from the Library of Maura

Two Legs to Stand On

February 12th, 2011 by Maura A. Smale · 3 Comments

Last month this blog post on the New York Times website made the rounds of my Twitter stream. Apparently evidence is growing that too much sitting can be harmful to our health, even for those who exercise regularly. I’ve been reading about the benefits of standing desks for a while now, and this was the push I needed to give it a try. Plus, that fat cat was really scary.

I can’t justify buying a whole new desk, so I set to figuring out how to rig a temporary standing desk at home and at work. Home is somewhat easier because my primary computer is a laptop. We have lots of big, big books, and it turned out to be no trouble at all to pile a bunch of books on the dining room table and pop my computer on top. Here’s what it looks like:

But most weekdays I’m in the library, so I wanted to try a standing desk at work, too. Lots of books there, of course, but I can’t just take books from the stacks to pile on my desk. Enter some extra metal journal holders that were sitting on the shelves in my office when I moved in last semester. As it happens, when you place 4 of them next to each other and turn them face down, they make a perfectly sized surface for my computer keyboard. Another two together fit the mousepad and mouse. Then I pull up my computer monitor and tilt it back slightly, and my temp standing desk for the office is all set:

In some ways the work setup is even better than the pile of books at home, because the keyboard is close to the edge of the journal holders which encourages me not to drop my wrists as I type.

Both setups are easy to put up and take down quickly, which is important because one thing I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks is that I’m not ready to move to a standing desk full time. Certain things are more difficult to do while standing, like eating while working or writing in longhand (though the latter would likely be easier on a real rather than temp standing desk).

But I’ve found that I really enjoy having the option to stand or sit while I work. Standing seems to make it easier for me to focus on certain tasks, like sustained work on a project. On the other hand, if I’ve been running around between meetings and teaching and other stuff, it’s nice to sit down for a spell.

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