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Standing Work Stations



We are part of a huge social experiment. Our culture sits more than any other society in history. Much of our lives is experienced less than two feet from our faces. But there is little attention on the effects of sitting and staring at a monitor for endless hours.


Hunter gathers didn’t have Mac books. We evolved to walk and see. That means our vision is designed to work from a moving platform, and to perceive a variety of distances, colors size and shapes- all in natural light. Holding our body still leaves our eye muscles to do all the work of creating a visual field. This is inherently alienating, exhausting and depressing.


A standing workstation is an improvement for most people. This also includes the use of tall stools, rather than normal chairs. Pictures of scholars from the Dark Ages show them standing and reading. Thomas Jefferson stood to read and write sometimes. He was much too tall to fit in the average chair of his time. Ernest Hemingway wrote all his novels standing at his writing table.


David K. Reynolds, therapist and prolific author writes at his stand up desk. He writes for four hours each morning, and says the stand up desk help him stay focused.


Standing desks have also been used in Minnesota schools, showing benefits for adhd kids.


To set up a standing workstation, start with a tape measure. While looking straight ahead, measure from the floor to your chin. Set your monitor so that the center of the screen is the same height. Even an inch or two difference will make your neck muscles work more.


From my chin to the screen is 22 inches. Go for at least 16 inches. Being too close to the screen makes your eyes work harder. If you need larger print to see better, enlarge it (hit control plus on PCs). Try it out, and check if you feel more relaxed. Longer focal length means less work for your eye muscles- less “near point strain”. Get a bigger monitor if you find you need to be closer. You will love the comfort.


Setting your keyboard height is pretty easy. Your keyboard should be slightly below your elbow height. Stand on a flat floor and measure up to your elbow. Set your keyboard so it’s about 1-2 inches lower. Any higher and you will lift your shoulders a bit every time you move your hands. Since the shoulder lifting muscles are connected to your neck and head, when they pull your shoulders up, they also pull your head down. Fighting to keep your head up is a major cause of headaches and back pain, so it is worth paying careful attention to the height of your keyboard.


Your mouse can be the same height or even a bit lower. Reaching up to use your mouse is very tiring, and can lead to “mouse arm”- tight swollen arm and shoulder muscles, as well as tension headaches.


If you use your mouse extensively, get one that has a track ball option. You can learn to switch back and forth from moving the mouse to rolling the track ball. Some people even switch sides at lunchtime so that they use the mouse right handed in the morning and left handed in the afternoon.


It’s easier to be focused and stay on task when we stand. Sitting we tend to slump out and dream away. Email and Facebook can swallow time, leaving us sick of the screen and frustrated that we didn’t get a damned thing done. It’s even worse when facing something discouraging. Having a more energized posture can make a huge difference in getting through a tough project.


And now for a blunt truth: Eight hours a day of anything is too much. Your body craves variety, and breaks down under monotony.


If you can’t stand long enough to do what you want to do, and you really can’t do less, then you need a tall stool. Your stool should let you sit up with your head at exactly the same height as when you stand. Then you won’t need to adjust your monitor, keyboard and mouse every time you take a sitting break.


Part 2 of this post will give you even more options.



April 18, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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