Threadmill Desks — The Future Software Engineer Office Rig?
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook described sitting as the new cancer, and using a threadmill desk is perhaps the easiest way of reducing the amount of sitting — at least in an office environment. As most novel technologies threadmill desks has the classic celebrity endorsement (Victoria Beckham), and is expected to become aunicorn billion dollar business as it enters the workplace.
In this blog post I will share setup, experiences (since February 2015) and thoughts about primarily using a threadmill desk as a Software Engineer in a startup.
1. My Threadmill Desk Office Setup
The table below describes my threadmill desk setup from the floor and up.
HardwareDescriptionFloor Sound Insulation — Acoustiblok (3 mm thick) Threadmills can be noisy — both within the office and to office neighbours in lithe floor below in high-resonance buildings. Acoustiblok — aNASA spinnoff product — is perhaps the best sound insulation.
Threadmill Protective Mat — X-Erfit (6 mm thick) This protects the (rather expensive) Acousticbloc from being destroyedLifeSpan TR1200-DT3 Standing DeskTreadmill The threadmill. LifeSpan TR1200-DT7 Standing Desk The motorized desk (for adjusting height) that has control panel for the threadmill Macbook Pro 15″ Computer Where all the Deep Learning and XCode/Swift/Metal magic happens (or is supposed to happen..) AOC U2868PQU 28″ UHD 4K 3840×2160 LED Monitor28 inch screen
2. Experiences using a threadmill desk
Being the self-appointed lab rat of a small software engineering team, and curious about threadmill desks we bought a LifeSpan TR1200-DT7 Desktop Treadmill (perhaps the first of several) in February 2015. As opposed to its faster siblings — threadmills found at gyms — desk threadmills have a way more soothing speed level. The typical desk threadmill speed is between 0.7 to 3 km/hour (roughly approx. 0.4–2 miles/hour), so a relatively slow walking pace , but infinitely faster than sitting on an office chair. I believe a good analogy is that Tai Chi or slow-paced Yoga would be equivalent to the the desk threadmill, and threadmills at gym would be more like Kung Fu or Rocket Yoga.
Below I describe various tasks I do and how it fits or not fit doing on the threadmill desk (subjectively speaking):
Task — Regular Coding
Writing code and tests (Python, Swift/Metal and small shell scripts) works nicely on the threadmill desk in 80–90% of the cases (see algorithmic coding for the remaining 10–20%). Optimal speed for this task is around 2.0 km/hour
Task — Algorithmic Coding and Thinking
If I’m at full concentration working on heavy algorithmic stuff (i.e. working at or close to my mental capacity ☺, I prefer to not do that on the threadmill desk and rather use the office sofa. Not sure why this is the case, but believe it might be 2 reasons: 1) simultaneous capacity being stretched (both walking and thinking very hard), 2) thinking very hard creates a lot of energy — and heat — and walking in addition creates even more energy.I think best with a whiteboard in near proximity, and haven’t found a good solution to combining the threadmill desk with whiteboard so far (believe there is room for production innovation here)
Task — Writing
Writing emails, documents, papers, blog posts and various administrative tasks works usually nicely on the threadmill desk. Optimal speed for this task is around 2.0 km/hour
Task — Discussing with team mates
Brief discussions works with team mates (who — for now — sits at regular desks) works nicely while I’m on the threadmill desk, but I prefer to slow down the speed a bit (perhaps to 0.7–1 km/hour). For longer discussions I prefer to sit down at my regular desk (which is still there).
Task — Skype, Phone and other Meetings
Skype and Phone (without Video Conference part) or equivalent I can do at slow pace (0.7–1 km/hour) on the threadmill desk, but usually I prefer to do them offmill (is that a new term?)
3. The future of threadmill desk for Software Engineers
Believe there is tons of innovation and product opportunities related to threadmill desks (e.g. combine it with whiteboards).
On the visual experience — perhaps replacing the screen -side virtual reality related technologies such asMicrosoft HoloLens or Facebook’s Oculus Rift can become an interesting combination with threadmill desks (perhaps making Star Trek holodecks a reality).
Given the rapid advances in Deep Learning for Speech Recognition on might even get rid of the screen (and the desk!) eventually, even though I believe using speech recognition for coding is still a bit cumbersome (but Tavis Rudd shows some impressive coding by voice in the video above).
Given my highly positive experiences using a threadmill desk as a Software Engineer, I’m pretty sure that this will become a default part of an engineer’s office rig in the near future. Since I also enjoy being a software engineer lab rat related to threadmill desks, I more than happy to try out gear that can enhance the experience, so feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have ideas or gears in that direction!