How big is your office? Is it a tiny cubical or a part of an open plan benching system? Do you have a dedicated desk or plop into any available chair? Are you working from the comfort of home or are you alone in a corner office with a million-dollar view?
Whatever your office size or configuration, the area within your control is actually quite small. Full-time workers spend forty percent of their waking hours sitting within a space no larger than their own height. For the average person, if they spread their arms out to their side at shoulder height, that measurement would be about five and a half feet in diameter from fingertip to fingertip (nails not included).
If those numbers seem bleak, don’t despair. There is a way to make the most of every inch and every minute while you are at work. Just stand–with a sit-stand workstation.
Sure, the media has been full of reports about standing desks, sedentary behavior, and how regular exercise alone isn’t enough to keep us healthy; but a lot of people, employees and employers alike, seem to be missing the point. Not because they’re immune to the health risks of prolonged siting, but because they are reacting to assumptions that side-track them from the truth that they have become accustomed to an unnatural way of working and indeed, living.
Some comment that standing at a desk is nothing new; some bristle at having “one more thing to worry about,” while others delight in pointing out that standing too long is just as bad as sitting too long.
But what’s that got to do with you?
Given everything that you know about how it feels to be stuck at a computer for hours on end, why wouldn’t you consider standing? Especially in light of an episode called “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor” which aired last Thursday, October 17 on BBC Two television in the UK. The study, conducted by Dr. John Buckley at the University of Chester was built upon previous findings indicating that:
- Prolonged sitting causes damage to joints which can lead to inflammation, stress and chronic pain
- Prolonged sitting can lead to cardio-metabolic disease
- Sit-stand computer workstations have been proven by scientific research to be both feasible and effective at reducing sitting time in a work setting.
The BBC/University of Chester researchers found that both heart rate and energy expenditure were raised significantly by standing work. They speculate that over the course of a year’s work, if workers stood for three to four hours per day doing desk work, it would equate to an additional energy expenditure of 25,000 kcal (about 7lbs or 3 kg of human fat)!
Subjective evaluations found that 8 of 10 workers were very willing to stand doing work as long as they could have breaks and do some work sitting.
No least of all, the UK researchers stated that the simple act of performing desk work, while standing for greater than three hours after lunch, helps to lower blood glucose more quickly back down to normal levels.
The research is in…standing at the computer is both feasible healthier than sitting on its own. And the ability to modify your work surface height, depending on how you feel and the type of task you are doing gives you “decision latitude,” which in itself, is known to improve attitude and consequently, productivity.
Your office may be large or small, near to home or far away. With a sit-stand workstation, it doesn’t matter because you’re in charge. Own your work space. Own your life!
Ergonomics & Wellness Research Manager @ Ergotron