Who Likes a Standing Desk When Writing?

If you blog or freelance, you probably spend a lot of time sitting at your desk. Will standing help?

Photo Courtesy of Sergey Nivens

If you blog or freelance, you probably spend a lot of time sitting at your desk. In a fantastically lucky turn of events, I got a motorized standing desk for free. I was moving out of my tiny apartment in Baltimore at the same time a very kind medical resident was moving out of his apartment.

He saw my partner and me in the hallway and just completely out of the blue, asked if we wanted a free motorized standing desk. We’re both creatives and spend a lot of time at our desks, so asking us if we wanted a motorized standing desk was like asking a man dying of thirst in the desert if they wanted a free gallon of water.

Now, this was an amazing gift, but there was one problem. My car — a Nissan Sentra, just to give you an idea of what we were working with — was already filled to the brim. And I mean literally filled to the brim. I’ve moved enough times to be an expert and every square inch of the car was filled with boxes and bags, with just a small opening for me to sit in the driver’s seat and be able to use my rearview mirror.

My partner, with his quickly filling Honda Civic, obviously doesn’t have a great deal of room either. We had just enough room for our foam mattress. But the foam mattress was about $170 when we bought it and the desk was worth well over $600…so you can guess how our priorities shifted quickly.

Fortunately, we got ahold of one of my partner’s old coworkers, who was thrilled to have a lightly used foam mattress given to him, so nothing went to waste. When he showed up in a tiny two seat vehicle pledging that if foam mattress came in a small roll, it could go back into a roll, we were skeptical. Yet miraculously, my partner and his old coworker somehow managed to squish that foam mattress into the back of that tiny two seat vehicle. It was like magic.

Let’s get back to my angelic, generous standing desk hero. He was unbelievably kind on top of being generous and asked if we’d like his help assembling the desk, since the motorized legs were indeed quite tricky. We humorously admitted that we were also moving and said that it’d be going into my partner’s Civic before getting set up at our new apartment in New Jersey.

But that’s enough of my story.

Let’s talk about standing desks in general; are they a trend or something that truly helps your health? After all, who truly likes to use a standing desk when writing?

Is a standing desk better than a regular desk?

Photo Courtesy of John Sting

There’s been some debate on the health benefits of a standing desk. There are research studies out there making scary claims that sitting is the new smoking and that sitting is killing you slowly. That sure makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

However, there are contradictory studies like Bodies at Work released by Johns Hopkins Medicine that say standing isn’t that much better. What’s the moral of the story here?

Most studies agree that getting frequent movement boosts our health and is the best solution. This means that technically speaking, if you get up frequently at a sitting desk, you can win the game without a standing desk.

However, I still feel like having a standing desk makes it easier to accomplish the goal of frequent movement.

Think about when you write. You get all comfortable at your writing desk, even if it’s just actually your living room coffee table. How often do you start writing and keep sitting there, unbudgingly, for two, three hours, or more?

Probably often. It’s easy to go long periods of time and scarcely budge.

How does a standing desk help?

Photo Courtesy of Domenico Loia

You still need to work on your habits, but a standing desk makes it easier to stretch or take a few steps back and forth. You can move your feet around while still typing, you can stretch just about any muscle, and you can even walk or march in a place a little if you’re very determined.

It’s also easier to break away from your work and step back for a moment to refill your water bottle or get a little more coffee. If you’re tackling other health goals, like staying more hydrated, it’s a little bit easier to remember to go over and grab anything when you’re already on your feet. Of course, you don’t want to become entirely distracted, but moving around like this is fantastic for your spine.

Again, it’s psychological. It’s easier to think “I’ll just finish this paragraph” or “I need to get to the bottom of this page first” when you’re sitting and just stay sitting. When you’re standing to write, it’s just a little bit easier to remind yourself to move more, to bend your knees, to maybe march in place a little bit so your legs don’t get too stiff.

For me, there have been times where I’d be sitting at my writing desk, my knee would start to hurt. I’d have a deadline, the pain was too sharp to ignore, and I would know that I’d need to sit there for another six hours. Thus, I’d have a snack and take some Advil. After all, it’s hard for writers to achieve work-life balance, we have crazy deadline sometimes.

If standing up gives you the inspiration to bend your knees and stretch your legs a little and that’ll get rid of the pain, sparing yourself of that snack and painkiller is certainly a good thing.

Getting an adjustable standing desk is the best solution.

Photo Courtesy of wavebreak3

I could never just have a high table standing desk that can never be brought down. Plus, this isn’t that much heather than sitting down, provided you have a chair that provides good, ergonomic support.

There are a few different options for getting an adjustable standing desk.

You can get a motorized one if you don’t mind paying for it or you can get one that adjusts with a crank. While I feel unbelievably lucky to have simply been given a motorized one by a kind soul who moved to Manhattan, I do think the crank ones are still quite nice. Before this stroke of luck, I’d tested out a few at furniture stores like Ikea, and they moved very smoothly.

The adjustable option is perfect since you can have the writing desk of your dreams in either configuration. When you get tired of standing, you can plop right down like you normally would. Just remember not to leave it there; we all know being immobile for long periods of time isn’t good for our backs.

I’m really happy with the adjustable option; it’s a key part of my ideal writing environment.

So…who actually likes writing at a standing desk?

Photo Courtesy of Alejandro Escamilla

This is just my personal experience, but I do. I’m not perfect, I put my standing desk into sitting position a lot, perhaps more often than I should. Regardless, I try to spend a good amount of time standing, and when I do, I make it a point to move around more.

If I’m at the end of a paragraph or in the middle of some dialogue and I’m debating my next line, I’ll make it a point to stretch my arms or back. The standing desk is a reminder to keep doing healthier behaviors and it’s just enough push to reinforce the good habits.

Standing and writing versus sitting and writing isn’t too much of a distraction for me. At first, it definitely felt weird. However, after doing it for a few hours, I completely stopped thinking that standing impacted my writing speed or focus at all. If you’ve tried it a few times but felt too weird, I’d recommend giving it a go for a few more hours. Sometimes, we respond to new things poorly, even when they’re good things.

Ultimately, using an adjustable standing desk when writing gives you the best of both worlds. It’s the perfect combination of benefits and comfort for when you’re just too worn out to stand and write.

Writer and poet from Neptune. Instructional designer in NYC. Grad student at @NYUTandon studying Integrated Digital Media.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store