The days of classrooms where a teacher desk sits at the front of the classroom and students’ desks are neatly aligned in rows are over. Learning technologies, and changing pedagogical methods, are not only changing the way we teach but also the physical environments we teach in. The role physical environments play in our learning is just beginning to be studied and understood.
by Patrick Allan
Every discussion about standing desks today is an argument over whether they’re healthier than sitting all day, or whether those health benefits are bullshit. None of that is important to me. What is, however, is that my standing desk made me more productive, more creative, and overall more active. That’s all I want from it.
Standing Gives More Urgency to My Work
For me, sitting flips a switch in my brain that tells me it’s time to rest. Standing, however, does the opposite. When I stand while I work, the stuff that usually only engages my brain and hands becomes work that engages my entire body. Doing the simple things, like typing, reading, and clicking links requires effort from my entire body. I have to hold myself up no matter how simple the task at hand. If it sounds exhausting, it kind of is. But that’s a good thing. Just the physical nature of standing while I do my work combines with the mental energy I bring to the table, and it just makes everything feel important. It adds some momentum and urgency to my day. That urgency helps me concentrate and focus.
By standing, I’m telling my brain that I have shit to do and I can’t rest until it’s done. Everything matters just a little more, and instead of opening a tab to laze around on Facebook, I actually work faster. Not in a sloppy way, but in a “I’m totally absorbed in what I’m doing” way. I get in the zone quicker, and stay in it longer. I shun distractions and stay productive because I know that getting work done means I can rest sooner. With a standing desk, my own inherent laziness makes me more productive.
Standing Puts an End to Lazy Starts to the Day
That urgency I feel when I work at a standing desk also gets rid of slow, lazy starts to my workday. Before I started using a standing desk, I would sit down at my computer in the morning, convince myself I had started “working,” and waste time easing into the real meat of my day. I was like a machine that was slowly starting to warm up. The gears would turn, the belts would spin, and after an hour or so the machine would finally start running at full power. Some people might like that kind of slow, luxurious start to the day, but for me, it was a waste of time and energy.
Standing forced me to start working right out of the gate. That morning, “well I should probably get something done” grogginess dissipates faster, and I can’t get too comfortable because if I do, well, I’ll fall down. This revelation was a game-changer for me. Now, I turn on my computer and dive right in because my body is telling me it’s time to work, not time to read Kotaku. I still take regular breaks throughout the day to give both my mind and body a rest, but I have more control over when those happen now. My mornings jump start into productivity and my breaks only come when I actually need them.
Standing Means No More Post-Lunch Food Comas
Food comas are awesome (I indulge in that lazy, full feeling as often as I can), but not when I’m trying to be productive. The sleepy fog that comes from eating too much or totally binging on carbs for lunch can completely waste your afternoon. Standing desks fight that off, and for me, help me get back into the groove faster after eating.
Every day, I get as much work done in the morning as I can, then eat a meal that’s a combination of late breakfast and early lunch (I refuse to say I eat brunch every day). I used to sit at my desk, eat, and maybe watch Netflix to take a break, but a few bites later and I’d be full, sleepy, and in no condition to get back into the swing of things. Once I started standing, I actually get away from my desk to eat and take a well-earned rest sitting at my dining room table. When it’s time to get back to work, standing gets me back into “work mode.” I stay alert, and the food I ate feels more like fuel and not weight that’s bogging me down.
Standing Desks Help Me Stay Active, and That’s What Matters
Obviously, standing all day is a little more active than sitting all day, but standing also makes we want to be more active. Whether you stand or sit, moving and being active is what keeps you healthy. With my standing desk, I’m more inclined to pace around my apartment while I think, hop on my stationary bicycle for a quick session, keep some dumbbells next to my desk to lift, go for a walk outside when I need to take a break (what’s that bright yellow thing that burns my skin?), and even dance around like an idiot to my music. My Fitbit tells me my daily steps have skyrocketed since I started using a standing desk. Step counts aren’t the same thing as good health, per se, but I can feel a difference too. It’s amazing how big of a mental barrier getting up on your feet really is. Instead of “I have to get up and go do that,” it’s “well I’m already up, so why not?”
Even better, all the extra activity helps me concentrate and think creatively. Sure, exercise, pacing, and dancing are all distractions from the work I have to do, but they’re the good kind: The kind that give my mind a moment to recharge, reset, and get back into what I’m doing without completely pulling my head out of the zone. The effect is similar to having a great idea pop into your head while you jog, or while you’re in the shower. One minute I’m dancing, the next I’m scribbling like a madman because I finally figured out how I want to write something.
Standing Even Makes Sitting Feel Productive
Make no mistake, sitting is still super important when you have a standing desk. You need to give your legs (especially your knees) a break every once in awhile. But that’s the beauty of a standing desk; it gives sitting purpose. Sitting goes from being the norm to being what it should be: a break.
Rest is just as vital for productivity as work is, and now sitting fills that role for me. Sitting has become a tool. Before, my bouts of escapism would fill me with guilt because I’d go from sitting all day at a desk to sitting all night on a couch. Now when I sit down to watch a movie or play a video game, I feel like I’m enjoying a well-earned rest. On top of that, working at a standing desk creates two layers of fatigue, and I find that I’m more inclined to hit the sack at a decent hour. More good sleep translates to more energy for my workday, and that means better productivity all around.
Those two layers of fatigue can be a double-edged sword, however. Standing desks wear me out both physically and mentally, so I’m not up for much after working hours. Going to the gym, standing in a bar with friends, and running errands around town become a lot less appealing when you’ve been on your feet all day. Ask any retail worker, restaurant server, or anyone else that stands all day. That said, if you can strike a good balance of sitting and standing, you’ll end up with more benefits than drawbacks.