Why Every Web Designer Should Try a Standing Desk

Good Design Causes Wear and Tear

It’s an exciting time to be a Web designer. Mobile and social have become so woven into the fabric of everyday life that our work is increasingly smack dab at the intersection of commerce and creativity. There’s a healthy pressure that comes along with this— to work faster, better, and smarter to keep pace with the changing landscape of design and development.

If there’s a downside, it’s that this type of work can take a toll on our on physical health. As designers, we spend our most of days hopped up on coffee, hunched over tablets while squinting at tiny pixels on large, glowing screens. All due respect to our profession, but I’ll venture a guess that most designers you know don’t look like bodybuilders.

Of course, there’s a mental component as well. Pushing yourself to consistently have good ideas and execute on them is part of what makes the job fun but can leave you feeling drained. I love what I do, but for a while, I went home at night feeling depleted, with little energy to do much besides fire up the DVR and wait for the Domino’s guy to arrive. So about six months back, I made a few lifestyle changes. I prepare and bring healthy-ish lunches to work instead of takeout, introduced some light exercise in the evenings, and began using a standing desk.

Now, I should point out that I am in no way a fitness guy. I hate the gym, love to cook and entertain, and have the waistline to prove it. My goal was not to get buff, simply to feel better. And while I’m not qualified to coach anyone on their meal plan or gym routine— and surely you’re aware of thevalue of diet and exercise— I can say that the simple decision to stand more and sit less has helped in real, substantial ways. So what I would like to share with my fellow designers (and developers, though I don’t code) is this: There are plenty of benefits that result from ditching your office chair, and you can obtain them with a lot less pain and suffering than you think.

Get Leaner and Meaner

So let’s lay out a few facts and figures. Studies show that being on your feet for 2.25 hours or more each daycontributes to reduced risk of the following bad things: obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even early death. Not too concerned about cardiac arrest? Me neither, but this may grab you: using a standing desk will help you lose weight.This study by the BBC found that standing burns an additional 50 calories an hour. “If you stand for three hours a day for five days that's around 750 calories burned. Over the course of a year it would add up to about 30,000 extra calories, or 8 pounds of fat”.

That should be enough motivation for most folks, but to me, the real plus to using a standing desk is that I have more energy throughout the day. There’s data to back this up: That same BBC study notes when you stand after a meal, “blood glucose levels fall back to normal levels far more quickly than when [you] sit”. What this means is that the afternoon slump, the dreaded“2 o’clock feeling”? It’s hardly there. This is a boon for any office worker, but for a designer, it’s gold. More energy means more creativity. Nowadays, I can spread design work evenly over the day, and feel more confident that my 3 pm ideas are as strong as my 10 am ones.

Standing: Not As Hard As it Seems

I bet you’re saying, “that sounds great and all, but even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could stand up all day”. I hear you, but believe me: you can if you want to. It just requires some discipline. How do you think baristas or bartenders or shopkeepers stay on their feet all day? They simply get used to it. But people mentally associate office work with sitting, partly because it’s always available. (The waitress at your favorite diner can’t just grab a seat whenever she wants to, so she likely doesn’t even consider the possibility). So if you decide to try a standing desk, in order to reap the rewards, you’ll need to get past this mental hurdle.

How? When you start out, just continually remind yourself why you’re doing it— weight loss, more creativity, etc.— and only allow yourself to sit for 15 minute intervals every two hours or so. (This is a good rule of thumb as you continue, since standing 100% of the day iscautioned against by most experts.) It will take some willpower and, at the outset, your feet will hurt. But trust me, after two or three weeks, you’ll barely even think about it. Also: you’ll want to use a cushioned pad, and it’s worth investing in a decent one. I usethis mat by Sky Solutions and it’s a dream.

I’m not suggesting that using a standing desk will magically transform your career and solve all your health problems. My point is that simply that it will help you solve some of the issues that face designers every day. We work in an industry that moves fast, changes constantly, and isn’t always kind to the body. It’s in your best interest to stay flexible and take advantages where you can find them. If you can feel a little sharper consistently throughout the day, or improve your speed or quality or idea generation by five or ten percent, why wouldn’t you? That may not seem like a ton, but consider the ripple effects that might have on your projects going forward. To me, that’s worth sore feet any day of the week.