Just a few months ago, I jacked my desk up on blocks. I use my home desk for about 20 hours a week in a wide variety of tasks. Even this amount has been useful in fleshing out the pros and cons. If anything is indicative of how the experiment turned out, I’m writing this post on the couch on my iPad.

There are three primary criteria for evaluating an office setup: comfort, productivity, and health. Health is a primary driver behind the current standing desk craze. However individual health outcomes are very difficult to objectively determine. Subjectively, I feel healthier in the last two months, but this likely has as much to do with eating a little better and occasionally visiting a gym.

Comfort is the criteria that surprised me the most. I had thought using the desk would feel arduous at first. However, standing was extremely comfortable for short bursts of activity. I recently also had to do a little hardware hacking, which was much easier on my back. Standing also eliminates the mini squat that comes in the transition from checking email to pacing with baby.

Performing tasks that took longer than 30 minutes was a different story. I started to get tired and fidgety, a problem that increased linearly with trips to the gym. I added a bar stool to the setup to alleviate some of the strain, but that is still not as comfortable as a decent ergonomic chair.

I felt very productive in my first few weeks with the standing desk, but this quickly regressed to the mean. I think comfort played directly into productivity. I could finish short tasks efficiently. Longer task inevitably resulted in either me wandering away, or unplugging and finishing from the couch (when possible). Also, something about standing facilitates collaboration, but it felt like any deep discussion required sitting down. Some people claim to think better while standing, but that does not appear to be the case for me.

The bottom line is that neither situation is ideal. If the working environment is truly important to you, I think the best bet is to splurge and get both a quality ergonomic chair and a motorized sit-stand desk. The real health risk is in maintaining any one position for too long. I find that moving around helps productivity as well. A change of position is good for both body and soul.