what’s the alternative?  After all, we live in a digital, networked world, and a huge percent of work is done sitting, at a computer.

Of course, we can go the logical route–buy a standing desk, preferably a snazzy, hydraulic creature that can alternate between sitting and standing heights.  Ever since the raft of studies showing that sitting is detrimental to the human body, there has been an explosion of standing desk products; an IKEA search turns up five pages of results, most of them priced between $200 and $800.  Not bad, really.

But what if you don’t have the cash/space?  Well, I could lecture you about investing in your body–but I won’t, because I’m also a frugal one at heart, and living in NYC is already expensive enough given rent, taxes, and moving costs.  Instead, read on for some lifecheats and silly (but workable ideas) to get around the sitting dilemma.

Before you begin, make sure you have a laptop.  The reason for this is that it’s much easier to move laptops around (obviously) wherever you wish to go.  Don’t get me wrong; I love desktops, but they’re not exactly portable.  Indeed, for for those of you with desktops, you may want to invest in a full-on standing desk–or, for you gutsy ones out there, a wireless keyboard and mouse, as well as some long-ass cables.  You’ll also need a bit of ingenuity and creative thinking to wire everything, but sometimes, you can just mount your desktop monitor and keyboard if you have long enough cables.

Here’s the rule: anything can be used as a standing workstation, so long as it’s tall enough for you to type comfortably without craning your neck or hunching your back.  


The Bookshelf:

With this rule in mind, the first workaround I used was the book shelf in my sister’s room.  I cleared off all her stuff, sparkly shot glasses and glass ornaments from vacations in Aruba and Tokyo, and promptly stuck my laptop on one shelf, and my bluetooth keyboard and mouse on the next.  It cost me nothing (the bookshelf was already there), and made for quite a handy workstation besides.  Take a look.

One shelf holds the laptop, the other one the wireless keyboard and mouse.

One shelf holds the laptop, the other one the wireless keyboard and mouse.

Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks with this method.  I found that the laptop screen was really close to my face, so I would find myself with red, sore eyes after a few hours.  I tried standing a little further away, but then, I had a hard time reaching my keyboard.  Also, bookshelves are definitely an additional cost–unless you already have one.


The Counter:

The next workaround I used was a counter–one of a series of random, assorted counters lying around the house.  In this case, the counter stands across from the door to the apartment, and is often used to hold keys, spare change, and even some vaseline for those dry winter days.  As you can see from the picture below, the counter worked nicely; it wasn’t too tall or too short, and it was comfortable enough for me to write for hours at a time.  In short, it was  Goldilocks, in wooden form: just right.

The counter-cum-standing-desk...

The counter-cum-standing-desk…

Unfortunately, counters also have their own problems.  It’s quite tricky to rig up your desktop to a counter, particularly if the area is right next to a sink or in the kitchen.  Given this reality, I would say that this method is probably for laptops only.  Also, in my specific case, the counter was right next to the door; it opened on me a few times, and I was the object of much scorn and ridicule from my parents and sister–though in all honesty, they thought this little project was silly to begin with.


Laptop Stands

Alternately, for those of you are willing to shell out a bit of money, you can buy one of a series of laptop standing tables, of which Stand Stand is probably the most famous.  The advantages of this product are numerous: because it breaks down into lightweight pieces, it’s super-portable, and can be carried to coffee shops, offices, and anywhere else you may find yourself working.  Surprisingly, they’re very reasonably priced; currently, the basic desk retails for $75, while larger models with space for a wireless mouse retail for $160.  For their price, they’re also undeniably elegant, made from a variety of premium, rich woods ranging from birch to polished bamboo.

Damn, this thing can hold a desktop monitor too? Nice one. Courtesy of Standstand.

Damn, this thing can hold a desktop monitor too? Nice one. Credit: Standstand.

However, do keep in mind that Stand Stand and its like are limited to laptops only, so if you use a desktop at work, you may be out of luck.  Never fear!  Anticipating our request, Standstand has a new, Grand model that’s available for preorder.  Can’t wait to use my desktop on this bad boy!

Still, it’s worth pointing out that you want to be careful using the smaller stands, especially in crowded places.  The last thing you want to do is knock down your laptop or splash coffee on it, though this is true anytime you work at a coffee shop.

It's smiling at me. Not sure if creepy or cute. Both? Courtesy of Standstand.

It’s smiling at me. Not sure if creepy or cute. Both? Credit: Standstand.

Whatever you decide to do with your standing desk, be sure to move around and stretch at regular intervals.  After an entire day of standing, my knees and calves were a bit stiff, so I had to break out my trusty little foam roller and iron my muscles out.  Also, it bears mentioning that you should get shoes with support to cushion you through these long days, and alternate standing with sitting.  It seems that standing too much is also bad for you–which essentially means that our bodies are fragile like porcelain.  

Sad face.

At any rate, I hope this was useful to you!  Post a link or comment below, and tell us about any silly workarounds you may have for your standing workstation!
Happy standing!

By | 2017-06-22T18:35:36+00:00 June 22nd, 2016|Writings|0 Comments

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