Sitting vs Standing Desks: Finding the right balance

For a while now we have known that sitting for long periods every day is bad for your health. People who sit for more than 11 hours each day are 40% more likely to die in the next few years than those spend less time in a seated position.

Alternatives such as standing desks have grown in popularity with studies showing they promote a healthy workplace, make employees feel cared about and have a positive effect on productivity.

However, a pilot study from the University of Sydney has noted that standing desks can also cause problems for workers if they spent too much time standing, especially without practice.

“We know that as people work standing up for too long, there is certain harms associated with that as well.” Dr Josephine Chau told ABC’s AM

“So if you work for extended periods of time standing and without moving, for example, one of the risks are things like varicose veins or maybe even lower back-ache.”

The key to successfully promoting standing as part of a healthy office is to use electronic sit-stand desks which allow workers to shift their position in seconds, allowing a gradual of the amount of time spent standing, as well as to provide a variety of work zones to promote workers remaining active by moving around the office, drinking more water and walking to talk rather than always emailing.

Positives

More energy: many users report that standing gives them additional energy and helps with concentration.  Standing has also been shown to improve metabolism greatly over sitting.

Extra Focusmany users also not that a standing desk helps them to focus and concentrate more. This can really help individuals who get distracted, especially when in the lounging/slumping mode of a poorly ergonomically matched office chair.

Back Reliefmany people have back pain from sitting or slouching in chairs at work, in the car and then in front of the TV at home can be greatly alleviated by spending a good portion of the day standing which generally improves posture.

Reduce FatigueIn one 7 week study, participants using standing desks reported less stress and fatigue, with around 87% of those using standing desks reporting increased vigour and energy, but these effects were reversed when they went back to sitting.

Calorie BurnStanding burns more calories than sitting, which is always a bonus. But don’t think standing alone can replace your gym session or afternoon runs. The benefits in calorie burning are only marginal. But every little bit counts!

Drawbacks

A sore start If you have been spending more than half your life sitting, transitioning to spending more time upright can be a bit of a shock to the body. Standing desk users complain about sore legs, feet and calves.  The best way to combat this pain is to take it slow at the start, standing for longer and longer periods until your muscles have the time to build themselves up.

Potential DamageWhilst for some a standing desk is the ticket to back relief. If you are standing and get caught in poor postural habits this can cause real, lasting damage to your back, knees and ankles.

Screen AlignmentWith so many people now working off laptops, using a laptop in a standing configuration can cause either the arms or the head to be mis-aligned when in a standing position. Most smart workplaces offer docks to connect an external monitor with height adjustment and keyboard to attach to the laptop to allow proper ergonomic alignment.

Shoe ChoicesOne of the key factors in making standing a successful part of your work routine is finding some comfortable shoes. For ladies, in particular, this can create some problems fitting in with the dress policy. Forget wearing heels if you are standing all day. But consider slipping them off and just wearing socks if you can get away with it. A compression matt can also help relieve the pressure.

The periscope effectOne seldom mentioned drawback of standing, especially in an open plan office is that you are towering above most of your co-workers. This might be great for collaboration, but a downside when you want to sink into your pod for focus. Instead you will be sticking out like a sore thumb.