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Cover image for How To Transition From Sitting to Standing at Work

How To Transition From Sitting to Standing at Work

molly_struve profile image Molly Struve (she/her) ・5 min read

Disclaimer: Despite the benefits I have found from standing while I work you should consult your doctor if you have any medical conditions that might make standing harmful to your body.

A couple years ago I transitioned from sitting all day while I worked to standing all day. It didn't happen overnight, I eased into it, but I am so happy that I did. I stay more awake during the day and my body overall feels stronger and better than it did before. I often get asked how I made the change from sitting to standing all day so I decided to write a blog post about it!

Why I Stand

I know you might be expecting me to rattle off a bunch of reasons why standing is great for everyone. However, the reality is, we don't know. Studies on whether standing is healthier for you are inconclusive. Rather than compare studies, I am going to share the benefits I have seen and felt.

For me, standing while I work has made my body feel a lot better. My head and neck are aligned in such a way that I never get back or neck pain like I used to. Plus, my butt doesn't get sore from being in a chair all day. In addition to less aches, overall I feel stronger and have more endurance. Because standing engages more muscles than sitting, I find that my core strength and my back are stronger now. When I used to sit at work, if I was on my feet a lot during the weekends I used to be exhausted because I wasn't used to it. Now, on the weekends, if I am on my feet all day it is not nearly as draining and I have no problem keeping up!

Another benefit which I never really expected was that it has helped improve my digestion. I use to feel bloated and constipated sitting all day. Now that I stand all day, everything seems to align better and it keeps my gut happy.

On top of feeling better physically, I mentally enjoy it. I don't like sitting still for very long and I tend to fidget a lot. When I stand, I feel the need to fidget less, and when I do fidget or move around, it's more natural when I am standing. I also tend to listen to a lot of music when I code and I usually get pretty into it. When I was sitting, the most I could do was a little head bob. Now that I stand, I can full on low key dance to it! 💃

Standing Supplies

If you decide you want to try standing for part or all of your work day you first will need a few supplies.

1) Sit/Stand Desk - Getting a sit/stand desk is by far your best option when you are starting out. The desk that my coworkers and I all use are these adjustable motorized desks from Ikea.

They come in all different sizes and configurations to meet your needs. If those seem a little too pricey, you can also setup a makeshift standing area by stacking furniture or books.

2) Standing Pad - You likely will want a little cushion to stand on during the day. The same way a desk chair is better with cushioning, your feet will be happier with a little cushion. There are many options from basic flat mats to those that have bumps and groves for fiddling with. I have used both kinds and can't say I really prefer one or the other.

3) Good Shoes - Hate to break it to you but if you want to stand all day you are going to need good footwear. I make sure anything I wear to work, such as sandals, flats or boots, has adequate support. Another option is to keep a pair of tennis shoes or something like Crocs at your office. Then when you go stand, slip them on. I have a pair of black Crocs that I keep at work for those days I decide to wear less supported shoes.

4) (Optional) Compression Socks/Sleeves - These were the final piece I needed to be able to stand ALL day long. They provide just that little bit of extra support my calves need to prevent me from getting shin splints. Here are the different types I use:

Making The Switch

Ok, so you have all of your supplies, now how do you actually make the switch? First and foremost, you want to start slow. This is why having an adjustable sit/stand desk is a huge advantage in the beginning. You never have to move and can adjust it to sit part of the day and stand part of the day. Start by standing for an hour a day. After a week or so, increase it to two hours. Once you are comfortable with that, go to three and so on. The key is to listen to your body and not to push yourself too hard.

When I first started out, before I got compression socks, I found that anything past a few hours would give me shin splints. Rather than push it, I decreased my standing time until I found the compression sock solution. Listen to your body. In the beginning, you may find that you come home a little more tired because you are spending more time on your feet during the day. That is completely normal and part of adjusting to standing all day. Eventually, your body and your standing muscles will grow stronger and standing all day will be no different than when you were sitting all day.

The Downside 😉

There is one small downside if you decide to transition to standing all day, you can never go back to sitting all day. Seriously, when I travel now I can make it about half a day sitting and then I need to get creative to stand the rest of the day. Case and point:

You might also find that when you attend conferences, you need to walk around more in between talks. I have even been known to stand during some talks because sitting for extended hours now hurts my butt and I tend to get antsy.

Overall, standing has improved my quality of life in and outside of work tremendously. If you are curious if you might be able to experience some of the benefits I have, then I recommend giving it a try!

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molly_struve profile

Molly Struve (she/her)

@molly_struve

International Speaker 🗣 Runner 🏃‍♀️ Always Ambitious. Never Satisfied. I ride 🦄's IRL

Discussion

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This is something I've been curious about Molly, as I really like to be active as well. Whether it be running, cycling or just being crazy.

A few hours in an office chair is enough to have a bad effect on breathing and circulation. So a different approach is to grab a gym ball.

I started sitting on a gym ball some time ago and it's also had some really good benefits. On a gym ball your constantly active and engaged.

Core is tensed, back is straight and moving around doesn't require pushing a chair back as the gym ball is less in the way.

Not to mention that bouncing whilst coding has become my favourite pass time!

Bouncy ball

 

Haha! As long as you don't put it in one of those stupid, purpose-defeating-chairs These totally take away the point of the strengthening the core!

 

Haha, no way!! That's so funny though :D

 
 

Thank you for sharing, that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen in the last week or so.

 

Should use a good exercise ball as a chair too. Helps with your core. :)

 

LOVE IT! I have a gym ball in my office at home and some days if my legs are particularly tired from an active weekend or something I sit on the gym ball.

 

Yes, the pink is great! :D
I'll definitely be putting some of your tips to use soon.

 

Coming from my chiropractor, he says sitting or standing has the same effect on your back. It's moving that makes a difference. As long as you get up and go for a walk frequently it's about the same. Standing desks are mostly beneficial for active workers who go back and forth from their desk to somewhere frequently. I work from home and frequently go back and forth from my VeriDesk to my crazy kids. So, standing works for me. Good article!

 

Oh, thats great to know! Thanks for sharing that insight!

 

I'm not working sitting, I prefer to lie down and hold a laptop on my stomach. But after your post I will try :) though my workplace will now be like this
my work place

Thank you for post

 

Gotta make do with what you got 😀

 

I switched to the standing desk a couple of years ago. After 2 days at home sick because of back pain ( due to workout/climbing), I realized that the pain was ok while standing - so I set up a workstation resembling the picture you have above (card and Ikea boxes). I mentioned that to my boss and I managed to get one proper standing desk in a couple of weeks. Since then I gradually increased the number of hours I could code while standing and I really enjoyed it - I do feel more energised and more productive)
Unfortunately, in the last year, I had a couple of injuries at my ankles/knees (sometimes I think that doing sports is not so healthy for me.. :-) ) so I had to switch back to the sitting position, and then I got a bit lazy. But right now I still try to spend at least a couple of hours of work with the extended table!

 

So happy to hear someone else who has had my experience! I have had a few riding injuries that have prevented me from standing, those are always rough days 😝

 

I started with 50/50. Half a day sit and after lunch stand and work. That's good to build the habbit. My experience is exactly like Molly, it's good for digestion, I feel less depressed and more productive when I stand, because I'm more free to move. Initiallyl, always take work calls standing, then find a good extension desk. I use one in the picutre I attached. I put it on my table and adjust it in accordance to eyes. This extension desk is easy to store also because you may dismantle it after work.
thepracticaldev.s3.amazonaws.com/i...

 

I worked at a call center and I had a desk to sit at, but I stood most the time. Couldn't stand being in a chair all day and got restless.

Bonus points meant being able to talk to coworkers if they had down time.

 

I've always worked in companies without standing desks. In 2018, I moved to a company that provided standing desks(the ones you move up and down with a button) to everyone. It was awesome to work on that place because I had a lower back injury and standing from time to time was a relieved.

I left the company and haven't found any other that provides that kind of desks. They're really good for us as people who spent tons of hours sitting.

 

Nice! I recently started working from home, which allows me to move around more (and let's be real, stretch or exercise during the day) I am ready to make the switch to a standing desk solution.

I've been eyeing the IKEA adjustable desk. For now, I may try a makeshift solution (sometimes, I stand at my kitchen island) since I have a personal laptop and computer.

I will also stress having supportive shoes or an anti-fatigue mat. I had a standing desk at a previous job, but not matt so I would only stand a few minutes at a time.

 

Great article!

I found I had a problem with standing and coding, I just felt unbalanced like I always wanted to fall over. Since I've transitioned to working remote, I've been experimenting with different setups to feel less fatigued. Really I just need to keep my shoulders away from my ears.

 

I might give it a go... but it seems to me that you are pretty fit already! Maybe I need to lose a lot more weight before trying this.
I have that feeling when I am sitting for too long that I wanna run over the place haha. It is not that I am an active person. I like to keep active, however, but I still have an important overweight to get rid of before starting this adventure.

 

Definitely would be a good idea to talk to a doctor before doing anything but you might be able to work standing into your plan to help you lose weight. Never know! GOOD LUCK!

 

Nice article!

I have been standing more and more at work since the beginning of the year and I love it! I'm seeing similar benefits to what you describe: I'm generally more awake and alert, my legs and core muscles are getting stronger, and my posture is better and I have fewer body aches.

I didn't know about standing pads, by the way, I must ask my employer about getting one.

 

Awesome article!

I've been thinking about switching to a standing desk setup at home, but have been wondering about doing a mix of standing and sitting, and the benefits and drawbacks of mixing things up.

 

Everyone talks about standing, but what about reclining?
Isn't standing for long spans of work worse than reclining (with the caveat that you still must get up sometimes)

 

Good question, I have never read or heard anything about reclining.

 

I wish I had first-hand reclining experience, but the AltWork price keeps growing. RIP

 

I stand for ~40% of my day and have one of these desks, it's really nice.

 

Compression socks! I never would have thought of this!

 

It was a game changer for me!

 
 

I've yet to try this one, but it seems like a neat option in order to make the switch to a standing desk: deskmate.co/

 

Lol, this is quite interesting..

 

Easy. Buy a standing desk. 😏