Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sitting Vs. Standing in the Workplace

Sitting vs. Standing in the Workplace
“The Fallacy of Standing Stations - Know the Facts"
 “Those who sit the most during the day have larger waists and worse profiles of blood pressure and blood sugar than those who sit less.”

“The average person can burn an extra 60 calories per hour just by standing.  Just avoid the chair is the simple recommendation, as much as you can!”

Standing while you work improves concentration by increasing blood flow to the brain. This results in clearer thinking and the ability to focus on problems more intensely for a longer period of time”

The statements above and recent media coverage indicates that standing is healthier, but knowing your options and the “pros and cons” are important in deciding if a standing station is right for you. 

Before we all get rid of our office chairs, we may want to understand the health consequences associated with prolonged standing, which include: work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the legs, knees, and lower back; varicose veins; joint damage; foot problems; stroke; heart and circulatory problems; and pregnancy difficulties.

Equally as frightening are the well documented health consequences associated with prolonged sitting including: higher rates of cardiovascular disease; obesity; higher body mass index; metabolic syndromes; Type 2 diabetes; deep venous thrombosis; and low-back disorders.

Research shows that both prolonged sitting and prolonged standing are a concern. It is not an "either-or" situation. A more responsible approach is to recommend a combination of sitting and standing activities throughout the work day to minimize the potential for adverse health consequences associated with both postures.


1) The best workstation allows for the change in position from sit to stand each hour.   In doing so, the station needs adjustability to allow the elbows to be at 90 degrees when typing.  Only a small percentage of the workforce has the same hand height (hands at elbow height) when typing in standing and in sitting.  For most employees the typing height for standing is much higher than the proper height for typing when they sit in the tall pedestal chairs.  As a result, most of the workstations require the worker to have the desk at a height that is optimal for standing or sitting and when they lose the ability to sit or stand without working in an awkward position.  Very rarely does the sit/stand workstation work without having height adjustability of the keyboard typically by having a keyboard tray installed on the desk.  These run between $200 and $400 for a decent one.  If you cannot afford the cost of a tall chair ($500+), the keyboard tray ($200+) and the cost of raising the desk- then the sit stand option is not a cost effective option.  The employer and employee are better off rotating job tasks that force an employee to get out of their chair for at least 5 minutes each hour.

2) When we (clinicians) walk around the office we commonly observe at least 75% of the workers in standing workstations sitting most of the time.  We find that most employees need to sit when they are focused and being productive.  The downside of this is that the tall pedestal chairs (used in a standing station) have no adjustability and offer little postural support as compared to the chairs used for the seating workstation.  The lack of adjustability in the tall pedestal chair is for safety so no one leaves a tilt level unlocked and falls.  Therefore, the majority of time is still spent sitting in a poor position leading to greater complaints of discomfort. 

3) The standing workstation has clearly become a fad.  Most people think it is a great idea, but once they are in this station are disillusioned.  Some of the issues include less privacy, more distractions, and an inability to focus and think while standing.  When we meet with workers who are interested in having a standing station and discuss the pros vs. cons of actually working at the standing workstation, more times than not, when educated, they chose to remain in a sitting workstation. 

4)  People are more likely to move around and walk when working in the standing position, which burns more calories, but also improves concentration, focus and productivity. Standing increases blood flow to the brain, which results in clearer thinking and less “zoning out” periods


1) Think about your work tasks and how well you think on your feet.  Before making a costly change, try just standing each time you meet with someone or get a phone call.  If you have difficulty doing so, a standing station is not for you.  Instead, rotate your tasks so you are out of your chair at least every hour when not using the computer.  You can also try using another person’s standing station for an hour.

2) Employers can set up demo standing stations that employees can use each hour.  If an employee can stand for 4 hours of their day for a month, they can be granted a standing work station.

3) When sitting, take standing breaks every 30mins to walk to another area, perform stretches, perform a task requiring higher force, or to improve your shoulder position, etc.

4) Walk around your office (inside or out) during your breaks

5) Park further away to increase your walking distance into work and take the long way to the cafeteria.

6) Be sure to participate in your daily STANDING stretch breaks!

7) Workstation should still be adjusted so you are working at elbow height and your feet are supported when seated at a standing station.