It's been nearly a year since I went on the Gemba Research Japan Kaikaku Experience, where I toured several world-class operations and came away with innumerable ideas. Links to all of my tour reports and lessons are here, but one concept I especially liked was the stand up desk. Only a week or two after I returned I put my traditional executive furniture set into storage and after considerable workspace 5S converted to a simple stand up desk.
I'm happy to say that I still enjoy standing up. In fact, I wouldn't have it any other way. I believe my productivity has increased considerably, I spend far more time walking around to other areas of the operation instead of daydreaming in front of a computer, and the limited desk space has forced me to
continually 5S my workflow. That, by the way, has led to other personal productivity programs such as "inbox:0" and then "mailbox:0" which have been incredibly liberating.
Yes my knees and feet hurt for a few days, maybe even a week or two, but I rapidly got past that. Having a small foot stool underneath the desk helps a lot. And I do have a chair next to my phone so I can sit while on long calls. I'll also admit to moving my laptop to my small conference table and sitting when I have a long report or analysis to work on. Another side effect has been that I really hate sitting… anywhere. Long
drives, plane rides, and the like are more laborious. You want to just get up and move around!
Sure some people initially thought I was nuts. Some still do. But many took the plunge and also tried standing up. Quite a few actually. And after a year I believe I
know of only one or two that have gone back to sitting. This was an entirely optional program with absolutely no incentive to try it or consequences for going back to a traditional desk.
When our machine shop had a some slow days they took a hard look at my purchased stand up desk and came up with an inexpensive design. Even after a high quality desktop, some high-end powder coating, and improved bracing it was still considerably less than our regular cube furniture. Some people kept their regular desk in addition to the stand up model for when they had longer projects or calls.
Most of the supervisor and technician desks on the production floors have been converted to stand up, but that was an easy change as most of the production operators stand up anyway. One unexpected side effect was that the reduced footprint required by a stand up desk freed up considerable production and office floorspace. Pretty soon our machine shop was shipping their new "product" to our other facilities.
Some of our cubical dwellers even got in on the action by ratcheting up their desks, which was surprisingly easy to do. We did invest in several cushioned pads to reduce fatigue.
Yes, some need to do a bit of a better job 5S-ing their workspace! But overall the new concept has been a success, and has changed many aspects of how we operate.