I write this as I walk. No, I'm not one of those people who are on their BlackBerry when they should be looking where they're going. Or I might be, but not right now. I'm in a regular office at a regular computer, working on a story and walking. Much like many of my stories, I'm not actually going anywhere. I'm on a treadmill, which has been combined with a desk.
The treadmill desk could be the most useful juxtaposition since PEOPLE magazine put a scratch-and-sniff patch on its Sexiest Men Alive pictures. Like the holy grail of time savers, the walking desk doubles down on the stuff you have to do, freeing you up for the things you want to do--specifically, not work and not exercise. But can it be so simple? Could office work be, as the brochure puts it, "a moving experience"? I spent a few days on a Steelcase Walkstation, one of several desk-treadmill combos available, to find out.
The desk has two parts: a table with adjustable height--low for when you're sitting, high for when you're walking or standing, superhigh for when you need to rest your chin on the wrist pad--and the treadmill, which is operated by buttons on the desk. It's nifty, simple and about $5,000 total, so some people have MacGyvered setups like it on their own. The first thing it does after you turn it on is ask your weight, which is a little confrontational. It then asks your weight every time you use it, as if to say, "Jeez, still?" Visitors--you get more office drop-bys when you have a weird walking desk than when you have doughnuts--sweetly avert their eyes as the weight question comes up. Apart from that, my week using it was not unlike a regular workweek. Here's the, ahem, rundown:
10:40 a.m. fist attempt at typinf. Not tp=oo bad, but have to lool at fingers so am probsblt mzking a bnck of mistqkes. (Decide to retranscribe at end of each session.)
11:01 a.m. Neighbor drops by to see what the pounding noise is. Wonders if today was the best day for me to wear heels. Thinks desk needs a TV. I explain to her I'm working.
11:25 a.m. IT guy wants me to charge money for people to use desk, "like gyms do." I explain to him that I'm actually working. (Sometimes, scanning the Internet for funny videos, I note, is my job.)
11:40 a.m. Woo-hoo! Burn through one hour, 1.19 miles and 106 calories. And some work. Sort of.
11:58 a.m. Rev her up to 1.4 m.p.h. Now in sneakers, have gone from making clompy we're-marching-on-Jericho sounds to squeaky the-gerbil's-stuck-under-the-couch-again sounds. Neighbors tolerant--so far.
12:22 p.m. Notice a warning sticker. Turns out I've already broken several Walkstation rules: I neglected to consult a physician before using, adjusted desk height while moving, did not keep items in close reach and, most egregiously, did not avoid distraction.
2:13 p.m. Read in brochure that one client likes to hold meetings while at her Walkstation. Must try that.
3:45 p.m. Chief of reporters comes by. I ask if we can have a meeting in my office. She laughs. Environment reporter wants to know if I'm powering the computer with the treadmill. Sheesh. "I'm working," I say.