PhD Student Tries Standing Desk for the First Time

Ever wonder what it’s really like to implement a standing desk into your work flow?

We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Tyrel, who is currently living in Montreal and completing his first year of a PhD in Statistics. Having just started this past January, he found out pretty quickly that he wasn’t too keen on spending his whole day sitting for long hours at a time.

We got to talk to him a bit more about the details of his job, what it’s like to use a standing desk regularly and his commitment to integrating more movement into his days.


Q: What is something interesting about your work that not many people would know?

A: Statistics are playing an increasingly important role in everyday life, from image recognition to driving business decisions, and even understanding the complexity of sports. I'm not sure most people are aware that a lot of what we talk about in terms of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are based on ideas and techniques developed in statistics.


Q: How much time do you have to work at the computer each day?

A: I am at my desk 7 to 10 hours a day and the majority of that time is spent on the computer.


Q: What has your experience been like using the sit-stand desk? Best things? Worst things? New things?

A: The experience has been great. The number one noticeable difference is way less back pain and stiffness in my neck. The next best benefit is increased energy and focus. I find that I am more productive and standing up all day keeps me in an active mood. I find it easier to pursue active activities with my time away from work as well. 

I guess the first week adjusting to the standing desk was the worst. I didn't ease into standing as much as I thought I would; I tired out quickly and found it hard to stay focused.

The way that I use the standing desk is primarily for coding and I find it absolutely perfect. Coding is all about finding flow and being engaged with the micro-problems at hand. Standing up seems to really help me get into the zone and it keeps me on task.

 Standing Desk. Fitneff Canada


Q: What differences have you noticed between before and after getting a sit-stand desk? 

A: Like I was saying, less soreness and stiffness, more energy and focus, and more motivation to make other healthy choices in my life. It would be hard to pin all of these lifestyle changes on the standing desk alone, but it has definitely had an impact on me making healthier eating choices and prioritizing mobile transit to work (walking and biking). 


Q: What do you think some of the long-term benefits will be for you to integrate movement into your work day?

A: Huge benefits. I wanted to get a standing desk because I am at the beginning of my working life and haven't grown accustomed to any long-term workplace habits or norms yet. I got my first office in January and the standing desk in March, so more than half of my office working life has been with a standing desk. Working standing up is completely normalized to me now and I wouldn't want to work any other way. If I retire at say 65, that would be 40 years of standing vs. 40 years of sitting. And like I said, incorporating standing and movement in my work routine has stopped me from feeling sluggish and motivated me to spend more of my non-working hours exercising and being active.


Q: Are there other things about your workplace or job that you do to integrate movement?

A: I’ve started to do a few push-ups and deep squats during the work day. 


Q: What are other things you would like to start doing to be healthier at the office?

A: I'd like to get an active lunch routine, maybe going to the gym before lunch.


Q: What other activities do you do to maintain your health and wellness?

A: Biking, recreational soccer, going to the gym, hockey, a little bit of tennis and badminton. Biking to work is a big one - the round trip is roughly 40-50 minutes and the way back comes with a nice hill to push up.


Q: Anything else that you would like to share that our readers would be interested in knowing? Hobbies? Sports? Travels?

A: The way I got into statistics was through Hockey Analytics. Hockey is a really interesting statistics problem because there are very few goals and it isn't structured nicely to be dissected like baseball or to a lesser extent basketball. I like trying to answer questions like "How do we know if a player is good" and "How can we predict future performance.”

I also really like studying languages. One of the reasons I came to Montreal was to be able to practice French on a daily basis. Now that I have a solid handle on French, I have been working on Spanish. I spent three weeks in South America last November and have been taking a few community classes to get a more solid grammatical foundation.


Q: Any recommendations or tips for other people that are in similar roles to you?

A: I would say switch sooner than later. Be smart about easing yourself into standing up. Spend some time making sure you have a good standing technique. Good ergonomic keyboards can go a long way.


Thanks for chatting with us Tyrel!

June 08, 2018 — Rachel Piers

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