A survey conducted by WorkRite® Ergonomics www.workriteergo.comshows that “taking a stand” at the office could help relieve the aches and pains of many office workers. More than 89 percent of the nearly 500 office workers responding to WorkRite’s “How Long Can You Stand to Sit?” survey reported feeling muscle tension or fatigue at least occasionally at the end of their workdays, and a full 16 percent feel this distress on a regular basis. The solution could actually be as simple as going from sitting to standing.
It might be a common assumption that most people would prefer to sit rather than stand during a workday. More than half of the survey respondents (57 percent) would spend at least part of their office time standing if provided the opportunity. Most employees would love to “take a stand” while meeting with colleagues; although, others would most want to stand while talking on the phone or even working at their computers.
“Over half of all office workers spend more than six hours each day at their desks, which can feel even longer when you’re forced into a position that doesn’t suit your body shape,” said Derek Timm, special projects manager for WorkRite. “This is comparable to walking around in ill-fitting shoes, or sleeping in a bed that’s too small.” According to Timm, the desks, workstations and keyboard platforms that populate most cubicles and offices across the nation are archaic furnishings that are often passed down from one office worker to the next. The furniture and accessories offer little room for customization to accommodate variances in height, posture or personal preferences.
More than two-thirds of the respondents to the “How Long Can You Stand to Sit?” study reported the need to leave their desks and stretch their legs at least five times daily. Assuming that each break lasts approximately ten minutes, nearly an hour of potential work time is lost per employee each day.
According to the results of this study, office workers are clearly asking for and in need of height and tilt adjustable furnishings that will allow them to better relieve the stress placed on their bodies at work. Timm says, “WorkRite responds with ergonomic designs that help employees to improve their work quality and morale, and that offer increased productivity and decreased worker’s compensation claim to employers.”
After looking at this survey, I decided to research working while standing a little further. The principal benefits seem to be:
- Fewer posture-related back problems
- Sense of freedom, both of movement and thought
- Enhances multi-tasking for some purposes
- Measure of exercise, at least compared to sitting all day
- Freaks out unknowing co-workers
I also came across some health warnings about working while standing. Keeping the body in a upright position requires considerable muscular effort that is particularly unhealthy even while standing motionless. It effectively reduces the blood supply to the loaded muscles. Insufficient blood flow accelerates the onset of fatigue and causes pain in the muscles of the legs, back and neck (these are the muscles used to maintain an upright position). The worker can suffer not only muscular strain but other discomforts as well. Prolonged and frequent standing, without some relief by walking, causes blood to pool in the legs and feet. When standing occurs continually over prolonged periods, it can result in inflammation of the veins. This inflammation may progress over time to chronic and painful varicose veins.
My conclusion after reading the results of the survey as well as the pros and cons of sitting vs. standing, is that the optimal work set up is the one in which it’s easiest to change your position frequently, from sitting to standing and back. Perhaps a high table with a stool, or an arrangement with two separate standing/sitting work surfaces or desks that can be adjusted vertically to accommodate both positions.