Sitting too long is bad for your health, and for craft business owners this problem is compounded because both our jobs and our hobbies often involve sitting. One solution that has gained popularity is the standing desk. Standing desks can take the sedentary out of computer work, and I’ve found that standing for even an hour or two decreases how sluggish I feel after a long day of work.
Keep an Eye on Ergonomics
A number of standing desk solutions are available, ranging from cheap improvisations to custom, adjustable setups. Whether you invest in a four-figure desk or a twenty dollar hack, it’s important that the desk height work for your body. In particular, attend to the angle your wrist makes with the desk surface. Your wrists should be straight, with hands at or slightly below elbow level (between 90 and 110 degrees is ideal).
To reduce neck strain, make sure your computer monitor is directly in front of you. If you use two monitors, center the primary one and place the second monitor right next to it. If you use both equally, then center both. Your monitor(s) should be at or slightly below eye level and one arm’s length away. If it’s further than that, you’ll lean forward and squint, which can cause neck pain. To check the distance, reach out your hand and see if your fingertips graze the monitor.
Finally, make sure your mouse and frequently-used office supplies are conveniently located. For keyboards with number pads, the board itself may wind up off-center, but you want to keep yourself as centered as possible. Of course, these principles also apply to regular desks. Whatever setup you use, now may be a good time to do a quick assessment of your current work environment.
Ways to Make a Standing Desk Work for You
When you’re first adjusting to a standing desk, it can be difficult to stand for an entire day or even a half day. A chef’s mat is a cushioned mat that chefs use to ease the strain of standing on their feet all day, and can be a worthwhile investment. Many standing desk converts also swear by the targeted use of a bar stool, which breaks up the time they spend standing. When not in use, simply store beneath your desk.
If you don’t like using a desktop or have certain situations where your laptop just makes more sense, you can still configure a standing desk to fit that scenario. Some people create separate work stations for their laptop, such as a L-shaped desk where each leg is set to a different height. You can also utilize a portable standing setup that easily converts to a seated option (see below for ideas).
Testing It Out
Not convinced a standing desk is for you? There are many ways to test out the concept before investing in a permanent solution. Computers can be placed on sturdy baskets, cardboard boxes, or a stack of books to approximate the right height. I have a former colleague who placed her laptop on a TV tray. When she wanted to sit, she simply folded it away. For me, I wanted a taller monitor, so I set my laptop on a cardboard box and placed a freestanding keyboard on stacks of copy paper. When I felt like sitting, I unplugged the keyboard and shifted to the center of my desk, which I kept clear for this very purpose. If you’d like to play around with raising your entire desk, blocks of wood, bed risers, or even a low shelf can be used to raise the height.
When you convert your hobby into a business, there can be so many ways work takes you away from the very thing you love. Don’t let sitting for long stretches of time be one of them.
I am very happy with a relatively inexpensive standup desk that I got from miracle desk.com. I also ordered the mat to stand on and I’m happy with that too. The desk actually gives me more desk space for keeping items underneath. When I want to sit I just bring my laptop down in front of it on the main desktop. I already owned a Rolodex metal laptop stand which raises the back of the laptop, and thus the screen, to just the right height on the standup desk. I put the laptop stand in a large basket tray which allows the laptop in the tray to extend a bit off the back of the standup desk to allow room for my separate keyboard in front which is flat on the standup desk. I had to stop sitting at the computer so much. Prolonged sitting can cause some of the muscles in your rump to shorten and cause a lot of pain. I had to go for physical therapy to get some help with that.
Love this topic! I’ve definitely moved toward more ergonomic approaches to desk work, though I haven’t been able to take the plunge to a standing desk quite yet.
For people who craft/sew for long periods of time, I wrote a blog post recently about different models of standing sewing tables: http://www.right-sides-together.com/stand-up-sewing-tables/
I have a stand-up desk and I love it. I’m much more likely to walk away and take breaks. I use a thrifted chest of drawers that is the right height for my computer. It works really well, and it was much less expensive than what is available on the market right now.
I have a stand up desk from StandUpDesk.com. It can crank up and down therefore very adjustable. I had a carpenter raise my sewing machine cabinet up so I can stand and sew. I love it.
I’ve been using a standing desk for 3+ years and can’t imagine working without it. I think better when I’m standing, or maybe it just seems that way because I can’t remember working any other way. I do still sit to sew on my machines, and to write by hand, but those tasks do not take up the bulk of my day.
It is important to have a good mat to stand on. I use a small foam mat from GelPro. It’s also a really good idea to wear shoes that support your feet well. And I remind myself all day long to tighten my abs and move my shoulders back. I have to say that my posture is much better now than it was before I stood to work.
I imagine a good mat and good shoes would be key to making this work. Thank you for the tips.
I switched to a *sit-stand* mobile work station about a year ago. After sitting at a desk job for twelve years, I was starting to feel the effects on my back and neck. My employer furnished me with a unit after a note from my doctor. I started working from home 3 months ago and purchased a sit-stand unit for my home office. I feel more energetic when I stand for at least half the day. I switch off to sit as needed. I can also do some basic arm/leg exercises as I stand and work, I feel this is a great benefit! Good article!
That’s terrific, Ann!
I have been sewing for well over 5o years and understand the benefits of good ergonomics in my sewing room, and that carried over into my career.
For seven years, I worked on my feet for 9-12 hours a day and occasionally for 16 hours on concrete floors, and never had any problems, even during the last nine months when I was pregnant. Part of that was because I wore shoes that had a rubberized platform sole that had only a ¾” lift from toe to heel. The soles absorbed the impact of walking on concrete. And, of course, I was constantly moving around.
After raising my family, I returned to work in another field. I started off with a horrendous workstation that had me hunched over a computer located on an old child’s school table with a high bar stool for seating. This table sat at right angles to a 2 foot wide window through a 3 foot thick wall with a sill that was about a foot higher than my table. This was the window through which I had to communicate with the public. There was no other equipment in this closet sized office. One day of that had me almost in tears with my back seizing up. I endured that for 4 days – taking lots of painkillers.
The following weekend, I enlisted my son and husband to rework the closet into a functioning office including file cabinets and shelves that we brought from home. Two friends who were woodworkers volunteered to build a standing workstation with a shelving unit/desk that housed all of my computer equipment. It was 36” wide. The top was just below my armpits so that the monitor was just right for me to be able to lift my eyes to look at it – no craning my neck. The keyboard was on a rolling shelf (just a shelf on drawer glides). The height of the keyboardshelf was just right so that my wrists were fractionally lower than my elbows with room for the mouse and pad to sit beside it. Total cost for the materials for my workstation was less than $45 and most expensive individual parts were the drawer glides.
This workstation worked very well for 10 years until we needed to expand the workspace to make room for a second workstation in my 6×10 ‘pocket office’. We managed to divide the space with a sliding pocket type door and a second workstation that we could roll out of the office into another room if needed. Unfortunately, one of my assistants could not stand for long periods of time. So, reluctantly, I gave up my wonderful standing workstation.
We purchased a good quality office managers chair with a higher stem to the wheel base so that my assistant could sit down when she needed to get off her feet. We incorporated the old workstation into the new one. Everything was reconfigured so that we could reach everything while sitting in the chair and still be able to deal with our customers through that window – which could not be changed without an engineer’s involvement.
The only problem that we encountered was that within a few months of completion, the three of us who worked in my office were putting on some serious weight! We never moved once we sat down in that chair! Quite often we found ourselves yawning and feeling sluggish. Frequently we were busy and it was hard to get out, even for a few minutes – that was brutal. No movement, no exercise. Several times a day, I tried to get up and do a few jumping jacks just to get the blood flowing and air into my lungs. Some days I would push the chair out into the hall and work standing at a sitting station – not the best, but boy, I needed to get out of that chair. Every night I would go home so exhausted just because I had been sitting in a chair all day.
I am retired now, but if I had had to work any longer, I would have insisted on anther standing workstation, even if it meant hiring new staff who were willing to work in my standing office. Pretty strong, I know – but the first office was so much better than the second. We could expand the working space to accommodate the second workstation and still have a great standing workstation.
So if you have a chance, try out a standing workstation. Think about how you work so that it will be efficient for you and make it work for you, not you working around an uncomfortable layout. It will surprise you how much more you get done just because you are able to move around. You will be getting things done faster, more efficiently. That extra stimulation ramps up your mind and your body in minute but definitely measurable ways.
Our bodies sure told us what was best for us – moving around! The health benefits are amazing.
This article and the comments on it are so inspiring. Thank you Stitchwiz for summing up exactly the kind of thing I was going through from sitting and working.
I was a web designer for 15 years, and prior to that I was wood worker, standing all day. The transition really didn’t do my back any favours. Being unsatisfied with the standing desk options available (either ludicrously high costs or just plain ugly) I set about designing my own standing desks and after a little while of testing and trying out, actually making them.
Before I knew it, this turned into my business and this is what I now do full time at helmm.co
We design and make adjustable height standing desks that fit into tight spots in personal workspaces. Our customers have used them for all manor of things from laptop stands to leather work and model making.
Since I now stand and move (rather than sit and stare) whilst working, my back issues are all but gone, and I don’t think I could go back to sitting all day (but then I am a bit biased!).
Would be great to know what people here think of our designs!