Why I Chose to “Take a Stand” at Work – My Experience with a Standing Desk

Earlier this summer, I had the unfortunate experience of dealing with some health issues related to circulation. Like many people, I spend the majority of my day behind a monitor at work.  Before this incident forced the issue to the forefront of my mind, I had spent some time reading about the side effects of sitting for a while. This lead to me trying different ways to address this with varying success…timers to remind me to stand, drinking more water, filling my water bottle half full to encourage more frequent trips to the cooler, etc.

But one of the problems I faced is that when I am full blown into the design of a project or hot-and-heavy in crunching numbers, distractions are not only unwanted – they are unproductive as well!  So I found myself frequently violating my self-imposed habits and binge sitting for two to three hours at a stretch.

After this incident, I decided I needed to make a more permanent change and go for a standing desk.

The Difference With a Standing Desk

Surfing around the various options that are out there, I settled on an adjustable model from The Human Solution (http://www.thehumansolution.com). The idea of an adjustable option really appealed to me.  As much as I wanted to get the full benefits of standing, two realities confronted me that I had to face.



  1. One, a previous blood clot in my leg has left me with ‘valve’ trouble in my knee and standing for long periods could actually lead to more issues with my blood being unable to travel back up my leg.
  2. Two, sometimes it just feels good to sit!

I know being productive after coming back in from a construction site or doing anything before I get some coffee in the morning just isn’t going to work if I have to stand the whole time.

So, What’s it Like? 

Well the first observation is that sitting really does feel good! And that’s kind of been a cool, unexpected part of this for me.  It actually feels good to take a break and sit down and do some things during the day. I can fully appreciate now how relaxing it is to sit down!

The second is that with some activities, I am much more productive if I am standing. Early on in a project, there is a lot of conceptual planning and spatial stuff with what we do. While this often requires modeling things on the computer, it also requires gathering information from codes and standards we use that will help point the design in the right direction. Before the standing desk, I would find myself waiting to gather these resources at one time so as to avoid bouncing up and down repeatedly.  But by already being up, I am more able to bounce around gathering the materials I need and am able to be more efficient with getting things done at this stage of the design.

Third, I also notice better posture!  By having an adjustable desk, I’ve noticed that I have even started leaving my desk a little higher when I am in the ‘sitting’ position. This forces me to sit up but allows me to put my monitors at a comfortable height.

Lastly, I just feel better when I leave work. I don’t want to over sensationalize this point, some days I’m tired and some days are long regardless if I sit or stand, but I do just feel a little better on the days I stand. Strangely enough, I also feel a little more accomplished as well.

One of the hardest adjustments I had to make when I entered the design side of engineering as opposed to the field side of construction was the adjustment to being inside all day.  Some days are still hard and I don’t discount that what I do now far exceeds the mental demands of what I used to do, but I still missed that feeling of putting in a hard day’s work. No matter what I accomplished, when I would sit all day I could never get that good feeling when you leave a job that you did something good.  I still have the same accomplishments, still do the same work, but for some reason when I can add in the standing, I just feel better about it all at the end of the day!

Allegheny Design Services

There are better people out there who can talk about the health benefits of one verses the other…if you are looking to your structural engineer for health advice, I can’t really help you. But I can tell you as someone who wants to be productive during the day and is always on the lookout for ways to be better at what I do; standing throughout the day has been a great source to reinvigorate me with what I do.

Interested in learning more about me or Allegheny Design Services (ADS)?  We would love to talk!  To see some of our more recent projects, click here!

Thanks for reading,



Written by Michael Howell, PE, SE, MBA, Senior Structural Engineer, Director Sports & Recreation

mike-howellMike works as the Senior Structural Engineer for ADS. His responsibilities include project management and structural design. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and graduated with a master’s of business administration from West Virginia University in December of 2014. He has extensive engineering experience as a field engineer, a civil engineer and a structural engineer. He has served as a past branch president for the American Society of Civil Engineers and chairman of the Richmond Joint Engineers’ Council. He is a current member of the ASCE 7-16 Seismic Committee and is active in many other professional committees and civic organizations.