Working At Home Sitting/Standing Cycle

In the past few months of working from home I started having aches and pain around my shoulder and chest area. I have a rising desk that allows me sit and stand like I’ve been doing in the office with the sit/stand keyboard tray (side note: getting it mounted gave us a bit of amusement; story for another day). I couldn’t really think of what I was doing differently between the home and the office. Then one day at the DS|CAFE Discord server we had a discussion on how office interruptions is actually beneficial to ones productivity.

During the start of 2020 I started working from home. It started off when I need to work from home for 3 weeks; because, my parents were going on vacation and I needed to watch my youngest. The Friday before my boss told me to join up with a new project where the devs are based in Jackson, MS and Manchester, England. In the two weeks since my parents returned, and when our whole office started working remote because of COVID-19, I only went to the office four times.

The discussion at DS|Cafe got me thinking on whether office interruptions actually forced me from having my body positioned in one place for long stretches of time. When I taught about it, I realized that even though I was rotating between sitting and standing the intervals tend to be a couple hours in between. I would be focused in what I was doing that even though I was feeling the tiredness from being in one spot I was ignoring it. This lead to the hypothesis that maybe I was actually overstraining my muscles to hold one position for too long.

The same discussion led to some people in the server to congregate in the Pomodoro-timed voice channel. From what I observed, it provided people an opportunity to have a regular work/break interval and provided the “office noise” virtually. I feel it also provided people someone to spend the break times with. For that server the Pomodoro timer is set to a 20/10 cycle to give people opportunity to come or leave for meetings they have to attend. In short, it’s become the closest copy of a physical office/co-working space given that the usual “office spaces” are mostly closed. There’s also a text-only channel where text-to-speech mode is enabled for the bot for those that don’t want to join the voice channel, like me.

I opted to stay in the text channel; for two reasons: First, Discord video stream on top of running Microsoft’s RDP client was taxing my laptop’s GPU (it’s not the best; but, it works for my needs). Second, I like to play have all my stuff on one device and I don’t want to bother anyone because I forgot to mute myself.

For the 1st experiment what I did was I would stand during the 20 minute work cycle and sit during the break. This brought relief to the aches in my shoulder, neck, and chest area; however, it increased the ache in my lower back very close to where I had surgery. So, that wasn’t going to work.

For the 2nd experiment, I used the 10 minute break to transition to either sitting or standing. This gave me a cycle of 20 minute sitting or standing and the 10 minute break in between to adjust my standing desk up or down. This got rid of the aches and pains; however, I felt following a Pomodor-based 20/10 cycle was too restrictive given all the stuff I have to do during the day between work and home-related tasks.

For the 3rd experiment, I decided to get a Pomodoro timer app and set a 25/5 cycle. However, given that the Pomodor work cycle is designed to track focus worked, the app was designed in a way to cater to that work style. This then made it somewhat challenging to “reset” the clock if you will if I’m having to transition between work or home-related tasks given the time of day.

The flow that I ended up with was to have a 25-minute timer to limit how long I’m sitting and standing. I find this system a good fit for me since the cycle is not attached to a task; it was attached to my body’s general position. When the 25 minute timer rang I switch to sitting or standing mode. I would either take a short–untimed–break; or, shift over to a home-related task that needs to be dealt with. When I’m doing something that didn’t necessarily fit in the 25 minutes cycle I would just take the extra minutes necessary to get it done and walk away. Interruptions in the home where also easier for me to deal with mentally; since, I’m not in a “must stay on task” mindset all the time.

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