Apple’s CEO Tim Cook described sitting as the new cancer, and using a treadmill desk is perhaps the easiest way of reducing the amount of sitting – at least in an office environment. As most novel technologies treadmill desks has the classic celebrity endorsement (Victoria Beckham), and is expected to become a unicorn billion dollar business as it enters the workplace.
In this blog post I will share setup, experiences (since February 2015) and thoughts about primarily using a treadmill desk as a Software Engineer in a startup.
1. My Threadmill Desk Office Setup
The table below describes my treadmill desk setup from the floor and up.
|Floor Sound Insulation – Acoustiblok (3 mm thick)||Treadmills can be noisy – both within the office and to office neighbours in the floor below in high-resonance buildings (e.g. old concrete buildings). Acoustiblok – a NASA spinnoff product – is perhaps the best sound insulation, recommend having a look at the demo video above.|
|Treadmill Protective Mat – X-Erfit (6 mm thick)||This protects the (rather expensive) Acousticbloc from being destroyed|
|LifeSpan TR1200-DT3 Standing Desk Treadmill||The treadmill.|
|LifeSpan TR1200-DT7 Standing Desk||The motorized desk (for adjusting height) that has control panel for the treadmill|
|Macbook Pro 15″ Computer||Where all the Deep Learning and XCode/Swift/Metal magic happens (or is supposed to happen..)|
|AOC U2868PQU 28″ UHD 4K 3840×2160 LED Monitor||28 inch screen|
2. Experiences using a treadmill desk
Being the self-appointed lab rat of a small software engineering team, and curious about treadmill desks we bought a LifeSpan TR1200-DT7 Desktop Treadmill (perhaps the first of several) in February 2015. As opposed to its faster siblings – treadmills found at gyms – desk treadmills have a way more soothing speed level. The typical desk treadmill speed is between 0.7 to 3 km/hour (roughly approx. 0.4 – 2 miles/hour), so a relatively slow walking pace, but infinitely faster than sitting on an office chair. I believe a good analogy is that Tai Chi or slow-paced Yoga would be equivalent to the the desk treadmill, and treadmills at gym would be more like Kung Fu or Rocket Yoga.
The table below describes various tasks I do and how it fits or not fit doing on the treadmill desk (subjectively speaking):
|Regular Coding||Writing code and tests (Python, Swift/Metal and the occasional shell script) works nicely on the treadmill desk in 80-90% of the cases (see algorithmic coding for the remaining 10-20%). Optimal speed for this task is around 2.0 km/hour|
|Algorithmic Coding and Thinking||If I’m at full concentration working on heavy algorithmic stuff (i.e. working at or close to my mental capacity :), I prefer to not do that on the treadmill desk and rather use the office sofa. Not sure why this is the case, but believe it might be 2 reasons: 1) simultaneous capacity being stretched (both walking and thinking very hard), 2) thinking very hard creates a lot of energy – and heat – and walking in addition creates even more energy.I think best with a whiteboard in near proximity, and haven’t found a good solution to combining the treadmill desk with whiteboard so far (believe there is room for production innovation here)|
|Writing||Writing emails, documents, papers, blog posts and various administrative tasks works usually nicely on the treadmill desk. Optimal speed for this task is around 2.0 km/hour|
|Discussing with team mates||Brief discussions works with team mates (who – for now – sits at regular desks) works nicely while I’m on the treadmill desk, but I prefer to slow down the speed a bit (perhaps to 0.7-1 km/hour). For longer discussions I prefer to sit down at my regular desk (which is still there).|
|Skype, Phone and other Meetings||Skype and Phone (without Video Conference part) or equivalent I can do at slow pace (0.7-1 km/hour) on the treadmill desk, but usually I prefer to do them offmill (is that a new term?)|
3. The future of treadmill desk for Software Engineers
Believe there is tons of innovation and product opportunities related to treadmill desks (e.g. combine it with whiteboards).
On the visual experience – perhaps replacing the screen -side virtual reality related technologies such as Microsoft HoloLens or Facebook’s Oculus Rift can become an interesting combination with treadmill desks (perhaps making Star Trek holodecks a reality).
Given the rapid advances in Deep Learning for Speech Recognition on might even get rid of the keyboard (and the desk!) eventually, even though I believe using speech recognition for coding is still a bit cumbersome (but Tavis Rudd shows some impressive coding by voice in the video above).
Given my highly positive experiences using a treadmill desk as a Software Engineer, I’m pretty sure that this will become a default part of an engineer’s office rig in the near future. Since I also enjoy being a software engineer lab rat related to treadmill desks, I more than happy to try out gear that can enhance the experience, so feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have ideas or gears in that direction!