I split my work days between two spaces: my lovely home office (above, with its DIY walnut waterfall desk, sunny window with mountain view, and a handy treadmill in the closet), and a windowless office space which literally used to be a closet (below).
I am really trying to make this closet-office work, and I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to work from home some days, but if I am being honest with you then I have to admit that the dreary, windowless space has made it difficult to stay motivated. It was especially difficult when the days were the shortest, because I’d commute in the dark both ways and then spend the entire day under fluorescent light. I know that this plight is not unique to me and many, many people log their working hours in less than ideal conditions – and to some, I probably have it really good (did I mention they recently installed a heater in this closet office? #spoiled).
I also know that I have been very lucky. Getting to work from home for 10+ years was a luxury and I took for granted how the sunlight pouring in kept my mood elevated and my brain focused. Adapting to a new environment – the job and the office – has been challenging, but that’s life.
I knew the adjustment would be difficult, but what I didn’t predict was how the job would wreak havoc on my body, thanks to a 2-3 hour commute (depending on winter road conditions) each day, combined with extended periods of sitting at a desk. When I work from home I can skip that time commuting, plus I am more inclined to get up for breaks. I toss a load of laundry in the machine, take the dogs for a pee break, or hop on the treadmill for 15 minutes. At the office, I just sit and sit and sit and sit – sometimes I even sit on my breaks and lunch because someone comes in and we chat. Or I just feel too blah to get up. For some reason, I just move less at the office. By the end of my first week, I was getting so sore and achy that it was actually painful to drive home.
The saddest thing is that I am doing research in workplace health – and my own work space made me unhappy and unhealthy!
I decided that I had to make some changes. I brought in a few things from home to make my desk a little nicer and more functional – even something small, like switching my mouse pad for a prettier cacti one and bringing in a photo of Hubby and I, made me happier.
It sounds silly, but buying an inexpensive electric kettle made my office situation so much better too, because having a nice cup of tea any time I want is so relaxing and comforting, plus walking down the hall to fill up the kettle gives me a reason to move at least a few times a day – but I’m not blowing my pay check by wandering over to the cafe every day.
Don’t laugh, but I also went exploring and found a bathroom really far away and that’s the one I use – so once I filter my tea (haha), I’ve got an excuse stretch my legs. Now that the weather is warming up (but still kinda snowy and icy where I live), I keep some boots with good tread under my desk so I can go for a little walk around on my lunch.
All of these little changes have added up (and I still have more changes to make), but the biggest change was adding a convertible standing desk – which has actually made a HUGE impact on my health. My physiotherapist warned against a standing desk because standing all day can cause health problems too, but I really wanted the chance to switch between sitting and standing. I did a lot of research and the problems sitting causes us are so alarming. The solution seems to be avoiding staying stationary: not sitting or standing in one place for too long. So a desk that converts from sitting to standing – and a commitment to move more during the day – seems to be the best way to combat the negative health impacts of sedentary jobs like mine.
It is HEAVY, so Hubby helped me haul it in (say that three times fast!). Set up was quick and easy (10 minutes – just as promised), and because of the weight this desk is incredibly sturdy. It grips my existing desk with four strong suction cups. Sometimes I lightly lean on it when people come in for a chat (shhhh, you’re not supposed to do that) and it doesn’t even wobble – it’s so solid.
By grabbing two levers on either side, I can lift or lower this convertible standing desk with ease thanks to the gas spring technology. The desk has six different height adjustments available: 44cm, 43cm, 38cm, 31cm, 22cm, 13cm, which is what I wanted because, at 5″9, I’m not freakishly tall but, as my Mom says, I have a long turkey neck, so I like that the desk height can be adjusted – I always use the tallest height setting.
In the lowered position, it raised my work surface a bit, so having an adjustable chair was necessary.
The height and ergonomics are perfect, but I am still struggling a little with the mouse because if my keyboard is where I want it (centered), my mouse is moved to the right and then my hand feels like it rubs under the desk.
But the positive impact on my health has been amazing. I still experience some pain and stiffness because, as my physiotherapist tells me, I shouldn’t be sitting for more than 2-3 hours a DAY – and I do that just driving to work and home. However, I do feel a lot better better thanks to this standing desk option. When I’m standing, I try to do some light stretching and movement while I work and that helps a lot – I never keep my feet planted in the same standing position for hours on end. Plus, when I’m already standing I seem to be more inclined to move, which is great! The key, for me to feel good, seems to be finding the balance between sitting, standing, and walking around.
I would definitely suggest a convertible standing desk as an option to anyone who sits for work, with the caveat that you alternate between sitting and standing to reap the full benefits. Huge thanks to AnthroDesk for sending me this convertible standing desk! The best thing is that they have both a Canadian website and a US website and – major perk for my Canadian friends – they offer free shipping in Canada (for orders over $50). Check out their FAQ page if you’re interested in more information on standing desks. If you’re ready to commit, they offer regular sales and discounts, so be sure to follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. There’s a giveaway on the US page right now (good luck!).
While I adjust to this new work environment, I’d love to hear from readers who have made their work spaces happier and healthier – what are your tips for me?