Man was not meant to sit at a desk alone

A brief conversation with a good friend last night brought to mind a topic my wife and I happen upon with some regularity: The sedentary nature of so many of our modern workplaces — namely sitting at a desk in front of a computer for most if not all of the workday — is detrimental to our health, both mentally and physically.

I knew going into my current job I would be challenged by the amount of non-mobile hours; I knew it was a desk job. Nonetheless, I counted the cause worthy of the challenge and have found myself behind a desk for the better part of the last three years or so. I continue to like many aspects of the work and don’t regret my decision, and it hasn’t been as restless an experience as I feared. This, however, depends largely on my day to day schedule. The types of activities I find myself engaged in more or less determine whether or not a day feels productive or drags on and on and on.

Days when I’m in the office by myself are almost guaranteed to be long and feel unproductive. As an extrovert, I most certainly get my energy from being around other people. Eight hours alone in an office — even with NPR in the background — isn’t something I look forward to. My aforementioned friend was surprised to find himself in a similar situation after his company moved into a new building last year. The new structure is basically filled with cubicles. By contrast, his old workspace was intentionally communal, he told me, with desks out in the open and facing each other. He misses the personal contact which fostered, between he and his fellow graphic designers, a creative dialogue that spurred them on in their work. The move to cubicles was not advantageous for the company.


My own office space also lacks windows. There is a reason, believe it or not, people in the movies and comic strips covet corner offices with broad banks of windows. First off, we need sunlight to survive, let alone thrive and achieve peak production (which is what our CEOs are all about, right?). When I stand up to stretch, which isn’t often enough, I gravitate towards the vacant rooms with windows. One of these, the one with the best view of the western sky, is now rented unfortunately. It’s beyond me as to why office spaces are built without windows, or at the very least employ some way to get natural light into interior rooms.

All of this to say that eight-hour-a-day desk jobs seem inherently incompatible with the way humans were designed to operate and thrive. The ramifications of such idle careers are obvious: Obesity and other physical problems related to inactivity, eye strain and resulting headaches from computer monitors, and a recent article I came across suggested evidence that linked hemorrhoids to inactive lifestyles.

Any ideas on how to restructure the business world to allow for a more natural, if you will, corporate culture?


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

5 Responses to Man was not meant to sit at a desk alone

  1. Tim J. says:

    Too right! And the weird thing is, everybody knows this. People are pretty much very aware that cubicle life is unnatural and unhealthy, but no one seems able to do anything about it. It goes on under its own inertia.

    Same with the suburbs… they have helped to wreck city life (by drawing out families) and they are wasteful, in terms of fuel, time and space. Living over the shop would make a lot more sense.

    I am also a computer jockey, but I’m glad I work in an open office (similar to your friend) rather than in a blank, prefab cubicle like the one above. How dehumanizing.

    I’ve been meaning to comment since you posted the Ben Stein video. I made my kids watch it. I also loved the Brugel pieces.

  2. TAE says:

    You watched the Expelled trailer or film? To my knowledge the film isn’t out for another three weeks, and who knows if it will come to NW Arkansas . . .

  3. Tim J. says:

    I haven’t seen the film, but I have been aware of it. Likely I’ll have to catch it on DVD… er, that is, Blue Ray.

  4. TAE says:

    Bought into Blue-Ray have you? I’m hoping Netflix puts most of their films online so I don’t have to deal with discs at all . . .

  5. Tim J. says:

    Well, no, I haven’t bought into Blue-Ray, at least I haven’t spent anything on it yet.

    I have been thinking about a new laptop, but may spring for a refurbished i-phone instead.

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