This guy got the standing desk memo already
About 10 years ago, I met a friend for dinner at a tapas bar on Bermondsey Street. There was plenty of space at the high tables all over the restaurant, but not enough stools to go around.
I asked the waiter if he could find us some seats, a request to which he brusquely replied: “Why can’t you just stand?”
Now, us Londoners are pretty open to new things. I’ve eaten dead flies mixed with cream cheese at a night promoting the nutritional benefits of insects, and I've seen phallic audiovisual art at the Tate Modern that I really wish I could burn off my retinas.
But, for some reason, the concept of standing up to eat in a restaurant shocked and appalled me, like it was my constitutional right to dine with my glutes plastered to a slab of wood and my knees bent at 90 degrees.
That’s how ridiculous I am. I will happy stand all night in a busy cocktail bar, or at a gig, but I'm just not in the habit of standing up to eat, work, or watch a film. When I saw Henry V at the Globe I stubbornly refused to stand in the pit like the peasant that I am.
Society and tradition has long dictated what we sit and stand for, including office work. What that means is, on an especially lazy day, we might sit at our computers for eight hours, sit on the train if we’re lucky enough to nab a seat, sit down to eat dinner and then move, sloth-like, to the sofa to watch Netflix.
And studies show this is making us unwell, potentially causing cardiovascular problems and making us more prone to diabetes.
A recent study of mainly sedentary NHS workers given desks that could be raised to a standing position found those who used the so-called “sit-stand” desks reported reductions in musculoskeletal problems.
Sports medicine consultant Dr Mike Loosemore claims standing to work for three hours a day, five days a week, is as effective as running 10 marathons a year and can extend life by two years.
And researchers at the University of Chester found standing at work for three hours per day burns 750 calories over the working week, the equivalent of eight pounds of fat per year.
My LinkedIn feed is often peppered with such compelling evidence and articles proclaiming that “sitting is the new smoking". And I have dabbled with standing for the odd half hour at a time, but I’ve not taken it at all seriously. Not until I read that, in 2014, Denmark made it mandatory for employers to offer their staff 'sit-stand' desks.
To me, Denmark – which has been ranked top three in the UN’s world’s happiest nation rankings for seven years in a row – represents the closest thing to social perfection. Perhaps it’s the winning combination of high taxes, hygge, and Lego that does it. Whatever the reason, the Danes are a people I wish to emulate.
Thus, last weekend, I converted my home workspace into a standing workspace, and here I am, standing to write this. My lower back is aching slightly, because I’ve not quite strengthened the muscles I need yet, and I will probably collapse on the sofa in about 15 minutes to rest my feet, but already I feel like a hero.
Three days in and I believe I am more productive. My bursts of intensive work seem to last noticeably longer than when I sit. It could be a placebo effect, but at least I have a good reason to cancel those 10 marathons I signed up for...
My new-look standing desk strewn with fruit and empty biscuit wrappers (I never claimed it was Insta-worthy)