What are the advantages and disadvantages of standing desks?
Standing desks – a worthwhile investment or an overpriced gimmick?
We’re here to look at the pros and cons of this popular ergonomic item and explain to you how to get started if you decide to invest in one.
Standing desks are becoming increasingly popular among professionals, for office and home working alike.
Standing workstations provide numerous advantages, including improved posture, better support for back pain, and increased productivity. These products can help to mitigate the negative effects of extended sitting, resulting in improved health and well-being. Which in the long term can contribute to overall job satisfaction.
Sedentary behaviour has been linked to musculoskeletal disorders, diabetes, heart disease and metabolic problems.
Starting to use a standing desk is one approach to avoid these problems and for employers, it ensures that they are complying with HSE regulations.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has explained that “Employers must protect workers from the risks of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) being caused or made worse by work.”
They also highlight that “As an employer, you must protect your workers from the health risks of working with display screen equipment (DSE), such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.”
Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of standing desks:
Advantages of standing desks
- Standing desks help the body stretch out, increase blood flow, and engage the core, glutes, and leg muscles, which relieves pain associated with sitting all day
- According to research, standing workstations can improve productivity and cognitive performance
- Users report feeling more energised and aware
- Long periods of sitting can be detrimental to health; standing can support better circulation and reduces the risk of health problems arising
- Standing desks can assist in increasing employee engagement. Employees are more engaged when their employer is concerned about their health, and providing a standing workstation is one method to invest in employee wellness
- Supports employers in complying with HSE regulations
Disadvantages of standing desks
- Standing for long periods of time can be as hamful to your health as sitting for long periods of time. It can cause tiredness, joint and back pain, musculoskeletal disorders, chronic pain and inflammation
- If you don’t pay attention to correct ergonomics, standing incorrectly, like sitting, can lead to bad posture
- Long-term studies on the influence of sit-stand workstations in the workplace are lacking
Well-designed workplaces and home offices, provide employees with the opportunity to choose from a variety of well-balanced working positions and allows for changes between these positions as often as they need.
Why businesses are investing in standing desks
The ongoing pandemic and the rise of home working have resulted in many employees ‘making do’ with temporary workstations for the past two years. Examples include their kitchen tables, sofas, and even children’s desks. Employers and employees alike are examining what the ideal workspace is; both for employee health and productivity. Flexible working is becoming the norm for many organisations; but how can employee wellbeing be ensured outside of an office environment?
Recent updates to the HSE guidelines state;
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations can apply to workers who:
- work at home on a permanent or long-term basis
- routinely split their time between their workplace and home (sometimes called hybrid working)
Many businesses have taken a stand (no pun intended) by implementing a variety of potential solutions to the problem of sitting, such as stand-up meetings, encouraging regular breaks for movement and websites and apps (and even a keyboard and mouse available) that remind you to take movement breaks at regular intervals.
However, standing desks can tackle the issue at its source: lifting your desk so that sitting isn’t the sole choice. Standing desks are becoming increasingly popular because they allow employees to sit or stand as much as they like during the day, however, regulating your sit stand work patterns is key to increasing wellbeing and reducing risks. The 20-8-2 rule, recommended by Professor Alan Hedge is a tried and tested method to achieve this.
Recent research on the advantages of standing desks
When compared to employees who sat at their desks as normal, office workers who utilised desks that could be modified for sitting or standing reported significant reductions in the amount of time they spent sitting, improved health, and improved work performance at the end of a year-long trial, as shown below.
A study including 146 office workers from the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust included giving 66 workers sit-stand workstations. These workers had to undergo training to urge them to sit less at work, which included an educational seminar, individual coaching sessions, and even a smart seat cushion that vibrated to remind them to stand.
The other group received no coaching and went about their business as usual. A device worn continually on the thigh was used to track everyone’s sitting and standing time at the start of the study, as well as 3, 6 and 12 months afterwards.
People sat for an average of 9.7 hours each day, including time spent at home, before the study began. People in the intervention group, on the other hand, began sitting far less throughout the course of the year than those in the control group. After 3 months, they spent 50 minutes per day less seated. Over time, that number increased. They sat for 64 minutes less than the control group after 6 months, and 82 minutes less after a year.
Another insightful study entitled ‘A detailed description of the short-term musculoskeletal and cognitive effects of prolonged standing for office computer work’ summarised;
“Standing is being used to replace sitting by office workers; however, there are health risks associated with prolonged standing. In a laboratory study involving 2 h prolonged standing discomfort increased (all body areas), reaction time and mental state deteriorated while creative problem-solving improved. Prolonged standing should be undertaken with caution.”
The proof is in the pudding – these interventions helped the workers from study 1 to get moving for almost 1.5 hours extra every day over a year. However, the evidence from study 2 suggests that workplace standing should be implemented with care.
Standing desks improve physical health and productivity
As you can see, evidence supports the benefits of standing desks and flexible workstations.
Standing desks can help employees to be more productive and perform better, as well as overall improved wellbeing. They also mitigate the negative effects of lengthy periods of sitting, lowering the risk of musculoskeletal disorders, diabetes, heart disease and metabolic problems.
Are you or your organisation prepared to make the change? One of the best investments you can make for employee health and wellbeing is incorporating effective ergonomic equipment, such as a standing desk into the workplace. Browse our range to choose a model that meets your specific requirements!
What are the health problems associated with using standing desks
According to studies, standing for an extended period of time poses several health hazards. Consider this: if you are continually standing, you will most likely become more exhausted. Approach standing desks with care and for any extra advice contact our friendly team.
You may not be able to stand for long periods of time if you already have any health or mobility concerns. The following are some of the very real issues linked with the use of sit-stand desks:
- Standing for long periods of time might cause lower back pain due to disc compression. Long periods of sitting or standing can cause back pain and discomfort. Your lower back will be better supported if you also utilise an ergonomic chair. Check out our range of chairs here
- Standing can exacerbate postural issues, especially if you already have problems with your posture
- Standing for an extended period of time can cause varicose veins, blood pooling in the legs and feet, and swollen and painful feet. It’s important to consider a range of movements to help circulation
Invest in ergonomics
Even when standing, suitable ergonomics are required. It’s easier to transition from sitting to standing when you use adjustable chairs. Specific stools can also help you achieve a sit-stand position, which puts your spine in a natural S curve and distributes pressure evenly throughout your lower body. The backless design, on the other hand, is not for everyone, and it may be best suited to areas where employees meet for collaboration sessions or breaks.
Consider utilising an anti-fatigue mat while standing to give your body a more comfortable experience.
Our standing desk recommendation
Our most popular standing desk is the ‘Yo-Yo Desk Pro 1’. The ‘Yo-Yo Desk Pro 1’ comes in a range of colour options and features include:
- Robust steel frame extendable to multiple widths. (Silver, White & Black)
- Powered by Single Motor fitted with SilentMotion™ technology
- Lift capacity of 70kg. Maximum height adjustment to 124cm (incl. desktop) so designed for user heights up to 185cm (6’ 1”)
- Energy efficient: switched-mode power supply
- Basic up-down control switch included.
- Desktop is made of MFC core with melamine finish and square edge detail
- ECO Packaging
- 5-year warranty
Chris Barlow explains how to set standing desks up
Our Head of Ergonomics Chris Barlow comes with a wealth of ergonomic knowledge and explains to us how to effectively set up your standing desk:
“If you sit with your feet flat on the floor, your legs should fit comfortably under the desk. Raising your chair so that your hips are slightly higher than your knees is ideal. You should be able to cross your legs comfortably (but please don’t) and we recommend using a footrest for added support if necessary.
Your upper arms should be parallel to your torso, with 90 and 110 degrees being the angle formed by your forearm and upper arm.
If your desk is at the correct height, your hands should be resting comfortably on it, with your index fingers resting on the F and J keys on the keyboard.
I would advise getting a desk with a programmable switch if you want to make sure it is consistently the correct height. Also, Googling “desk height calculator” will give you advice on the perfect sitting and standing heights for your body size
For a visual demonstration or to book a DSE assessment with one of our professional team contact me today at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Setting your standing desk up correctly
Ensuring that your feet, knees, and thighs have enough room is an important part of proper desk ergonomics. If a desk is excessively low and not adjustable, consider placing boards or blocks under the desk legs. However, this isn’t something that we recommend without professional guidance.
If your desk is too high, raise your chair without sacrificing your natural stance. Also, don’t be scared to rest your feet on a footrest. Get a wrist rest if your desk has a hard edge. Finally, nothing should be stored beneath your desk.
You can feel and work better if you have a comfortable, ergonomic workspace. We recommend that you keep these pointers in mind as you begin your workday.
Setting up your standing desk in a home office
Now for the next challenge – up your standing desk in a home office.
Optimal workplace ergonomic posture is like sitting in a car, with your feet flat but legs extended, and your upper body angled slightly backwards rather than upright.
To obtain a decent setup, concentrate on making adjustments in these four areas.
1. Neck and Head
Your head should be vertical to your neck to avoid harm to your neck, shoulders, and back.
Unfortunately, some desks cause workers to bend necks forward which can cause strain – look at laptop stands and correct positioning of screens.
Display screen height may be different when standing rather than sitting, an adjustable monitor arm can resolve this issue. Check out our Monitor arms here.
2. Back Support and Seated Posture
Choose a seating position that allows you to see the screen while also supporting your lower back. It should feel like you’re in the driver’s seat of a car, leaning back somewhat.
If you don’t have access to an ergonomic chair, place a cushion, pillow, or cloth behind your lower back. You can also get lumbar support chair cushions for a reasonable price. Look into orthopaedic seats such as BackJoy’s posture seat series.
These saddle-like devices can be used with any chair and tilt your pelvis into a more ergonomic position. If you are shorter, you may find that using a footrest also assists with maintaining proper posture. Check out our footrests here.
3. Wrist and Hand Position
Hands and wrists should be in the same neutral position as your head. Lay your arm and hand flat on the table by extending them forward. Keep the hand, wrist, and forearm as perfectly aligned as possible.
Utilise whatever input devices you’re using with your hands in a neutral posture for as much of the time as feasible. If you have an ergonomic desk or chair, adjust the height of your table or chair, as well as the distance between you and your keyboard and mouse.
Remember, keep the ‘B’ on your keyboard in line with your belly button.
The final point of emphasis is on behaviour. Take regular breaks and get moving as much as you can around your workstation.
The optimal habit is to take a little break every 20 minutes to stand up and stretch, perhaps for a minute or two. Better still, go for a walk while making a cup of tea or coffee. Circulation, comfort, and performance all benefit from movement. It also reduces the likelihood of injury.
Try to reduce the amount of time your body spends executing one repetitive task. Consider using a voice-to-text app or dictation software if your profession necessitates a lot of typing. For support with Assistive Technology recommendations and/or training visit our dedicated page here.
To conclude we thoroughly recommend that individuals and employers research and invest in standing desks to make workspaces as comfortable and productive as possible. If you have a question about any of our ergonomic desks or would like to book a FREE consultation with one of our experts email us today at email@example.com.