This week, we’re looking at the increasingly popular world of Sit-Stand Desks! While the idea has been around for over two decades, a greater focus on health and productivity in the workplace has seen a huge spike in interest around the sit-stand approach in recent years. For this week’s blog, Andy has put together some information, thoughts, and handy tips for both those new to the concept, and for those who want to get more out of their own desk!
With sit-stand desks firmly on the office furniture radar, there’s never been a better time to look into a height-adjustable desk for personal or office use. The internet is filled with some fantastic sources of information about these innovative products, but there’s also a great deal of confusion and misinformation as to exactly what they can do for you, and how to best use them – but don’t worry! We’re here to shed a little light on this subject, and hopefully dispel some of the myths and misconceptions that have managed to find their way into the conversation!
Why is Sitting Bad?
If you’ve heard of sit-stand desks, you’ll almost certainly have heard the phrase “Sitting is the new smoking.” It’s exactly the kind of soundbite-friendly line that will find its way to social media and into the public eye – but like most of these kinds of lines, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Most of the workforce in the modern world tend to have very sedentary working habits – we spend almost all of our time sitting at a desk, or staying in one place without much physical exertion or travelling between locations. This isn’t particularly good for the human body.
Sitting in a chair for all of the 8-10 hours that the average UK worker spends seated has a real negative impact on circulation – especially in the legs and glutes – and our metabolism will slow down after only 20 minutes of inactivity.
A huge number of people also use workstations either poorly configured for them or not configured at all, putting additional strain on our bodies through bad posture and uncomfortable positioning.
A very common, and entirely logical-seeming misconception is that replacing your desk with a sit-stand one and standing behind it all day is better for you. You’re not sitting for hours at a time any more, so problem solved right?
Not quite – standing for 8-10 hours at a time has its own host of downsides, like aching feet and a tired back.
The real value of a sit-stand desk comes from using it for both sitting and standing – hence their name! Variation in your working position ensures that you avoid the pitfalls of being static for long periods of time, whilst still benefitting from both the comfort of a good chair and the physiological benefits of being upright and engaged.
Standing engages supporting muscles in the legs and back that, for many of us who spend a long time sitting, are likely to be weakened from all of the hours spent with a chair doing their job for them. Naturally, suddenly asking more of your back than it’s used to doing is likely to overwork those muscles, and potentially cause strain or injury.
Like all physical exertion, the best approach is to start out small and gradually build up – the same applies to standing; 20 minutes out of your chair every hour or two is much more manageable starting point and will make you far more likely to feel – and appreciate! – the benefits of doing so.
How to Use A Sit- Stand Desk:
Making sure your desk is set up correctly for you is the single most important part of using a sit-stand desk – or any piece of office furniture, for that matter.
Poor posture will affect you whether you’re sitting or standing, so making sure your body is under the minimum possible stress has a noticeable effect on comfort and health.
Monitor height: Dipping your neck or craning to look at a screen that’s not at the correct height is an almost surefire way to suffer an aching or cramped neck. Ideally, your monitor should be at a height that puts the upper edge roughly in line with the top of your head, so that your eyes naturally rest on the middle area of your screen.
Keyboard height: Likewise, a keyboard that’s too far away or at the wrong height can lead to poor circulation, cramp, or an increased risk of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury). The optimal setup is to have your keyboard at or just below your elbows, with adequate support under the wrists to ensure that they aren’t straining or resting at an unnatural angle when your hands are on your mouse and/or keys.
An adjustable height desk is the most reliable way to keep your workstation in a position that’s right for you, and makes it much easier to quickly adjust a desk that was set up for someone else in an office that operates under a hotdesking system. Different desks will have different travel heights – their lowest and highest possible desk heights – so when choosing a desk, it’s important to make sure that it’s of a size that will suit you. For example; the ConSet 501-27 can be set as low as 54cm, making it ideal for use by both children and adults, while the 501-33 bottoms out at 68cm and is less suited to smaller users.
Most sit-stand desks tend to be electronically operated, with motors that will raise and lower the desktop at the touch of a button – though there are options out there with a hand crank for the more hands-on (or budget conscious!).
Getting the Most Out of Your Sit- Stand Desk
Once your desk is properly set up, there’s still plenty of ways to get more out of the sit-stand approach and keep the benefits coming! Here’s a few rapid-fire tips to get into good, healthy habits around the workplace:
+Accessorise Accordingly: If you’re going to be standing up for a while, your choice of footwear is going to be much more important than usual! Well cushioned shoes will make a world of difference, and the flatter they are the better! For extra comfort, why not try a padded anti-fatigue mat too?
+Stay on the Move: We mentioned earlier that metabolism slows down after just 20 minutes of activity – so taking regular walking breaks is a great way to keep the blood pumping and your body ticking over. Whether it’s physically going over to a colleague rather than sending a quick email, or even just getting up to go to the bathroom, moving around often is a good habit to get into!
+I Can Do That Standing Up: Even when you’re on a planned period of sitting, there are plenty of tasks that are doable whilst standing without the need for raising your desk. Taking phonecalls, short meetings, or just those few moments while you’re waiting on that one bit of paperwork from downstairs are all great excuses to stand – even if it’s literally to get up, do a few stretches, then sit back down again.
+Optimal Arrangement: If your office has a bench system or rows of desks, putting a sit-stand desk on the end is a great way to encourage people to stand when they need to confer or work together, or even just to remind you about getting up if you’ve been sitting down for a while!