After reading about experiences with so-called “stand up desks” at Evolving Excellence and Gemba Panta Rei and LSS Academy, and after years of doing lean conversion and preaching that chairs impede flow, and after much indecision and procrastination, I finally decided to put my desk where my mouth is.
It’s only been a week and a half, but so far the experience has been positive. As with all change there is period of adjustment. Things were a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, and I’ve had to tweak the height a little to ensure proper ergonomics, but it gets a little more comfortable each day. In addition to the expected benefits – I’m more focused and less distracted, and I spend less time at my desk and more time at gemba – I’ve also learned a couple of other things.
It’s All About Flow
On the shopfloor, sitting down and getting up over and over again is waste and inhibits flow. But I’ve found that in knowledge work the situation is very similar, but from more of a psychological standpoint. There seems to be a mental stopping and starting, almost a recalibration, each time I get up from or return to my desk. Like shifting gears in my head. Now as I move from my desk to the floor to meetings to coworkers’ desks there is a much smoother mental flow. As opposed to a bunch of discrete tasks.
I’ve had more than one person tell me that now they can look out over the top of the vast cubicle village and see my head when I’m at my desk. This saves time in hunting for me. (So in an indirect way I’ve made others more productive as well.) From my standing position I can also peer out across the cube farm and get at least some sense of what’s going on around me.
Of course I’ve had more than my fair share of curious head-scratchers come by and ask me if I’m having back trouble. And not one to be without a witty rejoinder, I’ve come up with the following canned responses:
I got a “raise”.
I’m moving up in the world.
I decided to take my work to the next level.
I’ve always been a stand-up guy.
It’s a new year and I wanted to rise to the occasion.
Feel free to use any of these if you decide to try this, and let me know if you think of any others.