Avoid the standing desk: A case for desk-work movement flow

I should first say that I am more than happy about the current trend towards standing desks in offices and schools. It is somewhat reassuring that the risks of long-term sitting are slowly making it into public awareness, and that some pionieering studies are already pointing to positive evidence with respect to standing workstations in the office.

Still, I have sort of mixed feelings around standing desks. The point being that of course it's tempting to react with standing, when sitting just doesn't pull it off in the long run.

But as with all tempting solutions to complex problems, the question is whether the problem is really being solved - and not just shifted to another one. And this is the issue I have with standing desks: At the end of the day it doesn't really make a difference whether I sat on a chair or stood at a standing desk for eight hours straight. In either case, there was probably little varation in my position, and possibly disstressful load on my already compromised posture (because if my posture is already affected from too little/variety-deficient movement, then it will probably not get better from neither sitting nor standing for hours at a time). Additionally, and this may be a personal experience: Focused thinking/completing/routine/approaching-deadline/writing/reading/analyzing work to me requires sort of a semi-meditative state - which I just cannot bring about effectively while standing. I need to be able to sink deeply into myself, I need to feel stable and be grounded. Allthewhile being flexible and adaptive.

So basically all these requirements made me decide to disassamble my simple IKEA-desk last week

Desk BEFORE

Desk BEFORE

and cut the desk's legs by more than a half,

Desk AFTER

Desk AFTER

in order to be able to work at my desk WHILE sitting on the floor.

Initially, it was Katy Bowman's work that got me started with floor-sitting while working. At first, it was not more than a charming way of getting off the office chair once in a while. An occasional interruption of the "normal" way of sitting at desk. After a short while it would get uncomfortable, and I would switch back to the chair.

Until I seriously started feeling significant changes in my body. I couldn't believe that something so seemingly subtle could have such an impact. Until, in the end, working on an office chair - became the exception.

It took quite a while, though. Because actually, sitting on the floor can be understood as a form of sports. And if you want to get better in a sport, you have to start training and make sure you get enough recovery, too. You shouldn't overdo it, and you need to allow time for adaptations to occur. You will experience occasional discomfort, even soreness. As in any kind of sports, you cannot suddenly start sitting on the floor all day long and expect to feel great about it.

But this is exactly what happens, when people think of "sitting on the floor": They don't consider the neccessary adaptation time and simply assume that it's just too hard.

Which, on the other hand, is just a good indicator for the athleticism that can be developed through floor-sitting. Need a demo? Here we go:

Hip mobility, anyone? The time lapse of course adding to what is one of the major points here: The many joint configurations that are experienced by the hips, knees, feet, and the upper body. We have deep flexion in the squat; abduction and external rotation of the hips in the tailor seat variations; knee extention in the straddles; extension (plantarflexion) of the foot in the kneeling positions. We have standing-up and sitting-down movements that build strength, positional control, mobility, and coordination. We can spontaneously engage in resting positions (laying down, but also squatting); we can "work" symmetrically or one side at a time, as in the lunge variations. (I can definitely confirm that I felt pretty warmed-up after making the video.)

In a normal setting, this kind of movement flow would take place on a larger time scale. You would spend some time in one position before spontaneously shifting to the next. But when you think about doing this over the course of serveral hours, instead of spending the same amount of time on a chair, you get a sense of how your body would change after a few months. And how much more blissfully and energetically you would leave the office after a hard day of work.

Of course, then you can also add some standing work to the mix. Because then it's just one configuration ("knees extended - hips extended") among many others.

And this way, the problem is really solved - and not just shifted to standing desks.