My Year With a Standing Desk

I’ve been using a standing desk for just over a year, and I’m thrilled to report back that I still love it.

Here is the standing desk I built for use at home:


And here is the standing desk my day job graciously provides me with:


My Standing Desk Usage

6:30am – wake up and start standing as I spend the first two hours doing some combination of exercising and working at my computer
8:15am – showering (standing)
8:30am – work prep, cooking breakfast
9:10am – switch to sitting for a 10 minute breakfast
9:20am-9:45 – drive to work
9:45am-9:55 – walk to office from parking
9:55am-12:00pm – I usually stand for the first hour of the day, both in morning meetings and at my desk.   By noon, I’ve usually been standing for about 4 hours.
12:00pm-3:00pm – I take my first extended “sit break” of the day.  I eat lunch sitting and I just give my feet a rest.  My workstation is not comfortable for sitting for long periods so I usually do a mix of standing and sitting for the afternoon. My office serves dinner so I sit to eat dinner and continue working until 7:00.
7:00pm – I go home, sitting all the way in my car, but once I’m home I’m standing again.
7:30pm – 10:00 – I usually like to spend the evening at my computer and going for a ~30 minute walk once the sun sets.
10:15pm – I go to bed, after a day that included about 7-8 hours of standing.

Energy Level

I find I have plenty of strength for morning workouts and evening walks, but I have shortened both my morning workouts and my evening walks because I am just slightly more tired in general.  In my workouts, I go for intensity instead of duration.  A good dead-lifting day will wipe me out for a couple days, and I often spend the day after a leg day sitting most of the day.

In general,  I sleep soundly and wake up rested.

One unexpected side effect is I seem to have lost my ability to sit comfortably for long periods of time.  Multi-hour meetings, plane rides, movie theaters all make my legs, back, and butt ache from sitting.  I find I fidget more when forced to sit.

Aches and Pains

My heels don’t enjoy standing as much as the rest of me does, but in general my feet and legs feel fine.  My legs love standing all day and never seem to get tired.  My lower back is pain free (but it always has been).  My upper back pain only becomes a problem when I sit and type for long stretches of time (1 hour+).  Standing relieves most discomforts, but it comes at the cost of tiring me out.

Focus Levels

I’ve always been a very focused person, but standing puts it on steroids.  Standing gives working this sort of “it’s go time!” feeling that’s hard to quantify.  I definitely feel more alert and ready for action when standing.

I especially love playing action games while standing.  I get super pumped up and excited.  XCOM: Enemy Unknown felt extra intense and I felt like I was actually in the field with my dudes while I played standing up.  Torchlight II was a blast paired with some awesome loud music and my standing desk.  You know how rockstars on stage slam their keyboards and headbang along with the music?  That’s me at my standing desk when I play games.

Social Perceptions

I hate being seated when someone is standing over me talking to me.  It puts me in a position of feeling “under” whoever is speaking to me.  In a sitting desk, this happened all the time.  Standing, I feel more confident and just plain better being eye-level with visiting co-workers.

Also, since people can’t pull up a chair and get comfortable at my workstation, I think standing helps keep coworker conversations shorter and more productive.

Weight Loss

It’s not a miracle weight loss solution, but my standing desk did help reverse a six-year trend of slowly gaining weight each passing year.  The first six years of my career (as a professional sitter), I gained enough weight to go from 155 lbs to 185 lbs despite being a regular exerciser and a conscientious eater.  I couldn’t out-exercise or out-diet the effect of sitting all day.  That 30 lb gain happened at a rate of about 5 lbs a year, which was slow enough that I didn’t really notice.  I wasn’t obsessive about my weight during these years (I just kind of ignored it, as a software developer I have the luxury of not having to be very image-conscious). I just bought whatever fit, but once the only clothes that fit were coming from the plus size section I freaked out a little.

Switching to a standing desk is the only major change that’s happened to my exercise or diet routine in the past year, so I have to give the standing desk some credit for the 10 lbs I’ve dropped since making the change.  Standing all day isn’t a miracle cure, but it was just one more way to add extra activity to my day and that seems to have made a difference.

Fixing a Wobbly Standing Desk with Shelf Brackets

My standing desk was awesome but it was too wobbly – the whole desk shook like an earthquake every time I touched it or typed.  The fix was easy: I used two heavy duty shelf brackets to anchor my standing desk to the nearby wall.  The desk is rock solid now.  I can give it a good shove and it barely moves!

Here’s my easy guide to fixing a wobbly standing desk with shelf brackets.

Choosing Shelf Brackets

Shelf brackets come in surprisingly large variety of colors and sizes.  You’ll probably want at least two brackets.

Look for a shelf bracket design with:

  • 90 degree angle (some are kinda… off)
  • A good 8″+ inches on each end (mine are 12″ x 8″) but not unnecessarily large
  • Heavy duty design – go rugged, leave the “pretty” shelf brackets for lightweight shelves :)

A prime specimen: this 12″ Knape & Vogt heavy duty bracket will lock your standup desk in place.

I used a pair of 12″ x 8″ heavy duty shelf brackets from the Big Orange Box.

fixing a wobbly standing desk with shelf brackets

My standing desk’s brackets: 12″ x 8″ of raw desk-anchoring power.

Positioning the Brackets

Your needs will vary – put your brackets wherever makes sense considering the walls around your desk and the underside of your desk.  My desk is up against a window, so I had to work around the full-length curtain.

My brackets had to be positioned:

  1. Outside of the curtain’s range of motion…
  2. …but still far enough apart to stabilize the desk and help support its weight
  3. …and not over any studs because my drill isn’t badass enough to drill into a stud

The curtain-closing requirement pretty much forced the first bracket to the center of the window, and the other one somewhere to the right of the window. That meant the left bracket would be smack dab in the center of the window, and the right bracket somewhere near the L-shaped desk’s corner.

To position the bracket, I figured out where the stud wasn’t, held the bracket in place against the wall, and marked its holes with a pencil.

fix a wobbly standing desk with shelf brackets

Ideal bracket locations: clear of the window and far enough apart underneath the desk to make having two brackets worthwhile.

Mounting the Brackets into Drywall

I used “EZ Anchors” to secure the screws, which prevents the screws from getting all wobbly in the wall.

fixing a wobbly standing desk with shelf brackets

EZ Anchor (plastic) and metal screw.

EZ Anchors are easy to use.  You can twist ’em right into location, or drill a tiny pilot hole first to make them go in even easier.

  1. Figure out where your screw will go (just hold the shelf bracket in the place where you want it to go)
  2. Mark the wall through the holes in the shelf bracket
  3. Put the shelf bracket down
  4. Screw the plastic EZ Anchor into the wall
  5. Hold the shelf bracket in place
  6. Screw the screw into the EZ Anchor

Don’t skip EZ Anchors if you aren’t screwing your brackets into studs.  Repeated nudges on the desk will eventually soften the screw’s attachment to the drywall and weaken your brackets.

fixing a wobbly standing desk with shelf brackets

EZ Anchor box looks like this.

All Done!

My wobbly standing desk is rock solid.  Check ’em out, here’s one of the brackets:

fixing a wobbly standing desk with shelf brackets

And here’s the other under the window:

fixing a wobbly standing desk with shelf brackets

And that’s it! It’s done! And it’s awesome.

DIY Standing Desk: Planning and Building

My last workplace had a nice perk: a standing desk option! In the midst of layoff-day packing up, I grabbed a photo to help me remember how nice this setup was:

The question that’s been on my mind since then is, of course, How can I bring home the awesomeness of standing up all day?

Other/better articles have already covered in depth the benefits (and risks) of standing, but my motivation is simple: it just feels better. Sitting 8-10 hours makes my butt and legs sore, makes me have to exercise a lot more to feel tired by the end of the day, and just feels slouchy and lazy. I did not adapt to sitting again, so I set out to build my own DIY standing desk.

My Current Desk

My current desk is an IKEA GALANT, with two additional sections attached the left side to widen it. Someone already modded/IKEA-hacked this desk in its previous life, but this same desk plus extensions can still be found at IKEA as of 2013.

The simplest/most obvious solution to elevate this desk to standing height by swapping out its existing legs in favor of legs that would extend to at least 41”, which is the distance between the floor and my elbow. Fortunately, IKEA provides such legs, the VIKA BYSKE, which go to a maximum of 42”. (This max-height works for me, but not for my husband who will need a height of 47” in his own standing desk.)

Anyway, we picked up the 5 legs from IKEA for $30 each and got to work on attaching them.

Three Complications

  • VIKA BYSKE legs come with their own “bracket”, they don’t screw into a separate bracket like other legs of this style. This meant we had to remove the existing brackets from the table, even though they were IKEA and look exactly the same
  • IKEA has slightly changed the size/arrangement of screw holes on its leg brackets, so these new legs with their fused-on brackets couldn’t re-use the existing holes from the previous brackets
  • VIKA BYSKE legs are SUPER ANNOYING to extend. It took my husband and I about 20 minutes of wrist-agony to twist all five legs to 41”.

Some shots of the underside of the desk:


Attaching Longer Legs

We took everything off the desk and flipped it upside down to attach the legs.  Once the new legs were on and we stood it back up, several new problems were revealed:

  • My monitors are too low by at least 6 inches
  • The desk is WOBBLY 

I first took a trip to Staples where I was disappointed by their selection of monitor stands. They aren’t tall enough, and they didn’t seem robust enough the widescreens. Ultimately, just to make the desk usable in the meantime, I balanced a book shelf over four small paint cans and put the center monitor onto that. This disrupts my usual workflow, though, as using the other two monitors is rather unpleasant on my neck/upper back. But I think I could build or find something with a bit more looking, so I’m not particularly worried about this problem.

The wobbly feeling has me much more concerned.

We could attach more legs, but will it be enough? The one leg at left is definitely underpowered for the kind of support it needs to provide now.

Anchoring to the Wall 

I was wandering around Home Depot when inspiration struck: shelf brackets!  Two shelf brackets and a about 20 minutes of EZ-Anchors and drilling later, the desk was anchored to the wall and completely stabilized. I anchored it 1 inch off the wall to leave room for curtains and wires.  The desk is rock solid now, woohoo!



Project Cost

IKEA GALANT desktop – free (picked it up off the curb)
5 VIKA BYSKE legs – $125 ($25/each)
2 heavy duty shelf brackets – $12

TOTAL: $137

What’s Next?

With that resolved, it’s time to move onto a more challenging project.  Next up: I’m going to build one for my husband, who is 6’4” and too tall for the solution we used for mine.

Some “ready made” standing desks I’ve found online go high enough for him, but they have many shortcomings:

  • Insufficient monitor space (most seem built for one monitor, tops)
  • Too expensive (largely thanks to features we don’t need, like electrically powered up/down)
  • Too small in general – no one makes a standing corner desk… but I will be the first. >:)

Update: We built it!  Check out my husband’s super tall standing desk right here.

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