Should Editors Use Standing Desks?
For film and video editors, having a standing desk can have a positive effect on your working habits, health, and efficiency.
I'm a freelance editor and YouTube creator so I spend a major part of a day at my desk.
I've wanted to have a standing desk for a while. When I finally got one about 2 months ago, I was super excited to give it a go to compare how it affects my well-being, productivity, and how much I move during the day.
In the following video, I talk about my findings.
I think it was when I read "In the Blink of an Eye" by Walter Murch for the first time that I came across the concept of standing during the editing process. I liked the idea.
If Walter Murch, one of the most influential editors alive, claims that standing has been an important part of his process, there must be something to it... right?
I also stumbled upon Zack Arnold's podcast featuring a conversation with Murch, and I strongly encourage you to listen to that great episode. There's one quote from that stayed with me:
"Editing film is like a combination of being a short-order cook, a brain surgeon, and an orchestra conductor. Each of those three people stand to do what they do.”
Murch explains why he's such a proponent of owning a standing desk. Most of us live a very sedentary life. Especially in the creative industry. Some editors are used to working 12 hours a day or more.
Editors sit all day long. We get a few short walks in here and there... but not nearly enough.
One of my friends always says that the human body is designed for movement. I couldn't agree more. We weren't designed to sit still for 8 plus hours a day.
For me, a standing desk became part of the answer.
How it affected my general well-being
In my first week with a standing desk, my body felt more tired when I was going to bed. Despite having a regular week I felt more worn out, my body just wasn't used to this new process.
But after a week passed, that feeling was gone. I haven't felt any pain in my legs or back since.
But another interesting side effect is that I've eaten more.
There is research comparing the energy cost of working in standing vs sitting positions. As it turns out, there is a 12% greater energy cost to stand than to sit. It's not enough of a difference to help you lose weight, but it's still significant.
More telling research was conducted in London in 1961 when researchers found that bus drivers tended to live shorter lives than their conductor colleagues. That data helped start the "Sitting is the New Standing" phenomenon.
I didn’t get the standing desk for health reasons and this is not a topic of this video. If this is something you want to learn more about, I recommend this Optimize Yourself blogpost.
Setting up a standing desk
I’ve learned that there are 3 basic rules you should remember about when setting up your standing desk.
- Tilt your monitors upwards. 10-15 degrees should be enough for a good viewing angle and minimized reflections.
- Keep your elbows beside you bent at 90 degrees angle.
- Position monitors at one arm's length
I've found this standing desk calculator which can help with getting it just right. But let your body be the final judge and adjust the dimensions if needed.
Switching your working mode
After 2 or 3 weeks with a standing desk, I’ve found out that I actually prefer to do some things sitting down while some feel more natural to me in the standing position. It’s weird how natural it feels to change my desk to a standing mode when I’m going through hours of interviews, log the footage and edit. But for more passive tasks, like previewing b-roll sequences or organizing the project, I prefer to sit down.
What's on the market
There are many solutions for standing desks. For example, Walter Murch uses the architecture table he bought in Ikea with a high chair for when he wants to sit.
Sit to Stand Desk is the one that made the most sense for me because, while I want to have an option to sit, I need the process of changing the position to be as frictionless as possible. It’s also the most versatile and convenient option. There are many brands out there. I use the one from Autonomous.
Full disclosure, they sent me this desk to review. But actually, I reached out to them myself and asked if they could send me one because after doing research, it seemed to me that they have a very good quality to price ratio. So, since I knew that some of my viewers would ask about a specific brand I wanted to collaborate with a one that has a compelling offer.
You can change the height with one click thanks to preset buttons. I have my standing preset assigned to button 1, sitting to button number 2, and if I want to draw I'll press number 3 to have the drawing surface even higher. It's also advisable to have two presets for standing. One for standing barefoot or in socks and another for shoes on.
If you want to buy your own from Autonomous, use a coupon code R-CUTTTP to get up to $200 off your order (depending on the order value).
Probably the biggest barrier for many people is the price of standing desks. They aren't cheap. So, are there alternatives that make it more pocket-friendly?
Converters are on-desk hardware you can use to switch between positions. But keep in mind that the load you can put on it is in a different category. Not enough for professional setups.
In my opinion, the best budget option for a standing desk is a DIY Kit. You can mount any desk surface you have access to it and own your motorized standing desk.
I also use Anti-Fatigue mat and I cannot recommend it enough. Without it, my legs feel sore very quickly. With it, it’s not the case at all.
Honestly, I thought it’s just a marketing trick but it makes a huge difference. I have one from Autonomous and I know that Zack Arnold recommends Topo Mat from Ergo Driven so it must be good as well.
How it affected my productivity
Finally, let’s talk about productivity.
I’ve tracked my computer activity before and after switching to a standing desk with RescueTime App. If you think that my productivity sky-rocketed after the change, you’d be wrong.
Actually my productivity score stayed almost the same growing on average only by 1 percentage point.
However, in my subjective view, I feel like the work I do in the standing position is significantly more efficient. I feel like I’m more focused on the task I’m doing. I’m more aware of what I need to do and how much time I have spent doing it.
Even though the time I spend on creative, productive tasks is more or less the same, I simply get more work done during the day. Is it a dramatic difference? No, I don't think so. But it’s enough to perceive it. Productivity is better but not in the sense that you’ll spend much less time on social media. Dealing with distractions is a topic on its own. I recommend a book by Nir Eyal titled Indistractable if you want to dive into that topic.
The bottom line here is that the time I spend working in the standing position is just more productive. I guess it has to do with time awareness.
Standing for editing makes sense
This leads me back to Walter Murch’s quote about our profession being a combination of a surgeon, an orchestra conductor, and a short-order cook.
Later in the conversation with Zack Arnold, he says: "Time is incredibly important when you’re editing. And when you’re standing you have a different relationship to time."
The word that describes this relationship between your posture and time awareness is called Kinesthesia. A better sense of our body. Standing gives you a better sense and perception of time. You feel more awake and time-aware. It helps you to concentrate on whatever you're doing, especially if you’re doing something that is grounded in time by its nature... and editing definitely is.
If you think about the Rule of Six, which Walter Murch introduces in his extraordinary book In the Blink of an Eye, the first 3 elements, Emotion, Story and Rhythm, are very time-sensitive. Only the last 3 which make 16% of the cut aren’t dependent on time.
So we can come to the conclusion that how we perceive time is linked to productivity. Even if it cannot guarantee that you’ll spend more time working and less time on distractions.
Now do one thing for me. Chances are that you’ve already been in the sitting position for more than an hour. Please take a small step toward better working habits and take a 3-minute walk.
We are what we repeatedly do as Aristotle said. Even if you don’t think a standing desk is for you, move as much as you can. Let’s not turn into vegetables with roots in our chairs.
What do you think about a standing editing bay? Is that something you would find worth a go? Let us know down in the comments!