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That’s the one question I’ve been asked most at my new job, not because I struggle with new pressures but rather because I literally haven’t taken a seat. New colleagues and visitors to our office are the type who really want to make conversation. As the only standing person they are sort of drawn to me. That and there’s this weird thing in front of me.
It’s become the latest office fad: standing desks; costing forward-thinking firms millions as they replace cubicles with power-adjustable height desks. But those things are expensive as hell and apparently break easily. Still, I really wanted one and since my boss’s famous last words were, “anything you want”, I forced him to buy treadmill desks. A day in I knew it wasn’t happening.
Our modern lives have forced us all to sit down for at least eight hours a day, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve never worked in an office where people actually stretch and do exercises at their desks like we’re all told to. A previous employer made me take a two-hour workplace ergonomics lecture. For the rest of the day I was very aware of my posture. The next day I returned to my old slouching self.
Sure, we’re all told to be healthy, but we’re just not. We develop back pain and bellies from sitting and are never forced to get up. I remember a colleague who would walk 10 flights from the lobby to her office every day. We were all very impressed and amused by it but she never inspired a soul. The rest of us continued taking the lift between the ground and first floors. And those exercise balls that were a novelty five years ago? I discovered them in a storeroom. I mean when last did you walk into someone’s office where everyone sat comfortably on balls?
We were told that standing, instead of sitting at our desks, had tons of benefits. Some people packed boxes on their desks, while others had expensive desks made that could be height-adjusted by the flip of a switch. But it makes a terrible noise and at a certain company with an $8-billion turnover there just wasn’t enough money to invest in more than a handful.
Outside the fad of a healthy office life, there’s a search for form and function: until now there really hasn’t been a good-looking standing desk that sells for under a few grand. Until now. I might just have found the golden goose.
While attending my first event in my new role, I saw this beautifully designed piece of furniture that I thought came from the factory of Pederson + Lennard. But it didn’t — it was just three good-looking pieces of wood conceived by a fresh-faced man who was in no rush to prove to me how amazing it is.
I went home and googled furiously everything I could find about standing desks. Was this a ripoff from some US company? Did he steal the idea? It wasn’t and he didn’t. It was original and it was amazing.
I got in touch with Ryan Roberts, the guy I saw exhibiting his wooden DeskStand (trademark) the night before, and he offered to let me try one out for free. Arriving at the offices at Woodstock’s Old Biscuit Mill, he was preparing a shipment to the US. It seemed like somebody found the secret and were already making bulk orders. Time was running out to write about the Mark Shuttleworth of standing desks.
Rushing back to the office, late for a meeting, I threw down the stack of wood on my desk. On my return a crowd gathered to watch its assembly, and every time I left my desk, someone would take my position trying it out.
I posted a picture to Facebook and drew some interesting response. “I used it for a month to lose weight. I didn’t,” one friend said, who had me somewhat disappointed. Another forwarded this clip from The Office to remind me how ridiculous I looked. Still I got a new perspective on our office and was able to see colleagues watching Barbie movies or Skyping their dads: things I didn’t see before.
I started taking notes and, like the guy who decided to stand for a month, kept a diary of my thoughts.
My Standing Diary
Am I hurting my neck? I should probably tuck in my tummy.
I lasted all morning but crashed by midday. Sitting down to eat my lunch, I just couldn’t get myself to get up again.
If IMF chief Christine Lagarde does leg lifts and ankle flexes sitting down, I’ll get killer calves standing up.
A stranger walked into the office telling me about a colleague with a neck injury. “I should really get her this, she would love it.” She walked away.
It’s Friday. I walk into the office and remember: I have to stand today. I don’t want to stand today.
Two weeks in and I’m starting to take more pleasure in life’s simple things. Sitting when nature calls has become a real treat. Going home to lie on the couch feels like a reward.
But standing really isn’t that bad and the DeskStand has been designed in such a way that your arms and your screen are not on the same level. That has been a major design fault of most standing desks. DeskStand is also sturdy enough for you to rest on. Want to take a break from standing up? Rest your shoulders on it and it won’t break. You don’t have to stand the whole day, obviously, it’s just a healthier alternative to sitting all day long.
For so many reasons DeskStand won’t just be a fad. That being said I do anticipate yuppies and trend hunters flocking to their Design Indaba stand later this year. But it’s yet again proof that South Africans often have great ideas that’s more beautiful and less expensive than our first world counterparts. Here’s to standing. And to sitting sometimes.