As a reporter, my desk was a place of refuge after a long day of news gathering. It was a place where I’d sit on the edge of my seat trying to pull magic out of the air and onto the page in the minutes and seconds before my 5 p.m. deadline. It was where I’d make a couple of calls, Google an address and then flee at the earliest opportunity for the adventure that awaited me beyond the newsroom. But in the years since I became a digital manager, then a digital director, and then a digital editor, my forays outside the newsroom lessened.
My time in the saddle increased, and I noticed my back was sore more often, my legs less well trodden and my energy just, well, less. It was a slow process, but more than hating being out of the field, I hated the feeling of sitting all day. I made the request for a standing desk after researching methods of reducing sitting fatigue. I was turned down at first. The HR department wanted a doctor’s note, but the insurance wasn’t good enough for me to go to the doctor to get a note in the first place. My real inspiration was the thriller writer Dana Haynes, who happened to be an editor and my cubical mate at the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon many years ago. Dana would work on education stories all day and, so far as I knew, write all night. I remember it taking a long time to get his request. Turns out that property managers don’t much care for infrastructure changes like raising desks. Change is hard. I get it. Aside from the freakishness associated with wanting to stand all day at work and the process of cutting through the red tape involved, the standing at work lifestyle comes with its own sets of challenges. The first week of standing will leave you so sore you’ll wonder why you ever requested such a torture device for something you do 40 + hours a week. The first time you decide to stand in dress shoes all day will build your character and your swear word vocabulary. After you get used to standing all day, your bad habits will start to show up like stains on a white shirt. You’ll slouch too much, you’ll walk away from your desk more often, because you’re not anchored down by gravity as much. Manual tasks like dates entry and line editing are really tough while standing. You have to learn about posture, which in my case, might as well have been a word in a foreign language. To succeed in standing all day, you will need to master good posture, which means you’ll have to have really good self discipline, which means you’ll have to be cognizant of the fact that you’re standing all day. You’ll get funny looks from your co workers. You’ll wish you could just sit down for a day, especially after a particularly taxing hike, a long run, a vigorous bike ride or a late night of imbibing with friends. So why stand? You’ll almost erase any lower back pain associated with sitting all day, you’ll burn more calories than you do sitting. You’ll increase leg strength and lower blood pressure. After a few weeks, you’ll feel energized after lunch rather than feeling like taking a nap. After a few months, you’ll find yourself looking for opportunities to stand in meetings, and when you’ve been sitting in a marathon meeting, you will relish the opportunity to go back to your standing desk. You’ll live longer. And you’ll feel better while you do that. Now you’ll just need to decide if you want to follow R.E.M’s advice and face North. Personally, I face West. Tim