Monday, July 01, 2013
I have had recurring lower back problems over the last decade or so. A consequence of a life time of working in a bakery and teaching baking. The need to do lots of lifting (bags of ingredients, trays, tins, loading and unloading tray racks and ovens), standing for long hours on hard concrete floors and keeping up with the students would be the main culprits. I must say I enjoyed the physicality of the work but my back did not share the same feelings. Therefore, one of the reasons I decided to move into a staff development role 7 – 8 years ago, was to move into a less physical job. However, for the last year or so, the back has been sore at night, usually preventing me from getting back to sleep. Many nights of trying to get back to sleep at 2 am prompted the purchase of a new bed and mattress. I also started to take more care when out tramping / walking by ensuring my pack was well balanced, not jumping off high steps etc. and using two trekking poles. When things really got difficult during the year, regular visits to the osteopath would help relieve things for a month or so.
So on my osteopath’s advice after the another visit (just after Easter), I contacted our helpful facilities and health and safety person to organise a standing desk to be set up. The osteopath reckoned that in my previous work role, I would have been sitting down to work for an average of 2 - 3 hours a day or 10 -20 at the most a week. In my present job, I was sitting down 7 – 9 hours a day, adding up to 35 -45 hours a week!
The general benefits of a standing desk have been well reported, an example here from a recent NZ press article summarises the general trend.The blogosphere has thousands of articles on the merits of putting in a standing desks, check out the experieces of others and their reasons for converting.
Plus also lots of articles on how to set up a do it yourself standing desk, cool examples include this one using ikea furniture and another DIY one.
I have now been working at a standing desk for all my computer work for a month and a half. I must say the back has improved. The first week was not too good as I had to get used to more standing. I persevered into week two where things started to improve. I did change to better shoes to stand on (used crocs as recommended here) and did more walking around. By week three, things had settled down and began enjoying a good night’s sleep, uninterrupted by back pain. However, I developed a very painful neck! Back to the osteopath, after which things started to settle down. Now into week seven and my body seems to have settled into the new regime.
My work pattern has also changed slightly. I write, answer emails etc. while standing but have found reading / web surfing etc. to be more difficult to sustain over a period of time. So, it has been Ok to stand and work on reports etc. for several hours but standing up for half an hour of reading pdf journal articles is long enough. So a permanent arrangement would ideally allow one to shift seamlessly from a standing to a sitting desk. Or will need to use Skydrive more to read documents on the iPad / Surface Pro and all writing tasks to be done standing. Standing up to write seems to work well and I have been working productively on two reports, one conference paper and doing edits to a journal paper over the last month. The task into the next couple of weeks is to investigate more permanent solutions with our health and safety officer, with a goal to having something in place by end of July.