Run for the hills! Modern life is killing us (and turning us into nearsighted mouth breathers)! Recently I read that our mushy non-fibrous western diet has led to the underdevelopment of children’s jaws, resulting in crowded teeth and jaw muscles too week to hold their little mouths closed, leading to an epidemic of mouth breathing children with braces. And that many children need glasses for nearsightedness because they never have the opportunity to look at anything far away…because they never go outside. And, most tragically, law librarians (and…well…all those other people who sit at a computer all day) are going to die from…sitting at a computer all day!
This is America, so surely there is a product available to save us from the cruel fate of premature eternal sedentariness? Luckily for us, there is a consumer bandwagon to jump upon, the standing desk craze. Everyone, including myself, wants one, so it is no surprise that, according to a 2017 Credence Research report, the standing desk market is projected to grow to 2.8 billion dollars by 2025.
Trendiness and Law School Libraries
Everyone wants one, employees as well as students! According to a 2017 Society for Research Management report, standing desks are the fastest growing employee benefit. Some schools provide children with standing desks and standupkids.org is a non-profit with the mission to ensure that all public school children have standing desks within the next 10 years. Law school libraries have jumped on the bandwagon too, making standing desks available for students at Georgetown, NC State University, University of Chicago, and University of California at Berkeley.
Wondrous Claims Made and Disputed
There is much written about the wonders of standing desks, and almost as much written debunking the wondrous claims. As it relates to health, according to the American Cancer Society, numerous studies clearly show that sitting for long hours is linked to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and shorter life spans. However, “sitting time research” is still in its infancy so it is not clear that standing rather than sitting at work helps. Standing doesn’t burn substantially more calories than sitting but there are studies to suggest it has a positive impact on blood sugar regulation.
But who cares about science, what does the Internet say!? That standing desks improve focus, mood, brain activity, creativity, energy level and increase productivity! They decrease back pain (really, all sorts of pain), improve posture, promote weight loss, lower stress and increase self-esteem! What is not to like!? But of course, the naysayers deny these benefits, claiming they just lead to sore feet, back pain, discomfort, and mental deterioration.
Who is right? It doesn’t matter, because, let’s focus on what is important – me getting a standing desk! After a bit of struggle, the purchase of my desk was approved, and my Varidesk ProPlus 36 adjustable standing/sitting desk and The Mat 36 padded mat my arrived in late April, to much jubilation.
Failing to anticipate later blogging about my standing desk, the early days were little noted and somewhat lost to time, though I clearly remember the deskpocalypse of Day 1. After work I almost cried in the parking lot from exhaustion and foot pain. After that, I took it easy and only stood for an hour or two until I gradually adjusted. Generally, I spend about 70% of my desk time standing. Last week, I was surprised to notice I went the whole day without lowering my desk (though I did occasionally sit in my chair).
The wondrous claims of the Internet haven’t materialized, but there are some things I really like about my desk. The best thing is the novelty! For years, I have been sitting at my desk typing, and suddenly, I can stand at my desk typing! Also on the plus side, I have something new to talk about with my coworkers, though I have been disappointed that no one seems jealous or wants their own standing desk. The following are my pronouncements on some of the other Internet claims:
Pain – I don’t have back pain so I can’t comment on that, but I do have Morton’s neuromas (nerve damage) in both feet. I don’t think my podiatrist is going to approve of my standing desk at all! My left foot hurts all the time whatever I do and, some days, the increased standing makes it worse. My arthritis/general old age creakiness is unchanged.
Energy Level – There is no doubt that standing up makes me less sleepy and lifeless, particularly during the dreaded circadian rhythm induced afternoon slump. It is much harder for me to zone out into a lethargic lump while standing. And since I am already standing up (and my feet hurt more while standing still), I am more likely to go visit my coworkers or just take a walk around the library. I shoved my furniture over to the side of my office to make myself a little path to walk back and forth and have noticed it is easier to get my daily 10,000 Fitbit steps in after walking around more at work.
Improved Focus – Since standing seems to combat my afternoon slump, I think it is fair to say that my focus is improved, at least in the afternoon.
Increased Creativity – There has been no noticeable effect.
Increased Productivity – Since standing makes my feet hurt, I have noticed that I can get extra boring things done faster if I reward myself for finishing by sitting down or going for a walk. And sometimes, even when the task is not particularly boring, I can spice it up by alternating between sitting and standing.
Posture – My posture is better while I am actually standing at my desk but my slumping habit hasn’t improved overall.
Weight Loss – I wish.
Increased Self-Esteem – Oh, come on…
Well, as long as people fear death, seek novelty, and like to be trendy (soooo…forever), standing desks will likely proliferate in workplaces and schools, at least until the next new thing comes along. Or, perhaps research will show standing at work definitively helps prevent serious health conditions, in which case they might become ubiquitous.
Based on my relatively happy experience, I would recommend them to anyone, library employees, students, and library patrons included. Of course, budgets are tight at law school and other libraries, but at least there is little risk of wasting money on something that won’t be used. In the case of employees, if the original user tires of it, the desk can be reassigned. As for students/patrons, there is something for everyone, in the sense that there are always some people who like nearly anything.