The office really does have it in for you.
As we’ve explored in previous blog posts, the office environment can have a detrimental impact on your posture and health over time, through continued sitting and all the harm this does.
While businesses have tried to mitigate the posture and back problems of office workers by implementing work station assessments, these can only go so far. Now, the issue is being tackled with a new tool: the adjustable sit/stand desk.
Many people believe that there’s not much that can be done about being glued to your desk all day long. Fortunately, height adjustable desks offer a way to tackle the problem. The potential benefits of using an adjustable desk compared to sitting all day are huge.
To understand how much a height adjustable desk can make a difference, let’s first look at why sitting at a desk is bad for you.
Why is sitting at a desk bad for me?
Even if you think you have good posture, sitting and working at a desk causes problems. By leaning over a desk, turning in your chair or slouching, unknowingly, you may be doing damage to your spine, your neck, and even your shoulders and hips.
As we outlined in a previous blog post, Is sitting bad for your back?, people who work in offices are particularly susceptible to back and other health problems because around 80% don’t move from their chair for the whole day.
The focus needs to be on ‘not sitting’. But how can you work and ensure you aren’t sat down for the majority of the time? This is where an adjustable desk makes all the difference.
What is a sit/stand desk and how can it help me?[
A adjustable desk is just a desk that is moves up and down, enabling the user to sit or stand to work at it.
It may sound like a new-fangled invention, but the standing desk has been around for centuries. Winston Churchill famously used a standing desk to write his books, Leonardo da Vinci invented many of his creations at one and Napoleon used a standing desk to plan his military campaigns.
By standing when you work, your body weight is evenly distributed and your spine retains its natural curves. Your body works as it is designed to.
Standing while you work means it is difficult to have your spine at an angle, and your body will settle into its natural form.
Sitting for too long may also cause problems with your pelvic joints. If your pelvis is tilted, you could easily end up straining some of the muscles in your lower back. Standing up ensures your pelvis assumes a more natural position, giving you better posture.
One of the main benefits of a height adjustable desk is that it facilitates posture changes – spend part of the day standing and part sitting down.
If you are already experiencing problems with your back because of long hours sitting at a desk, then transitioning to a sit/stand desk may help to alleviate this.
Aside from the benefits to your posture and back health, working in a standing position has many other health benefits (1).
What sort of desk should I be looking for?
There are two types of standing desk: fixed and adjustable. An adjustable desk allows you to have both a desk suitable for sitting as well as a standing desk.
If you’re thinking of making the move from a normal desk to a sit/stand desk, there are now plenty of options which can be found through a simple Google search. For the budget conscious, look at Ikea’s Bekant desk .
Firstly, maintaining good posture is still just as relevant, although your body will naturally correct itself when standing. Next, make sure you have your keyboard and mouse at a suitable height and your screen eye level. You don’t want to strain your neck and shoulders by having to look down at a screen, nor create problems from reaching too far with your arms and shoulders. Lastly, you may also need to change your shoes. If you are going to be working on your feet for hours, comfortable shoes such as trainers rather than formal shoes may be more appropriate. Many standing desk advocates recommend using an anti fatigue floor mat.
Standing for too long may present its own health issues, so it is recommended you find a workable ratio combining both sitting and standing. In fact, the transition from working whilst sitting to doing so whilst standing may take a while to get used to, after which you should start to enjoy some benefits.
And the benefits are numerous. According to various studies, standing rather than sitting reduces your risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and bring about a lower long-term mortality risk (1)
Standing desks are starting to appear in more and more offices as businesses wake up to the health issues associated with prolonged sitting.
What’s it really like working at an adjustable desk?
Simon Coles, the founder and CEO at Amphora Research Systems became aware of the benefits of adjustable desks and decided to provide them company-wide. He thought that there might be some initial reticence to adopting this way of working. Happily, this fear proved unfounded:
- You can easily hot desk. One of the problems about caring about ergonomics is you tailor the workspace for individuals. Which makes it harder to hot desk – because the tailoring means one person, one desk. But if you have adjustable desks, problem goes away.
- It provides an easy way to beat the post-lunch slump.
- It reduces the friction in collaboration. If you are already standing, moving is easier and more natural, so you’re more likely to engage in ad-hoc conversations.
- Easier for individuals to control their weight as you get more natural exercise.
- If you are standing, you take up less floor space. Useful for congested offices.
- It is much easier to work on the desks e.g. install cabling, monitors etc. when you can adjust the height. Small but important.
- Much better for group calls – so we frequently have calls with customers where we’ve got 2 people around a phone in our office. This is much easier when you can both stand. With the proviso that if one person is tall and one short, you’ll need to compromise and/or find a step or something.
- If people ever consider leaving, they will take one look at the non-adjustable desks in any potential new job, and think twice about it – regardless of the salary.
- Offices can look messy with desks at different heights. This really matters to a lot of bosses – and I think comes down to a values thing, about how you view a company – full of individuals or some perfect machine where worker bees fit into organisational slots.
- If you have a chair, then when you are standing, the chair has to go somewhere. So you need to plan for a place to put them.
My view is there is no real drawback to using adjustable desks. They aren’t even more expensive. In return you get:
- More comfortable employees, with less health issues
- More alert employees, because if they are feeling tired they can stand up
- More collaboration
- Better use of space via hotdesking etc.
- Better staff retention, as they won’t want to work at a place which doesn’t have them…
Are you suffering from back pain from sitting for too long? Wokingham Chiropractic can help. We’re experienced in dealing with back pain. Call us today on 0118 978 7466 and we’ll gladly advise you.
1) Five Health Benefits Of Standing Desks – Smithsonian – https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/five-health-benefits-standing-desks-180950259/?no-ist
Back pain image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Standing desk image by https://iamnotaprogrammer.com/Ikea-Standing-desk-for-22-dollars.html
Simon Coles’s invaluable contribution to the content of this article is gratefully acknowledged.