Testing Productivity of the Standing Desk

As I mentioned in the introduction to this experiment, it’s pretty clear right now that prolonged sitting has some horrible health implications. Just take a look at this infographic if you want a clear breakdown of what remaining on your keister for too long can do to you.

The unfortunate truth of the modern work world is that productivity (not health) is often a primary motivator of change. This means that if a change, such as moving to a standing desk, dramatically decreases productivity, then it’s harder to justify. While I don’t run a major corporation out of my house, I do try to spend my time productively when at home. Recent research indicates that the choice to move to a standing desk carries substantial health benefits, but what about productivity?

One of the most fascinating things I’ve found in my first few days working at my makeshift standing desk, is that remaining upright somehow puts a limit on my ability to multitask. I may not have been a remarkable multi-tasker to begin with, but this might not be so uncommon. There’s some great writing on how multitasking, while a trendy term, is ultimately a poor choice for productivity. What I have noticed however, is that when I’m seated, I tend to turn on the television for background noise, and it often serves as a distraction to achieving my work goals. When standing, I found that having the TV on at all is a huge irritation. Somehow, the simple change of position turned a potential distraction into a huge irritant. This alone will inevitably have a positive impact on my productivity because I am forced to limit the disruptions that originally vie for my attention in the first place.

There were also other influences beyond the television that affected my focus while standing. I couldn’t carry on conversations as easily, nor could I listen to anything other than soft music without it becoming an irritable distraction. This meant I either got no work at all done, or I had to minimize distractions. A standing desk doesn’t provide motivation to work, but if you have motivation to work, it appears to be helpful.

So ultimately, how efficient is standing for me, and am I more productive when using a standing desk? The best way for me to measure this is to look at my actual output…how much more or less do I write? In an hour of sitting down, I was able to write approximately 400 words while highly distracted. Standing for an hour though, I was able to write 600-800 words. This definitely gives the productivity edge to the standing position, but I imagine this advantage would decrease over time as my legs get tired and my feet get sore. I imagine with a well-placed anti-fatigue mat, and a comfortable pair of shoes, this could be remedies quite easily.

So far, standing desks win both in absolute and relative terms. Measured in the amount of words typed, as well as in terms of reducing distractions, standing desks are the winning option at this point, at least in terms of productivity.


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