A half year ago, I petitioned my employer to let us try out an adjustable desk. Heaving read about all the health benefits that switching between sitting and standing should bring, this seemed like a profitable investment. After all, 250,- euro is a small price to pay if it results in improved performance and happier workers.

The Desk

The selection process for the desk was simple. Anything that could switch between a height of 75cm to 125cm would do. I never needed to raise the table above 110, but many of my colleagues are taller. The unique selling point of the BEKANT is the price, because at the time of purchase, the next cheapest desk was a hundred euro more expensive and didn’t offer any other features. Heck, it doesn’t have to offer any other features. What more is a desk supposed to do, right? It just needs to be affordable enough for people to be willing to give it a try.

It’s good to mention that there is manual (crankable) version of the desk, as well as a motorized one. At the time, I didn’t see point of paying extra for the added luxury of raising and lowering the desk automatically. After a half year of use, and cranking it up and down two or three times a day, I suppose it would be more convenient for the desk to do some of the heavy lifting. But to be honest, if I were buying it for personal use at my own home office (which I will at some point), I’d rather save the money. The arm workout is an additional bonus.

The BEKANT is a fairly straight forward machine that takes about a half hour to assemble. You rotate the crank clockwise to raise the desk, and counter clockwise to lower it. And that’s pretty much all I can say about the desk itself. It’s stable, it’s flat, it’s a desk. Moving on.

The benefits to my work day routine

Aside from all the long term benefits that I can’t possibly start to measure, there were some positive changes that I noticed on day one.

If I left the desk in the raised position, then in the morning I felt energized to start work right where I picked it up the day before. Whenever the desk was lowered instead, I would usually turn on the computer, check some emails, and go grab a cup of tea and chat with whomever was standing at the tea kettle for a minute. Seems like standing up is a good way to kick of the day. I mean, we also do an actual scrum stand-up with the team, but that is later on in the morning, so the desk kind of helps me prepare for these.

Then in the afternoon, I often like to raise the desk to help food digest. Some of my colleagues like to take a walk after lunch. And that’s fine unless it’s winter, or raining (I live in the Netherlands, so that’s basically every other day *1), or you need to get work done… Standing also healps to stave off the familiar “dipje”, which is the Dutch word for that sleepy feeling you get after having too much for lunch.

During the day, I usually keep the desk lowered, unless a colleague would like to review something with me. Then it seems much more natural to be up on our feet.

My sales colleagues have argued that standing promotes better vocal performance, so I suppose any interaction (in person and by phone will generally benefit from a standing position, as it can lead to more energetic discussions.

An added bonus is that the session can’t drag on for too long before we feel the urge to wrap it up and sit back down.

The health part

I read that we eat about 900,000 to a million calories a year, and burn them all except those annoying 3,000 to 5,000 calories that result in an average annual weight gain of about one to two pounds. These very small differences between intake and output average out to only about 10 to 20 calories per day, which is something that you will burn in 45 to 60 minutes at a standing desk. On average, a person burns 120 calories sitting, and a 150 standing. So the long term benefits seem obvious.

But a standing desk goes beyond that. The stress of sitting for long periods of time can lead to all sorts of health issues, because blood flow is cut off and metabolism stagnates. Apparently, all the sitting can even negate the beneficial effects of vigorous exercise. That was really an eye opener for me, because I work out hard just once a week, and if sitting on my but all day broke down the benefits of that workout, then what’s the point?

After a half year I can’t say that I feel that much different, but I suppose that this is something that will benefit me in the long term. For now I feel like 45 minutes is about as long as I can stand standing, so most days I have one or two 45 minute sessions, and in the long term, that seems like enough. Most of my colleagues have stopped using their tables much as time went by. Many of them will opt to stand just once a week or less. But that’s ok, because the desk is there when they need it. And since the cost isn’t far off from a regular office desk, there’s no real reason to choose NOT to have the extra feature.

I’ve some hacks where people have attached cheaper table tops to the BEKANT base, which is something I will also be doing when I purchase it at home.

*1 Just kidding, it’s like every day, lol 🙁