My last full day in the office was March 13, 2020. As I close in now on my six-month anniversary of an office-free work existence, untethered to a specific physical location, I have to admit it: I kind of miss my office.
I’ve been perfectly content working remotely and using all of the technology that permits us to do so. And without having to do my “walking commute” in the morning and evening, and with “lunch hours” that often consist of a hastily prepared sandwich that I eat while continuing to work, I feel like I’ve made very productive use of my “working remotely” time.
But, after working at the firm for 35 years, I’d gotten to the point of having a pretty darned nice office. I miss my L-shaped desk set-up, which allowed me to easily pivot from working on the computer to a large, reasonably tidy desk surface, at the just the right height, where I could spread out papers and keep documents for different matters in different stacks that were close at hand. I miss my office windows and the overhead lights that made my office a bright place to toil. I miss my office chair, with its ergonomic design and rubbery webbing that would let you kind of sink into it, that gave me the ability to swivel around and lean back, always with total lumbar support. And I really miss the susurrus of the office background noise coming in through the doorway, and the drifting voices of my colleagues as they pass by in the hall and chat at the nearby elevator bank.
So, don’t get me wrong — working remotely has been just fine. Really! But I suspect that, when I get back to the office for a regular day’s work, and get to experience that office environment again, I’ll sink back into that familiar chair, give it a quick whirl around, lean back, and think “aaah.“
I’m on the road again, this time in NYC for work. My room at the Hyatt at Grand Central Station is fine, except for one small detail — there’s no desk.
Seriously? No desk? Where are you supposed to set up your laptop, roll through your emails, and get some work done before the meetings begin? I’d gladly exchange the modern sofa and the large hardwood floor area that seems suited only for ballroom dancing for a simple desk, chair, and electrical outlets. But I’ll be using the sofa as a makeshift desk instead.
I’m perfectly willing to put up with the weirdness of modern hotel room decor, but when they sacrifice function for form I’ve got to draw the line. Hotels rooms should always — always! — have a desk.
Lately there has been an explosion of stand-up desks at our office. Old-fashioned sit-down desks — the kind that I use — are increasingly being replaced by adjustable desks that allow you to move your computer from a desktop location to stand-height. I’ve gotten used to walking past offices and seeing people standing rigidly behind their desks, starting at their computer screens and clicking on their mouses.
Several people in our office have gone even farther, and opted for non-adjustable, permanent stand-up desks — but even that might not be enough for the true believers. The last time I was in the office of the Biking Brewer, for example, he not only had a permanent stand-up desk, he had no chairs of any kind in his workspace, explaining that if he had a chair he might be tempted to sit in it. So, the last time I stopped in to talk, I ended up kind of perching on a narrow window ledge during our conversation.
If you ask the stand-up crew why they’ve chosen these new desks, the inevitable response is “because it’s healthier.” You’ll hear about burning more calories by standing than sitting, and avoiding heart and back problems, and enhancing bone density, but all of the rationales asserts that stand-up desks are healthier than sit-down desks.
Of course, people should try to move around at work. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. Consider whether you should walk to a co-worker’s office rather than sending an email or making a call. Get away from your desk and walk during the noon hour. But let’s have a little skepticism about studies that purport to show that stand-up desks are the key to office good health.
In fact, the health researchers quoted in the news article linked above says that most of impetus for stand-up desks right now is that they are “fashionable.” I’ll say! But I’ll gladly resist the trend and just plop my keister down in my comfortable chair at my desk before I get to work.
They’ve come out with another study that will make us all feel guilty and worried about our lifestyles. This one concludes that sitting down can be bad for you.
It’s true. According to the report, sitting down too much increases your chances of heart disease, blood clots in the brain, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. The study find a link between sitting down and glucose and fatty acids in the blood that are chemical markers for diabetes. Spending just another 90 minutes standing every day, the study concludes, can significantly reduce your chance of developing diabetes. In addition, because your metabolism is at its lowest when you are sitting on your duff, standing increases your metabolism, requires you to use more of your muscles, and will help you lose weight. (We can all expect to begin to see TV commercials in the near future advertising the “[insert celebrity name here] Stand Up Diet” and including testimonials by ordinary people who claim that standing has changed their lives.)
The problem, of course, is that many of us have office jobs that involve sitting. Some people use standing desks — I’m thinking of the Biking Brewer here — but I’m not sure how many employers are going to toss their vast collections of sit-down desks, cubicles, chairs, and tables and spend the money to re-equip their offices with stand-up replacements. So, we all need to figure out ways to spend less time seated on our seats. Walking to a co-worker’s office rather than calling them is one option. Another is to drink lots of water so that you must rise from your chair to make regular trips to the restroom. Yet another is to walk somewhere a few blocks away over the lunch hour, or stand when you are talking to your friend rather than plopping down butt-first somewhere.
It’s tempting to sit on our tushes on a comfortable chair. After all, what’s the human keister for if not a good sit? But Bob Marley apparently had it right: “Get up, stand up” is the way to go.