How Switching to Standing Desks Benefits Society

A personal decision to switch from using a traditional sitting desk to a standing desk is often brought about by an individual’s concern for health after learning about the dangers of prolonged sitting.  As more and more people are appreciating the advantages of using a standing desk one can foresee how the switch can become a simple yet significant lifestyle change that can affect public health.

Venmo Standers

Employees at Venmo standing on the job. Photo: Shreyans Bhansali

Sitting Less Can Improve Health

A recent study showed that desk workers typically spend about 5 hours and 41 minutes per day sitting at work, and are also more likely to sit outside of work. Furthermore, about 70 percent of employees who answered a survey did not meet recommended guidelines for physical activity. It is not surprising therefore, that a positive correlation was found between their body fat composition and sitting time at work.

Previous studies have shown that prolonged sitting is associated with a higher risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases. This was found true, even if people engaged in physical activities after work. On the other hand, people who spent less time sitting were less likely to be overweight and suffer from chronic disease.

Mark Dohrmann, a consulting engineer and certified professional ergonomist, advocates the use of adjustable sit-stand desks which can be used to sit and stand alternately, citing the benefits of sitting and standing at work which include:

  • Less spinal shrinkage
  • Less back pains and neck pains
  • Less musculoskeletal discomfort in the upper body including the arms and shoulders
  • Better posture

These observations were based on surveys from employees of different institutions in Australia who switched to sit-stand desks.

Standing More Can Increase Productivity

Dohrmann cites an interesting study by Nerhood and Thompson in 1994, which examined six sit-stand workstations used by keyboard operators which measured production levels, absenteeism and injuries and discomfort before and after switching to the new desks. It was observed that there was increased productivity with a significant, 62 percent decrease in employee-reported discomfort and more than 50 percent reduction in injuries.

In another study involving a group of 12 employees, it was found that moving to sit-stand workstations made them feel more energetic and less tired by the end of the day. Other workers also reported having more opportunities to stretch during the day.

In Minnesota, Ms. Abby Brown of the Marine Elementary School designed, with the help of a local ergonomic furniture company, a type of adjustable-height school desk, allowing pupils to stand while they work. They can also lean on a high stool and swing one foot on a footrest under the desk. The standing desk gained popularity and has since then been used in schools in Wisconsin to districts from North Carolina to California. According to Brown and other teachers, the standing desks give kids the flexibility they need to spend energy and at the same time, be more awake and focus better on their work.

It is no wonder then, that many famous and accomplished people like Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill and Thomas Jefferson have, in the past, been using standing desks. Today, a growing number of employees in Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. are shifting from sit-only desks to standing or sit-stand desks. In Australia, sit-stand desks are becoming more popular in hospitals, banks, government offices and other institutions.



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