February 12, 2020

Standing Up for Well-Being

BY: James “Rob” Elliott

After reading through the Virginia State Bar’s Publication The Occupational Risks of the Practice of Law (the “Wellness Report”) last year, my eyes were opened to the importance that well-being plays in an attorney’s life. One of the focus areas in that report is the sedentary nature of working as a lawyer. Whether you’re working on depositions, contracts, legal briefs, or articles for the Docket Call, most of that time is spent seated and in front of your computer. Even trial lawyers have their fair share of sitting and waiting in the courtroom for their case. The Wellness Report recommends the use of a standing desk in the office as a method to combat that sedentary lifestyle. With the promise of a better tomorrow fresh in my mind, I purchased two standing desks for my office, one for myself and one for my paralegal. The days of sedentary office work were coming to an end.

Being my first year as a Co-Chair of the Wellness Committee, I felt that I needed to know, first-hand, the benefits that a standing desk could provide. It is recommended to spend roughly 1 hour standing for every 1 to 2 hours of sitting each day. I’ve been trying to hit those numbers, but it is far more difficult than you might imagine. When long meetings and long dockets take up time, it requires a real effort to stay on my feet once I am back at my desk.

I will say that in the time that I have spent using my standing desk, I have seen a noticeable difference in my work productivity and overall mood. I am far less inclined to do any kind of time wasting when I know that I’d actually have to stand up to do it. Scrolling through social media or reading some irrelevant article are activities getting pushed to other less important times of the day or sometimes removed from the schedule completely.

Before I had my standing desk, sometimes working all day in front of the computer felt like being trapped; chained to the screen with no ability to get up and go somewhere else. Obviously, that wasn’t true, but the mental block in my head made me feel like walking around or stepping away from the task at hand would only put me further behind. With the standing desk, it almost feels like I’m taking a break when I’m getting on my feet. The work keeps getting done, I can move around more freely, and I am much more inclined to go grab another file or research book that I may need. Previously, I would try to bunch a few trips together so I wouldn’t have to get up as often. The standing desk removes the most difficult part: actually standing up.

Finally, by the time I make it home, that absent-minded calorie burn throughout the day makes it easier to relax and drift off to sleep. It is far easier to forget all the legal issues of the day when your feet are pounding and you can’t wait to lay down. Standing up during the day isn’t going to solve all health and mental issues, but it is an excellent start. The knowledge that you are making the effort can be just the motivation that you need to push through the day and continue to jump start your better life as a lawyer.

About the Author

James “Rob” Elliott is a general practice attorney from Yorktown, Virginia. He is the Owner and Managing Attorney for the Law Office of James R. Elliott.