I’m a Standing-Desk Failure
05.25.17
Photo by Edith Young.

I realized I was failing at my standing desk when someone pitched a story about failing at a standing desk and our Editorial Director looked me straight in the eye as if to say: “Want to take this, Haley?”

“EXCUSE ME,” I replied, brows raised, “BUT I’M UNQUALIFIED TO WRITE SUCH A STORY.”

That was just my pride/brows talking, though. I am very much qualified. In fact, I’m sitting right now!

Remember a few years ago when every media outlet broke the news that sitting was killing us? That was fun. Under the headline, “Sitting is the New Smoking: Ways a Sedentary Lifestyle is Killing You,” the Huffington Post wrote, “From the driver’s seat to the office chair and then the couch at home, Americans are spending more time seated than ever, and researchers say it’s wreaking havoc on our bodies.” That was September 2014. I read it in my cushy office chair, spine curled ever-so-gently in the shape of a large serving spoon.

“People who sit too much every day are at an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and shorter life spans, even if they exercise, a new study finds,” wrote LiveScience a couple months later. Around the same time, CNN reported that sitting for eight to 12 hours a day increased your risk of getting type 2 diabetes by, wait for it, 90%. The World Health Organization cites physical inactivity as the fourth-leading risk factor for death, by the way. DEATH.

(I’m sorry if you’re sitting right now. I hope you’re okay.)

Suddenly, the benefits of standing desks were touted ad nauseam. All the cool kids were standing. Or maybe it was the nerdy kids. I can’t responsibly say, because I was one of them. I stood almost every day at my last job. I felt very important and healthy. But as soon as I left the San Francisco tech bubble, the whole thing went to pot. In New York, I became a sentient chair, writing until the wee hours of the morning as my body sank deeper into my living room couch. I was transforming into Gollum.

Shockingly, my back starting giving me trouble. I knew I ought to start standing again. A quick Google of “cardboard standing desk” turned up one by Oristand that was super chic and only $29 + shipping. Click!

“I’m buying this standing desk,” I wrote in our team Slack channel around two months ago. “Let me know if you want in.” Five people jumped and two minutes later, I placed a group order for $150. We all held our chins a little higher that day, already looking down on our lowly, seat-bound colleagues.

When the desks arrived, I was giddy. I deposited them around the office like a smug Santa. I then set my own up — it only took a minute! this is not sponsored! — and was flying high. By day two, though, I was already justifying spurts of sitting. I’d once heard you were supposed to alternate between sitting and standing anyway. Good for the veins! At least that’s what I told my coworkers/self whenever I sheepishly broke the desk down. That breakdown process, by the way, was at times more than my lazy ass could handle. Sometimes I’d sit down while the desk was still erected.

Standing desk hack. Yw @harlingross

A post shared by Haley Nahman (@halemur) on

I mean, it is a hack.

At some point, my desk grew a little messy. No room for the box. Then I got busy. No time to put it up! I was a barrel of excuses. At least I wasn’t alone, though. I watched as my compatriots’ standing desks became cardboard bookshelves or under-desk junk or aisle blockers. I think we all hoped no one noticed. The only person who kept hers up was Leslie, our Editorial Director. Which brings me to that look she gave me earlier this week vis-à-vis the pitch for this very story: “Want to take this, Haley?”

So fine. It’s true. I suppose I’m a standing-desk failure. But I haven’t given up hope. I will not become Gollum. I’m going to stand. Just as soon as I’m done sitting.

Have you failed a standing desk lately?

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  • Kiks

    I have to stand all day at work. There’s no choice. (Don’t feel too bad for me, I am paid very well.) Some days I wonder what would happen if I just fell over and refused to stand any longer.

  • Marie-Eve

    I want to read the story by Leslie! How to be a Standing Desk Winner!

    • Leslie Price

      I’m towering above them all rn, and feeling good about it.

      • Do you take breaks or do you stand all day long? What is your secret??

  • Krusty the Kat

    PSA: Standing all day in unsupportive (read: basically all) shoes can give you plantar fasciitis. This is a very painful condition where your arches become so stretched and inflamed from constant pressure that micro tears form in your arches and every step feels like a stab to the bottom of your foot. It took about 6 months for me to develop this condition myself while working in a conservation lab. You’ll know it’s happening to you if your feet hurt in the morning while you are taking your first steps out of bed. Two years and a lot of physical therapy later, I’m still dealing with the effects, and I’ll probably never have feet that can wear cute shoes of any kind for long periods of time ever again (flats or heels). Don’t ruin your feet! If you are going to get a standing desk, invest in some danskos, keens, vionics, or another shoe with a hard, high arch support built in. Or get some Superfeet and slip those babies in your flats.

    Also, this is a really common problem. When I finally went to a podiatrist to get a diagnosis, he didn’t even look up from his clipboard when he walked in the room. Just said, “You’ve been wearing flat shoes and standing all day, right?” Conclusion: don’t be like me.

    • Andrea Raymer

      Superfeet are the only acceptable arch supports for me! I have been complaining about all my shoes lately (I’ve broken like 3 toes on my left foot that have never fully healed and recently sprained my ankle or something in my right foot). And walking as my primary form of transportation has made comfortable shoes mandatory. Vans+Superfeet are my every day shoe now.

    • Adrianna

      Cushioned aka “supported” shoes can do more harm than good. Arch and ankle support just prevent you from strengthening your arches and ankles. All of my joint problems went away when I started living in flat shoes and worked to change my posture. I average 15,000 steps on a work day. My record is 47,000.

      I’m obviously not tell you to start working in your lab barefoot. Just wanted to add that a lot of people continue to struggle with pain after spending a lot of money on podiatrists and supported shoes, because that’s what we’re all told to buy.

      • Krusty the Kat

        I understand your point, but what I’m talking about is standing, not walking around, all day. There are lots of professions that are particularly prone to foot problems because they require that you stand in the same spot for long periods of time (security guards, lab workers, etc.). I am a very physically fit person, my problem wasn’t a lack of strength or stamina. In fact, that’s probably what caused me to develop such a bad case of plantar fasciitis-I didn’t tire easily of standing, and could do it for hours at a time without thinking. This is what totally messed up my feet.

        Also, at $40 a pair, Superfeet are a total bargain and worth every penny. They last me at least a year of near constant wear.

      • After I read 8 Steps to a Pain‑Free Back I started doing the foot exercises and transitioning into minimalist shoes. My arches are sooooo muscular now. I use a sit-stand desk, I use the fluidstance (a balance board) when I’m standing because it’s more comfortable IMHO.

        • Adrianna

          I’m totally one of those people who bought chia seeds and five-finger shoes after reading Born to Run. I’d wear them more often, but I don’t always want to have a conversation about my shoes. (It’s odd that they gross people out when everyone walks around NYC in flip flops…) The sneaker industry always wants to sell us new technology every season, and no one believes me that you’re capable of changing and strengthening your feet.

          • http://www.calceology.com/ has good reviews of some more stylish options. I used to review them on my blog, I should go back to it because I have almost perfected my minimalist shoe collection.

  • KRK

    My standing desk life lasted mmm 20 minutes. The very cute Oristand is folded on the floor next to me and behind me is the cardboard box it shipped in.. just waiting to get over my guilt about returning it. Why do the Oristand e-mails have to be so sweet?

  • EP

    It’s great that the website looks good but content is seriously lagging in quality. This was a glorified instagram caption. It’s not that Haley is a bad writer — not at all — but the post should be developed further. Why did i just read this???

    • gracesface

      yeaaa since the design re-launch, i am doing a LOT of skimming. :/ just not liking the font & i agree we could have had a much more in-depth analysis here.

      • Jackie

        What are you talking about? Nothing’s changed content wise. They post as many heavy or in depth pieces as ever.

  • Standing desk failure over here, and I’m veryyyy cozy in my seat. No shame!

  • Lindsay D

    i have a motorized desk so I can stand or sit. FAIL I stand an hour a day MAX

  • Lindsey

    Never did the standing desk because I knew I would give it up day 2 as well and I didn’t want to fail. I went from pretty much only standing jobs (coffee 3 years, salon receptionist 2 years, coffee another year) to an actual desk job and all of a sudden I’m getting like, restless leg syndrome symptoms, my back hurts, my BUTT would literally go numb sometimes (??)…it’s not good. Yoga helps me, but sometimes I can’t be bothered (see: HBO, Netflix, Hulu; also driving in LA; also sitting to eat because restaurants kind of make you do that…). I don’t wanna die because I’m a lazy ass, though that seems a very real possibility at this point. How embarrassing for me. Maybe I’ll go to yoga tonight…(probably not).

    • Lindsey

      Also I gained like, 15-20lbs since I started my desk job, so the struggle is real there too. :/ Sounds like I need to work on being less lazy than necessarily just standing more.

      • Meg S

        If it helps, you do burn more calories standing than you do sitting. But when I have a crazy busy day and a million things are happening, I’m on my butt in my chair and not standing at my standing desk. I have a riser, so I can go back and forth between sitting and standing.

  • Amanda Gold

    Ha! My office has standing desks, and I’ve used it…. never. 🙂 Maybe I should? At least mine is electric so I wouldn’t have to put it away

  • Bo

    I, an Australian, have been intending to get one ever since I found out that our Prime Minister had one installed when he came to office. He took power in September 2015; I am still sitting like a chump.

  • Katrina Elizabeth

    My man friend has worked for a major distributor of sit-stand desks for years. You HAVE to mix it up, neither sitting nor standing for extended periods of time is good. And in terms of standing, the desk is only as good as the floor. If you don’t want to sacrifice the shoes, there are some great mats to go with the desks and they make a huge difference.

    Having said that, I can say that in all irony I sit on my ass all day, even though I have a standing desk.

  • Teone Nutt

    I only fail when I choose to wear heels that aren’t easy to slip on and off between standing periods. Footwear always comes first!

  • Meg S

    I compromised. I have a riser on top of my desk. I can lower it when I want to sit, and I can raise it up when I want to stand. But I’ve been processing invoices and training a new employee like a mad woman during the week before my vacay, so I’ve spent a lot of time on my butt. I’ll stand up when I’m not processing invoices because I need a place to write and make notes. With all the crap I need on it, there’s no room for actual writing.

    I couldn’t do it without my squishy cushion on the floor to stand on. Also wearing flats. I’m always up and down the stairs at work, so I’ve given up wearing heels unless I have an Important Meeting to attend.

  • Shit, I’m getting a standing desk at work soon and now I’m scared D:

  • Carol

    Elderly 57 year old here. I’ve been using a sit/stand desk for about a month now. It’s the kind that lifts up or collapsed down easily but it comes at a price plus I also paid for the mat that I slide out when I stand. So far so good. Allows me to transition easily.

  • Kay Nguyen

    I have never tried the standing desk, my chair is too comfortable! I’m already a failure before I even started…

    https://www.myblackcloset.com/

  • Ellen

    just want to let you know you should go into an Apple Store and get your display fixed for free. The green coating thing coming away around the edges is an international program that Apple has recognised as a fault so yeah you can get it done for free anywhere. Anyway haha, nice piece!

  • kate

    Standing desks were all the rage in my office a few years ago for a similar reason. I was also recovering from a back problem bought on by poor computer posture and thought that standing was the answer to all my problems. What I didn’t anticipate is that the bulk of my job is writing, and that for some reason, I cannot compose a decent sentence standing up. The standing desk is now collecting dust in the corner. I took up pilates and walk everywhere. I’m 15 pounds lighter and I still manage to sit for many, many hours on end. My back no longer hurts.

  • NikNak

    This lady at my work is putting us all to shame! A treadmill! Really!? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d05779dc0b1699845196596a131b7632ccc65252093d3f0fb7fa79340ca65f4e.png

  • At my office, we have thingamijigs that have been clamped to the desks, and can shift up and down for standing and sitting, they are actually quite fabulous. They are from JustStand.org which is stamped in bright white ink, staring at me right now as I write this comment. Sitting for too long definitely makes me feel lazy, so every once in awhile, I’ll push the chair to the side, slide up my screen (like magic) and stand for a little while…