Roughly a month ago I transformed my studio into a standing only work space. Well, apart from the couch which will remain due to its acoustic absorption. Now since I’ve finally just got all my gear connected properly again, and with no more junk laying around, I thought I’d post a blog here about what I’ve done with a few photos and explain why I’ve made the switch to working standing up.
Why switch to a standing desk or work space? What’s wrong with sitting?
A bit over a year ago I noticed a number of articles appearing around the net about how bad sitting is for your health. Although I can’t pinpoint any specific article to share, there have been quite a few written and they all tell the same story. Apparently studies have been done which found that people who spend most of their time sitting, working in an office for example, have a much shorter life expectancy. A search on Google will lead you to a number of these articles. It all made perfect sense to me and immediately became something I knew I had to do. Well worth reading if you get a chance.
It wasn’t only that either. Up until deciding to quit my last job back in 2006 and work for myself, I had always worked in standing jobs. A plastics factory, dj’ing, warehouse work, computer assembly and so on. Not a single sitting job. Although I did end up with some back pain from the occasional heavy lifting. But overall I was happy doing work where I was standing all day and I’m sure most shop assistants, hairdressers, chefs and other people in similar standing jobs don’t have a problem standing all day either.
Back in 2006, the switch from standing to sitting for most of the day clearly wasn’t the best thing for me. I still had some back issues, so my wife bought me an expensive Herman Miller Aeron Chair which had a reputation as being the best ergonomic chair. And up until recently, I was happy using that chair. But still had a few back issues. Getting out of bed, and scrubbing my back whilst taking a shower were times I sometimes still felt a slight amount of back pain.
Sitting all day just wasn’t working for me
After 5 years of video editing, music and other work in a chair, I found the thought of sitting all day really frustrating. I would be up in the morning standing or walking around the kitchen tidying up and making my green smoothies, banana ice cream or juice. Which I still enjoy doing. But then I would walk into the studio, and just seeing my chair sitting there waiting for me to plonk my butt down into really irritated me. Plus the thought that I would be sitting there for hours like a vegetable.. Arghhh!!! My workspace was actually nicely arranged too. Everything was within easy reach. It was how a good work space should be. But still, it didn’t feel right at all and things got to the point where I couldn’t comprehend living like that for another 10 or more years of my life. I wasn’t a cripple, so why did I need to sit in a chair to get my work done?
To be honest, I’d been thinking about converting my studio to a standing workspace for 10 years or more. Ever since I read an article in Future Music magazine with Prefuse 73 where he talked about doing all his beat making whilst standing. He talked about it being a more productive way of doing things, which made perfect sense to me. I guess for all that time, I just wasn’t motivated enough to try it myself as I knew it would be tricky changing my furniture around. Even though for most of those past 10 years my studio was just shelves sitting on large bricks.
Month 1 of doing all work in my studio standing up & my experience so far
Before I write anything here, I know there will be doubters who will not believe what I’m about to write. Those of you who just enjoy sitting on your butts all day way too much! Well, all I can say is that I’m not making up any of this. Converting my studio to a standing workspace is one of the best things I’ve done in years. Previously when starting work in the morning I would walk in, sit down, attempt to get comfortable, recline the chair, fiddle about with the mouse, check my email, social networking sites or whatever, and maybe eventually I may have done some work. But now I walk in, grab the mouse as I’m still walking to refresh the screen, and BANG, I’m off! Editing or whatever I need to get done. And even writing blog posts like this as I’m standing here.
The increased speed at which I’m able I’m to get started doing anything standing as opposed to sitting, is like the difference between booting an operating system from a fast 550mb/s SSD drive vs booting from a really old 5400rpm IDE drive. For those of you who aren’t geeky enough to know what I’m talking about here, SSD drives are essentially a LOT faster than older style hard drives.
That back pain I had is mostly gone now too. At least it’s a lot better anyway. And standing all day doesn’t bother me at all. I can be here until 2 or 3am in the morning working on something, and still not feel like sitting. Anytime I do feel like sitting is an indicator that I’m too tired to be working. So then I will go and sit, lay down, or go to bed if it’s a good time to sleep.
Manoeuvrability is a huge bonus for a studio like mine where I have additional gear off to the side. Previously that gear would rarely get used. Probably almost never in the case of my Korg Poly 800 synth. I would be stuck in the chair with my eyes mostly focused on nothing but that screen in front. But now I can immediately take a step to the side to play a few notes on that keyboard, tap out a few drums on the MPC500 or throw a record on my SL1200 turntable. Which I guess in a way makes my studio appear to be more suited to djs.
Recording vocalists in a standing space like this is a lot simpler also. I’m standing the whole time just like the vocalists, so can easily take a few steps to the right to adjust the mic if required. There’s no having to get in and out of a chair that’s consuming valuable space. It just feels like I have so much more freedom now. It appears to have benefited those who record here too. Just the other week Mr Zux was over recording some vocals. The vocalist he had lined up to sing on his tracks couldn’t make it that day, and my wife Lydia ended up singing on his tracks. Everything just ran so smoothly. He told me later that was the best vocal session he’d done, and I’m quite certain the lack of chair/s played a big part in that. At least in my case, as it allowed me record and concentrate on those vocal takes a lot more accurately than I would have been able to do stuck in a chair, which in the past would sometimes make me feel like falling asleep.
If I’m editing a music video or working on music myself, I can dance to what I’m working to if I have a feel for it. Something I think is important when working on beats or any kind of music track. Especially if it’s something with a funky groove. Of course you probably wouldn’t catch me dancing while anybody else is here But still, who knows, they might start dancing too if the groove is tight? It’s a really good feeling. And if I’m not dancing I’m doing star jumps. A great way of helping to stay active.
So overall, since making the switch to a standing desk and workspace, I’ve had no complaints whatsoever. As time goes on, it will only get better.
Common sense prevails
Having made the switch to being a stand up guy, I’m beginning to see a common theme. It seems that everything I do in my life to improve my health is nothing more than common sense. Like when I became vegan for example. From that point on it became obvious to me that eating anything but a 100% plant based diet just didn’t make any sense. Why would anyone want to eat the corpse of a dead animal when doing so will greatly increase their chances getting heart disease, cancer, having a stroke or any other number of diseases? And consuming dairy products, that just doesn’t make any sense at all either. Cow’s milk is only intended to be consumed by baby cows, not humans. I’d even use the term idiotic to describe the thought of humans drinking cow’s milk.
Smoking, prescribed or illegal drugs, and drinking alcohol. Why? To me, these three don’t make any sense either, and for obvious reasons.
Shoes with heels. I don’t think people know how bad normal shoes really are either. High heel shoes and stilettos that women wear clearly don’t make any sense. That’s obvious. And running shoes? Have a look at this video. For most of this year I’ve been wearing [apparently fake] Vibram Five finger shoes that I bought on ebay which give me that barefoot feel and are more comfortable than any other shoes I’ve ever worn. Barefoot walking is the better option of course, but not a good idea during a cold winter or if you feel the need for that extra protection. Being able to wriggle my toes whilst wearing the Fivefingers is something you just can’t do wearing normal shoes. As a result, I’ve wholeheartedly decided to make the switch to nothing but barefoot style shoes from now on and can’t see myself ever buying another pair of normal shoes. The next of shoes I buy will be either a pair of Vibram Lontra’s, or Invisible shoes. Standing in my studio as close to barefoot as possible too.
And lastly, there’s working whilst standing. Or more specifically in my case, doing music, video editing or any kind of computer based activities whilst standing. Having spent a month now working in a standing position, the thought of going back to doing any kind of computer based work at a desk whilst sitting there stuck in a chair also no longer makes any sense to me! It’s crazy, I look at people working in big recording studios sitting in chairs leaning over a big recording console such as an SSL or Neve desk, or any high tech computer set ups, and the whole scenario just looks so primitive to me! These are people I highly respect too, but now I look at them sitting in their chairs, and they’re like vegetables with arms. They look very constricted, as if their freedom of movement has been taken away and they’ve been hooked into the Matrix.
My solution for escaping the vegetable with arms on a chair syndrome
For some reason a bit over a month ago, I decided to finally make the switch to a standing desk. I knew it would be a lot of work, but was something I knew I just had to do. That ill feeling of walking into my studio and the dreaded thought that once I sat down I would be stuck there for most of the day just had to be dealt with!
So I went along to Ikea with Lydia to get myself some longer Vika Kaj legs for my Vika Amon desk. But we got a bit carried away. Lydia ended up with my Vika Amon sitting height desk, I got another Vika Amon with the higher Vika Kaj legs, and also ended up getting some Tundra laminate flooring with the antique effect. Lydia also bought herself a new Expedit wall unit. And as much a fan I am of Tyler Durden and his minimalist ways, I must say this Swedish furniture is cheap and does the job really nicely. The Tundra flooring for example. It’s not real timber, but at less than $300 for my studio space, it’s smoother, nicer to walk on, and better overall I think. With no chair in here anymore, I don’t have to worry about scratching it either. I should add, that I also bought a magenta coloured mat from Ikea to stand on as well.
Installing the floor took a couple of days. I actually cut all the pieces to size using and hand saw. Don’t ever try that yourself! Pay the money and get yourself and electric jigsaw or something similar. But once I had the underlay down and had removed the skirting boards, it was easy enough to install on my own.
The desk turned out to be better than expected. The Vika Kaj legs are only supposed to be 90cm high maximum, but fully extended were over 1m. I thought 90cm high would have been enough, but no, the higher the better. The final height including Vika Amon tabletop (which is 3cm think) ended up being 104cm. When working, my arms should be at a 90 degree angle, but at this height the table is slightly lower so they’re not. That said, 104cm high still works really nicely for me.
Now with all the gear on top, as in the above photo, the table was a bit wobbly. You can’t expect too much from Ikea. But I managed to find a solution. I went and bought some small L shaped brackets and attached the shelf that’s attached to the wall at the back. That did the trick perfectly. Now the table won’t move at all. In the room photo at this top of the page you can see one of the brackets under the right speaker. The height of that shelf on the wall also had to be raised of course.
The other shelf on the wall between the windows in the photo above was also raised. It’s not as high as the Vika Kaj/Amon table, but high enough for the turntable and MPC500 that reside there. Any wall shelves I have here are all very sturdy due to clips underneath holding the shelves in place, and this one is no different.
Other enhancements made to the studio
Since I do all the house work here, something that has become extremely important to me is not having any cables or other clutter on the floor. Not having anything on the floors makes cleaning them with the vacuum cleaner or sweeping so much easier. In the above photo you’ll see my computer sitting on its own shelf which I’ve actually screwed into the shelf bracket to make it sturdy. But I’ve managed to keep the space free underneath. The power boards for the computer, amp, mixer, effects etc, you can also see on a small shelf underneath the speaker and monitor shelf. Out of site, out of mind.
Another thing I’ve managed to do is neatly tie up the cables that connect the MPC, Turntable and synths between the windows to the mixer. They’re locked in place under the right window sill with cable clips and cable ties. Network and MIDI cables are also included there. The powerboard at the back is probably the biggest issue here, but has switches at the back for all the connected devices including the phono preamp, so I can easily switch the power on or off to any of them.
The lampshade is something new I’ve also added. The actual lamp itself we found dumped in an old building a couple of doors up back in the early 80s. There was no lampshade on there for a long time, and I’d recently broken the bulb holder too. Whilst installing the floor actually. So I replaced both, and now it’s like brand new. Hard to believe it was just a piece of junk my mum picked up over 30 years ago. There’s also a desk lamp at the back you may be able to see reflected in the left window in the top photo. It’s not always switched on, but provides some nice warm mood lighting just like the lampshade. I use energy saver bulbs for each that are either 23w or 24w.
Making the switch to a standing desk or workspace I highly recommend! If you’re not convinced and missed the link at the top of the page here, click here to find a number of articles outlining how bad sitting is for your health. Even if you sit for most of the day, but do some exercise as well, that exercise will not make up for that time you spend sitting. The health risks will still be the same. For people who are used to sitting for the whole day, switching to a standing desk may seem a bit extreme. But in the long run, it will be worth it. You’ll become more productive and inherit a greater sense of freedom.
Anyway, I hope those of you still with me here got something out of this article. Feel free to share it with your friends.