You may have heard that standing desks are a new fad sweeping the nation. While they now are becoming the norm in offices everywhere, standing desks themselves actually are not new. Influential figures throughout history have been using standing desks, dating back hundreds of years.
Leonardo Da Vinci, who gave us masterpieces like The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, preferred to work at a standing desk. Da Vinci is known for his work in fields ranging from sculpting and architecture to engineering and astronomy. No matter the subject matter, Da Vinci enjoyed the benefits of working and thinking while on his feet.
Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President of the United States, designed his own “tall desk” back in the late 1700s. The desk had a rotating table top that allowed Jefferson to quickly move between different texts he was studying. Jefferson also used the desk to draw up architectural blueprints. The author of the Declaration of Independence saw the benefits of standing while working well before modern medical studies started discovering them.
Now, a couple hundred years later, standing desks are making their way into the White House. Back in October 2015, the White House requested $700,000 for standing desks for its employees. That’s right, the most powerful man in the world and his team plan on standing while working.
Just a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, stopped by our offices and tried out the Rebel Desk for himself. While chatting with Rebel Desk’s CEO Kathleen Hale, Prime Minister Turnbull told her that he uses a standing desk in his own office. He loved taking a spin on our treadmill desk, which he had not tried before. Coincidentally, Prime Minister Turnbull was on his way to meet with Obama when we met him! Unfortunately, we heard it was a “sit down” meeting!
Former United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also was known as an avid standing desk user. Perhaps Secretary Rumsfeld was influenced by Thomas Jefferson’s “tall desk,” which reportedly still is in the State Department. He felt strongly enough about his standing routine that he made note of it in a 2002 memo on interrogation tactics. As reported by The Washington Post, Rumsfeld “scrawled” on the memo: “I stand for 8-10 hours a day . . . Why is standing limited to four hours?” In fact, those who worked with Secretary Rumsfeld said that he did not even have a chair in his office.
In addition to Jefferson, Secretary Rumsfeld may have been taking cues from Napoleon, another standing desk user. The list of leaders throughout history who were early standing desk users goes on, including Benjamin Franklin, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, and Sir Winston Churchill. These are some of the greatest minds in the history of humankind. Increased productivity, creativity, and more focus have been recognized benefits of standing while working for over 600 years!
Fortunately today the benefits of standing while working are becoming so well-known that everyone in the office can experience the difference. Far from being a fad, standing desks are an old idea whose time for wide-spread adoption has finally come.