When I decided to write about using a standing desk, I expected to join the ranks of exhilarated converts. I’m not tall, don’t weigh much, and have never had back trouble, so I figured I was a prime candidate. But it’s the fourth day of the experiment, and my computer screen is angled down, and my neck is craned up, like a fourth grader.
I am sitting at my standing desk.
Using a standing desk seemed like a great idea a few weeks ago, when I took a tour of the Internet startup Stack Exchange, where islands of tall desks make it look like the office was preparing for a storm surge. “I love it,” said one community manager who was loitering after hours at one of the spindly worksurfaces. He looked so relaxed there, leaning on one elbow, his legs crossed jauntily at the ankle, smiling like a life-size Wellbutrin commercial. “I can never work at a normal company after this.”
Ten percent of the employees at Facebook and AOL reportedly use a standing desk; Google offers them under its “wellness program.” San Francisco startup Asana, which actually means “sitting down” in Sanskrit, gives new employees $10,000 to customize their workstations. In 1999 the ultimate symbol of employee appreciation was the $900 Herman Miller Aeron chair; now it’s the $1,500 Steelcase Airtouch Height-Adjustable Desk by Details, which has an electric motor in the base.
The current Internet boom is fueled not only by recent news reports on the health hazards incurred by simply sitting on one’s ass but by a pathological need to optimize. Book a doctor’s appointment from your iPhone. Connect your Google and Facebook to get personalized recommendations. Rent out that extra bedroom on Airbnb, the extra car on Getaround, and the extra parking space on ParkatmyHouse. Recently, two dueling startups launched in Manhattan for scheduling laundry pickup and delivery online.
The standing desk mashes up two of our current compulsions—exercising and working—which makes it perhaps the ultimate emblem of our efficiency-crazed moment.