Sitting still all day is bad for the body. This won’t be news to most people, but our lives are designed to keep us sedentary; many workers sit during their commute, sit all day, then spend the evening on the sofa. Are standing desks the answer?
Sitting can shorten your lifespan
Official guidance from doctors tell us that we should do at least 150 minutes of exercise a week and reduce sitting time as much as possible. This is because studies have linked sitting for long periods with slower metabolism, which in turn is linked to type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity and reduced life expectancy.
The impact of excessive sitting has been known since the 1950s, when researchers found that bus drivers had a much higher rate of heart attack than their bus conductor colleagues. Nevertheless, workplaces have been slow to factor increased activity into their workplace design.
Why activity boosts productivity
Researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center recently recommended that workers should move their bodies at least every half an hour to combat the negative effects of desk work.
Moving regularly boosts the heart rate and increases alertness. Where workplace design builds in activities such as walking to talk to colleagues in person or use of stairs instead of the lift, this can also help to build relationships between colleagues and improve workplace morale.
Key considerations for introducing standing desks
Standing desks have been increasing in popularity in recent years but their introduction needs to be managed carefully to ensure success. Simply building higher desks and throwing out your office chairs will not suffice!
1. Build up stamina
Like taking up running, your body will complain if you do too much, too soon. Workers should start with 20-minute sessions at a standing desk and slowly build up their usage to ensure they adjust.
2. Purchase gel mats
The point of standing desks is to give your legs more of a workout, but this means they will take more strain. Gel mats can ease pressure on joints and comfortable footwear should also be encouraged.
3. Allocate sitting and standing tasks
As you use a standing desk more, people often find that standing suits active tasks whereas more reflective tasks requiring concentration are better done in a seated position. Provide a range of work spaces so employees can optimise their performance.
4. Think ergonomically
Just because the chair has gone, that doesn’t mean that the rules of occupational health no longer apply: monitors and keyboards should be adjusted to reduce strain on the body.
5. Don’t forget to walk