A sedentary lifestyle, defined as sitting for six hours or more a day, has been linked to a stunning 71% higher death rate compared to those with more active lifestyles. And yet, one in four Americans still admit to sitting for eight hours or more each day.
Part of the problem is that much of the work we do is sedentary work. The American Heart Association says that a mere 20% of the workforce actually have physically active jobs. Sedentary jobs, on the other hand, have almost doubled in recent years.
Our workspaces are, unfortunately, often designed to prohibit rather than encourage movement. Standing desks are one way to change that and possibly improve the health and welfare of your employees. However, standing desks are not a panacea, and they do come with problems of their own. To help you decide whether standing desks are the right choice for your office, we’ve gathered the facts. Here are the pros and cons related to the use of standing desks in the workplace.
Better attention and focus
Sitting can make our brains dull and make us feel generally sluggish. Standing desks can keep us awake and at the same time, keep our minds sharp and healthy. In fact, studies have shown that standing desks can improve creativity and cognition. Sitting, on the other hand, can inhibit our brain’s ability think creatively. Our heart rate increases when we stand, which also boosts alertness. This allows your employees to concentrate on tasks more efficiently.
Improved energy and productivity
Alongside an improved ability to focus, the increase in heart rate associated with standing desks also means higher productivity in your workplace. Your workers will feel more energized. The higher energy you get from standing lends itself to better problem solving and more creative solutions.
Better engagement and communication
Many workers report that they feel more engaged in their workplaces when standing to work. Depending on the setup, standing desk configurations can also encourage networking and increased communication between staff members.
Reduced risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes
The use of standing desks does help improve metabolism and can help workers burn slightly more calories. This translates into a reduced risk for obesity, which in itself can lead to significant health problems.
Since a sedentary lifestyle is a leading contributor to type 2 diabetes, standing desks can also help reduce worker risks for this debilitating disease. There are also benefits for workers who are already suffering from diabetes, as it may help them to manage their blood sugar more effectively. The activity required for standing has been linked to a reduction in fat and sugar. For employers, this can translate into reduced absenteeism and decreased health care costs.
Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer
While it is clear that walking or pacing is better than simply standing for minimizing the risks of heart disease and cancer, a standing desk is a significant first step. Numerous studies have established a link between long periods of sitting and a significant increase in the risk of heart disease and several types of cancer.
Overall better health and a longer life
Standing desks may actually help you live longer. There is a definitive link between sitting and a reduced lifespan. Numerous studies have confirmed that people who sit for long periods are at an almost 50% greater risk of dying prematurely than those who move more.
Even though we are not meant to sit for long periods, human beings are also not designed to stand for long periods. There are, therefore, several cons to using standing desks, especially exclusively. Here are some of the downsides of using standing desks.
Before forced to stand in one place is very different from sitting or moving around. Initially, your workers may feel more tired using a standing desk option. It can also be hard on the feet, and for some workers, this can translate into chronic pain. Edema in the feet and varicose veins are two common concerns and standing desks can also be very hard on the knees.
Standing at a desk also means that workers may have to be wary of the footwear they choose. Heels and dress shoes, for example, are a poor choice for standing workers. Some of this discomfort can be alleviated by pads that soften the standing surface beneath desks.
Difficulties with laptops
Standing desks are not always the best choice for laptop uses. Good ergonomics require a laptop to be positioned correctly. The neck should be aligned with the spine, and users shouldn’t look directly at their screen. Elbows must also be close to the body and at a 90- or 120-degree angle. This isn’t always possible with a standing desk, and often the laptop is too close to the user. Adjustable desks and widescreen display units can help alleviate this problem for users.
Posture and ergonomics
Standing desks can also lead to the same kind of issues with poor posture that occurs with sitting. This bad posture can cause more health concerns than standing solves, so ergonomic education is critical. If you are going to install standing desks in your workplace, ensure that you educate your workers on their proper use and the pitfalls of improper use.
Not all workspaces are equal
Not every type of desk work can transition to a standing desk. Complicated tasks, such as drawing or designing, might be better suited to a sitting desk. It’s also not always possible to convert workspaces to an area that can accommodate a standing desk arrangement.
The cost of installing standing desks for your entire workforce can be prohibitive. This is especially true if you select the more versatile option of an adjustable standing desk. There are also additional costs that may be associated with modifying workbenches or spaces to accommodate standing desks. One option might be to install a suite of standing desks available for your workers to use when they want to.