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I was previously the Technical Director for EVE Online at CCP Games in Iceland. Before that, I worked as a Senior Technical Artist at BioWare Austin on Star Wars: The Old Republic. I am the author of Practical Programming in Autodesk Maya. I also founded www.tech-artists.org. Rob is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 53 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Adjustable standing desks should be mandatory

05.26.2014
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At CCP’s Iceland office, everyone’s desk is able to adjust into a sitting or standing position. I don’t know who decided this perk. It must have been a huge expense. Adjustable sit/stand desks are already expensive in the USA, and in Iceland I’m sure they were three to five times more expensive. Until recently I thought it was required by law! This is quite an investment for each worker, but in my opinion, well worth it for a wide variety of reasons, from health to programming. Why?

  • Lots of people want to try a standing desk but don’t want to be “that guy” who asks for an expensive piece of equipment but doesn’t use it. Having an adjustable desk by default removes barriers to entry.
  • Seeing people stand (and talk about how much better it is) becomes viral. I watched it catch on at work over a few years to where everyone in certain areas is doing it. This wouldn’t have been possible without everyone already having adjustable desks.
  • Standing for part of the day completely fixed my sciatica (lower back/hip/butt pain). It also apparently has lots of other health benefits.

Okay, but “health of your workers” is a pretty nebulous concept, and in America, a business’ job is to make money for shareholders, not, like, improve society! Why would Donald Sterling want to buy black employees adjustable desks in addition to cars and houses?

  • It helped me concentrate. I was able to work faster while standing. Standing is time for working. I don’t know if this is universal, but I certainly didn’t see many people playing games or getting lost in a “YouTube hole” (as a friend puts it) while standing.
  • Pair programming and over-the-shoulder reviews were incredibly more effective while standing, even with people of different heights. Standing, I could pair easily with pretty much anyone, from a good friend to an interviewee. I was able to mentor far more effectively since standing felt like such a more natural way to collaborate.
  • Even if you don’t like pair programming (have you tried pairing while standing?), being able to program and edit code collaboratively during a code review is, IMO, a requirement. Standing code reviews were more effective than sitting. More issues got uncovered and more knowledge was transferred.

How do I know all these things? Well, when I transferred to the Atlanta office, I no longer had an adjustable desk (or a sensible healthcare system, but that’s another matter). Suddenly, reviews with people I was very comfortable with and worked with previously felt rushed and unpleasant. They were done while leaning over (“when can I get my crotch out of this other person’s face“), or sitting together (“oh god we keep brushing knees“).

Pair programming, which is the foundation of the way I mentor (and learn), was basically ineffective. No one programs well at an angle to the monitor, and people mistype constantly if the keyboard is not in a natural spot. It’s difficult to share knowledge or equipment in such an awkward situation.

If you want a vibrant and dynamic engineering culture, standing desks are a must. I view them as fundamental to a programming team as decent workstations and SSDs.

Real studies about adjustable desks are difficult to find. This 538 analysis is promising: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/i-stand-corrected-about-the-best-kind-of-desk/. Otherwise, it is very easy to find endless anecdotes about the usefulness of adjustable desks. Start with the 538 article’s comments if you don’t know anyone!

Published at DZone with permission of Rob Galanakis, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

Comments

Dave Glasser replied on Mon, 2014/05/26 - 1:29pm

"If you want a vibrant and dynamic engineering culture, standing desks are a must."

I nominate that sentence for the Idiotic Statement of the Year Award.

Crap like this caused me to drift away from Javalobby years ago. I recently decided to start checking it again, and it looks like very little has changed.

Dave Glasser replied on Mon, 2014/05/26 - 8:18pm

"Okay, but “health of your workers” is a pretty nebulous concept, and in America, a business’ job is to make money for shareholders, not, like, improve society!"

What a smug, pompous European jackwad. If Iceland is so damn morally superior to the U.S., WHY ARE YOU HERE?

Dave Glasser replied on Mon, 2014/05/26 - 8:52pm

"Well, when I transferred to the Atlanta office, I no longer had an adjustable desk (or a sensible healthcare system, but that’s another matter)."

If you don't think the U.S. has a sensible healthcare system, then, again, WHY ARE YOU HERE? Why does CCP even have offices over here? Aren't there enough talented people around the world who are willing to move to Iceland for you do everything over there?

I'll probably lose my decade-old Javalobby account over this, but if it's going to provide a forum for bloviating Euro-twits to insult America, I don't give a rat's ass.

Is Rick Ross still the boss around here? If so, hey Rick, would you please try to to keep the content on this site about technology?

This guy can't even write a stupid post about office furniture without dragging politics and his anti-U.S. bias into it.

Rob Galanakis replied on Tue, 2014/05/27 - 1:54pm in response to: Dave Glasser

Hi Dave, thank you for your constructive and enlightening comments! You seem like a real swell, open-minded, healthy guy. Where in Europe are you from?

Dave Glasser replied on Tue, 2014/05/27 - 2:06pm in response to: Rob Galanakis

"Where in Europe are you from?"

 What makes you think I'm from Europe?

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