Are Standing Desks a Waste of Time?

A few days ago, I read an article — a humorous one at that. The writer makes the odd recommendation of writing while standing up.
According to him/her, a recent article (s)he wrote while standing, “outperformed all the others.”
I left a comment asking if it was satire — I wasn’t sure then and I am still not sure now.
However, it got me thinking –the idea sounded interesting and worth trying. It has never occurred to me to write while standing and I wouldn’t mind a break from the monotony of sitting.
So, I decided to do what I do best, hit up google.
I googled various variations of the term, “writing standing up”. The search results were insightful and I came to appreciate the idea.
But it isn’t new though–apparently writers have been writing while standing for decades. Loads of them. Friedrich Nietzsche, Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf, Lewis Carroll, and Fernando Pessoa all wrote standing up. A certain Ernest Hemingway –whom you may have heard of— took the idea from the renowned American book editor Maxwell Perkins.
Some writers alternated between sitting and standing and weirdly enough some wrote exclusively while lying down.
I was inspired — suddenly it wasn’t looking like satire and I wanted to try it out.
I spend upwards of 3 hours a day after work seated at my table reading, researching, and writing. The thought of standing that long seemed daunting — Like a cruel punishment that I didn’t deserve. With the amount of time I spend seated at work and home, standing didn’t seem too much of a bad idea.
I can’t remember the last time I stood for an hour. However, my zeal for pushing the boundaries of my productivity far outweighed the perceived impending foot ache.
So, I decided I was going to write while standing all week this week. Spending at least an hour every day.
Only one problem, I don’t have a adjustable height desk.
After yet another google search I found a couple of them on amazon.
Honestly, I can’t afford to spend 200+ pounds on an experiment inspired by an article I strongly suspect to be satire.
What if I find writing while standing impractical –I’ll end up with a sit stand desk forever reminding me of my proclivity to impulse.
But, necessity is the mother of invention, I needed to write standing so I decided to get inventive. After all, Ernest Hemingway didn’t have to purchase a fancy standing desk, he wrote with his typewriter placed at chest level on top of his bookcase. If he could repurpose his bookcase, I am sure I could find a workable solution.
Standing in a corner of my reading room (a room that is supposed to be a library but unfortunately hasn’t lived up to my aspirations for it) is an abandoned desktop computer desk littered with files, papers, and of course my old desktop computer.
The desk is built into a robust metal frame designed with an open tabletop, slide-out keyboard tray and bottom shelf for the CPU and top shelf for the printer (which lays above the monitor) — hope you get the picture.
A few minutes later, I had it emptied, dusted, and wiped clean.
Fortunately, the top shelf is big enough to hold my laptop, mouse, and notepad –and standing next to the desk from behind, I could type on my laptop.
So, voila! problem solved –and I get to save 200 pounds.
Next was the issue of the Ergonomics
This required a little creativity.
I took inspiration from Nietzsche —an author well known for writing while standing.
“I am writing this at my standing computer desk, which is against the window. The window offers a pleasant prospect over the lime trees and sun-bathed hills — delightful natural scenery.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche
I swiftly wheeled the desk over the tiled floor and moments later it was positioned by the window and at a 40-degree angle to the ceiling light. Next, I placed a few Stacks of magazines underneath my laptop until I could type comfortably — and my experiment began.
Is sitting really that bad?
The popular recommendation is that people should stand at their workstations for about 5–15 minutes for every hour spent sitting. Some researchers have proposed a sit-stand ratio between 1:1 and 1:3.
A Sedentary lifestyles has been shown to increase all causes of mortality, double the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity, and increase the risks of high blood pressure, osteoporosis, depression, and anxiety.
Even benjamin Franklin had his battles with the ill effects of prolonged sitting
“…I am too much harassed by a variety of correspondence together with gout and gravel, which induces me to postpone doing what I often fully intend to do, and particularly writing, where the urgent necessity of business does not seem to require its being done immediately; my sitting too much at the desk having already almost killed me…”
– Benjamin Franklin

What I discovered from writing standing up


Humans are not designed to sit for prolonged periods (same goes for standing for that matter).
The problem with sitting is that it compounds an already existing problem –the much discussed dangers of a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting for extended periods is a predictor of several negative health outcomes.
“Sitting for more than four hours every day increases your risk of suffering from a chronic disease and reduces your life expectancy”
So any movement that will increase blood circulation through your brain and body could do you some good.
I enjoyed the increased opportunity to move more.
Incorporating lunges and squats with standing forced my heart to pump faster inadvertently improving my alertness and concentration. I also did a few “Touching Your Toes” which help with the flexibility of muscles from your lower back down to your calves. These exercises will help keep you more focused, productive, and alert — even after long periods on your feet.


I noticed a sense of urgency in my writing.
It was almost as if a force was compelling my brain to think and write faster –inadvertently decreasing the latency period between thought and composition. A more probable explanation could be my tired legs signaling my brain to get done with writing so I could go rest my legs.
Anyway, I found the sense of urgency a welcomed companion.

Tough on the feet

Writing while standing is hard on your feet –it doesn’t help that I am 10 kilograms over my ideal weight (I am overweight is what I am trying not to say).
However, I did find 2 workable solutions to my discomfort.
The first, was by moving my weight around from one foot to another and the second was by spreading my legs apart, this helped by shifting the stress to different muscle groups.


Staring down at my laptop while I stood and typed felt entirely new.
I felt more in control of my writing. This is probably entirely psychological but I liked it.
The human foot has assisted human evolution and exploring new territories — migrating from one region to the other, conquering new environments, and overcoming insurmountable odds –so I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to co-opt your feet in your writing process.


While we can make conjectures about the merits of one writing posture over the other, one thing is for certain, the sitting posture adds to a sedentary lifestyle –which is objectively bad for your health.
However, this isn’t to say that standing for prolonged periods is any better. I would suggest alternating between sitting and standing while writing. I also don’t think that trying this out requires an investment in a new desk but if you must make that investment, go for an adjustable desk with good ergonomics.
The only issue I had with writing while standing was foot and ankle pain. This was expected because standing for long periods puts pressure on your knees, ankles, and feet. This occurred after a 2hour period — in future I don’t plan on standing that long without taking sitting breaks.
Some of the world’s best-renowned authors wrote standing up and apparently that worked very well for them –so I plan on following in their giant footsteps.