September 2013

Volume 28 Number 9

Editor's Note - Standing Down

By Michael Desmond | September 2013

Michael DesmondIt was June 2012 when I decided to work standing up. A growing list of aches, pains and issues—the result of spending long hours every day in an office chair—motivated the move to a standing desk. And when I read that sitting all day just might kill you (, well, I couldn’t get to my feet fast enough.

I came up with a low-cost arrangement that let me experiment with the new lifestyle. I had an extra 18-inch by 48-inch chrome wire shelf handy, which was just large enough to host my two LCD displays (one 27 inches, the other 24 inches) and a 12-inch laptop. I bought a set of 16-inch posts that raised the whole mess to a comfortable standing height when placed on my existing desk. A simple file box played host to my keyboard and mouse.

As I wrote in my November 2012 column ( and a June blog post (, the switch to a standing desk was awesome. I immediately felt better. Gone was the end-of-day numbness in my legs and pain in my right shoulder. My back, which was prone to intermittent aches and complaints, cleared up. My legs felt tired at the end of the day, but it was a good tired. The act of standing not only did my body good, it helped make me more attentive, engaged and productive throughout the day.

And then things started to hurt. First, it was the feet—hardly a surprise to anyone who has worked in retail. I managed that by wearing shoes, standing on a padded mat, and placing a foot rest under the desk so I could switch off feet. Then my left knee started to complain. Pain and soreness, along with a pronounced bump, emerged around my left patellar tendon and kneecap.

Soon, a move intended to make me healthier was limiting my mobility. I avoided running and had to take care going up steps. Standing all day became exhausting and I found myself having to sit down or even lie down in the afternoons just to take pressure off my knees.

It took me a year to conclude what I’ve known all along: People aren’t designed to stay in one position all day, whether that’s sitting or standing. I’ve looked into a convertible setup of some sort, including variable-height desks and dual-monitor arm solutions (like those from Ergotron) that would let me raise and lower my displays. But so far I haven’t seen anything affordable enough (less than, say, $500) that will do the job.

Not that I’m going to stay sitting for long. I can already feel the old twinges returning in my shoulder and back, and I worry about the accumulating health impacts of sitting all day. So I plan to restore my jury-rigged standing desk setup, and augment it with a drafting chair that will let me take occasional sit breaks while working at the desk.

Have you moved to a standing desk? And if so, how did you manage the transition? E-mail me at

Michael Desmond is the Editor-in-Chief of MSDN Magazine.