A stand-up idea in the workplace

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Jan. 26, 2012, 11:46 p.m. | About Kyiv — by Olga Rudenko

Sergey Petrenko, CEO of Yandex Ukraine, works standing in his office in Odesa.
© Courtesy

Olga Rudenko

Ernest Hemingway and Nikolay Gogol would be pleased.

Both literary classics liked working while standing up at a special desk, and modern office workers are starting to realize that their habit made a lot of sense for health reasons. A common thing just a century ago, stand-up writing desks are very exotic in our era of soft rolling seats.

And in Ukraine even more so than in the West, where health-conscious workers are frequently exposed to new studies pointing out short life expectancy and an array of illnesses that haunt those who spends more than six hours per day sitting down.

Sergey Petrenko, CEO of Yandex in Ukraine, is one of those few who has converted to standing in his office two years ago. “I can’t really say what made me think of trying the standing way. But once I tried I realized how convenient it was,” Petrenko says.

He spends about 60 percent of his time at his standing desk, while the rest of the time he lounges on a bean bag, cuddling his laptop.

The bean bag is also one of the chosen alternatives of some of the workers of Global Logic, a software development company in Kyiv. Their office is famous for its unusual design. Their kitchenettes are stylized as bars, while their reception area looks like a cozy patio.

To move from one part of office to another, they use child scooters, and their floor is marked with realistic road markings.

There is a game zone in their office, too, complete with a climbing wall.

The whole office is designed to make an unusual and comfortable working environment, but they have not quite got to standing up desks.

An employee of Global Logic uses a scooter to move inside the Kyiv office.
(Kostyantyn Chernichkin)

Petrenko, however, advocates this type of work space in the office for many reasons. One of them is to get more exercise, while others are practical.

He claims that standing allows him to use more space to get to the distant parts of his desk, or “working station”, as he calls it.

“I take a small step and get to a totally different working zone,” he says.

He also says that although standing can be tiring, the tiredness dissipates quite soon. “It didn’t take long to get used to standing. It feels better working like this, feels lively,” Petrenko says.

But stand-uppers like him are still pretty unique.

Olesya Putina, a manager of Kyiv Recruit Alliance agency, is surprised to hear questions about standing up trends in offices. “We’ve never had a request to recruit staff for stand-up offices,” she says.

In Petrenko’s office in Odesa, several people are thinking of following in his footsteps. But those who do end up with a problem of buying a table that would service their choice.

In the U.S. and Europe, there is an enormous choice of stand-up desks, from simple ones by IKEA starting at $149 to exclusive models imitating old bureaus for more than $1,000 per piece. In Ukraine, however, it would be tricky to find such a desk.

Petrenko says he had to order his work station with adjustable height on special terms, and waited for a while before it was delivered from abroad.

Roman Nuhymzon, a Simferopol native who works as a purchasing manager for an engineering company, offers another choice.

Three years ago he took up a hobby of making stand up desks with adjustable height. “I made the first desk for myself. But it was expensive to buy materials for a single desk, so I made a couple more, and almost immediately there were people willing to buy those,” says Nuhymzon.

He tested his creation, and adjusted blueprints to make a perfect desk, which he then patented under the brand name “Mensa.” But he is struggling to sell his desks, mostly online. So far, only four people have come to him, seeking for a suitable piece of furniture to accommodate their new chosen working style.

But Nuhymzon has big expectations for the future of stand-up desks, not in the least because sitting offices are so deadly – quite literally.

The New York Times magazine ran an article last year, describing a study of 123,000 Americans.

It turned out that the death rate for those who spent six or more hours a day sitting was significantly higher than for those who sit for three hours or less. For men, the difference is 20 percent, while for women – it’s whopping 40 percent.

This study is far from unique, but there are plenty of skeptics about the alternative.

American author Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) liked to write while standing up. (AFP)

Kostyantyn Zelensky, a family doctor from Kyiv, is one of them: “Physiologically it is not healthy at all.

Even worse than sitting, actually. If one has genetically determined diseases like varicose veins and arthritis than standing can worsen them.” Zelensky says the best thing is to take a break every 20 minutes for some physical exercises if your work is sedentary.

Kyiv Post staff writer Olga Rudenko can be reached at

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