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Office-chair Experiments

I’m a big fan of self-improvement, and one aspect of that is to analyze re-evaluate your routines. If there’s a task or situation you encounter every single day, the cumulative benefits of doing it better is hard to overestimate. So one thing I have been experimenting with for a while is how to sit at my desk.

I have two divergent research streams here. The first is the less serious one. I started novice unicycling last year, and it was pretty hard. You have a lot to learn before you can even sit on it without falling over. Naturally this would be great to practice at my desk every day. Beyond that the immense balance required should force excellent posture. So I began to sit on my unicycle at my desk, instead of sitting on a boring old chair which provides instead of demands balance. It’s good, but since I’m not great with the unicycle too much weight is on my tail-bone, and it gets sore after an hour or so. Here’s a picture of me at my desk:

Coding Business Logic
Coding Business Logic

But you’re probably wondering, what’s with the suit? The main drawback of the unicycle office-chair is that I kept putting my elbows on the desk to support my weight. In small amounts it’s not much of an issue, but at times I was leaning on my desk and leaving very little balancing to the unicycle. Not only does this increase the risk of slipping off, but it ruins the balance and posture benefits of sitting on a unicycle. So I also tried seeing what office attire would discourage that. The suit did make it harder to divert my weight, but it comes with an air of decadent complacency which makes me want to just sit down at a desk like any normal person (then laugh maniacally). Today I tried wearing the attire of the former office manager, who was a bit more casual, but the Hawaiian shirt provides negligible support and the bare feet end up sore when taking all of my weight on the hard plastic pedals of the unicycle. The best combination so far has easily been the plate armor on the unicycle, as the rigid steel cuirass prevents resting the upper body on the desk without compromising balance. This is an ideal which sadly, I cannot recommend to deploy widely. Plate armor is expensive, and most offices would find better NPV from hoping that no-one in the office develops back problems until retirement. Unicycles aren’t easy to deploy either, requiring some training before you can sit comfortably on them at a desk. So while I won’t be telling HR to upgrade everyone to this ideal, I will be among the lucky few with such an innovative and safe working posture (because not only am I mitigating back pains and sedentary risks, but I’m wearing armor!).

The serious research stream? I don’t actually sit at a desk anymore. I switched to a standing desk. This was also a factor in choosing to explore the unicycle, as sitting on a unicycle elevates me slightly higher than standing and works with a standing desk. I have begun to perceive sitting as an unnatural comfort, and while I like unnatural things I’m not always comfortable with comfort. Standing, at least when I’m trying to work, is comfortable enough to maintain for long periods but not so comfortable that I begin to sink into a restful state. It’s also better for posture, and for expressing my boundless energy through the constant fidgeting that I’ve heard helps combat the health risks of being sedentary. Not to mention no more inconvenience of having to sit down just to type something. In the future, I can even save on the chair budget with this approach! I’ve been sold on the standing desk idea, and now laugh inwardly when someone offers for me to sit down. They think they’re making me more comfortable, but in reality it is I who is making them more comfortable.

So the unicycle is usually off on the side, and I merely stand at the desk like so:

Defensive Programming at Work
Defensive Programming at Work

Update June 2015: I have now applied my recent experience in centering images in WordPress to this older post.

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