Many people believe that standing desks keep workers engaged. And there are excellent examples from the world of literature. To take one example, tributes to the award-winning novelist Philip Roth, who passed away recently at age 85, mention how his standing desk was a regular part of his routine.
As Dominic Smith, a novelist himself, writes in The Millions, the prolific Roth was known to use a lectern placed perpendicular to any windows with a view (to avoid distraction) as the standing desk where he wrote his novels. He had this setup in both of his homes, on New York City’s Upper West Side, and in the Connecticut countryside.
According to Smith, Roth said that at his standing desk, he would pace “about half a mile for every page he writes.” Those writing desks served him well. In his long career, Roth’s books earned him the Pulitzer Prize for fiction (“American Pastoral”), the National Book Award for Fiction (“Sabbath’s Theatre” and “Goodbye Columbus”), the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction (“The Counterlife”), the Man Booker International Prize, and many others.
And acclaimed novelist Ernest Hemingway also preferred to write his novels while standing, as George Plimpton writes in a Paris Review piece in 1958. Hemingway liked to do his writing in the sunny, ground-floor bedroom of his house in the Havana, Cuba suburb San Francisco de Paula, in an alcove, on a square foot of space atop a cluttered bookcase. He would only go to his upstairs “tower room” to work when his “characters” impelled him to go there. Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel “The Old Man and the Sea” and the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Simply standing, as opposed to sitting, can increase a person’s brain power, writes Richard A. Friedman, M.D., a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College, in an editorial in The New York Times.
Dr. Friedman writes:
“The cognitive benefits of strenuous physical exercise are well known. But the possibility that the minimal exertion of standing more and sitting less improves brain health could lower the bar for everyone. It’s also yet another good argument for getting rid of sitting desks in favor of standing desks for most people.”
Surprisingly, despite recent articles placing standing desks in the spotlight, the concept and practice goes back way before modern times. In an article in an 1883 edition of Popular Science, Dr. Felix Oswald mentions standing desks — once known as “telescope desks” — as an option.
And the practice continues to be on the rise. The Society for Human Resource Management notes that its 2017 Employee Benefits survey found that:
“Standing desks had a greater increase over the past five years than any of the benefits covered by this survey. This benefit grew threefold from 13 percent in 2013 to 44 percent in 2017.”