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Office workstations - sit, stand, walk, run?

  • 3 min read

International interest in how much we sit is gaining high profile publicity. Whether we are using a computer, playing video games, driving the car or watching TV, it seems the cumulative effect of so much sedentary (in)activity may be reducing our life expectancy. A quick web search produces related articles from the BBCTIME, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times to name a few.

With new research about the dangers of prolonged sitting, a greater focus on reducing obesity and some radical products appearing in the market, it seems that sit-stand desks have finally come of age in the UK. In real terms, they now cost about a quarter of the price at which I sold them 15 years ago.  Many U.S. employers are ahead of European companies in sit-stand implementations and, for Scandinavians, sit-stand is already part of the corporate culture.

Whether the motivation is health, ergonomics or productivity (and they’re all intertwined anyway), I am a committed advocate of the use of sit-stand desks – and not just because I sell them! After nearly 10 years using an electric sit-stand desk at work and at home, here are some tips about why they are “a good thing” and how to get the best out of them.

  1. Get some training. In the same way you would expect to be given advice and guidance about how to setup a “standard” seated workstation, your employer (or supplier) should also train you to use the adjustable workstation. You should be confident about how to set it for different activities and how to reconfigure the items on the desk as well as the desk itself.
  2. Mix the use. Change your posture, sit a little, stand a little. Don’t stand all day.
  3. Use other products to enhance the ergonomics further. The desk can’t do it all on its own so think about the ergonomics of your standing work setup as you would your sitting arrangements. If you’re using  a laptop for any length of time, make sure you have a separate stand,keyboard and mouse. If you’re using a desktop, make sure your screen is at the right height. In either case, think about document management and where to position your ancillary equipment.
  4. Stand up for short meetings. If someone comes to your desk whilst you are sitting, raise the desk to standing height. This is particularly useful if you both need to refer to something on your computer screen.
  5. Make sure all the cables are long enough! Don’t restrict the range of adjustment due to the cables you are using. A set of extension cables will ensure you have unfettered adjustment. You may also want to attach the computer to the underside of the desk to give you easy access and reduce the number of extension cables you need.
  6. Set the desk too high at the end of the day. Before you leave in the evening, raise the desk so that it is too high to use (even when standing).  This will make it easier for cleaners to get under the desk out of hours and force you to reposition it in the morning.
  7. Stand to sort papers. If you’re tidying files, collating papers or preparing for a meeting, it’s easier and more efficient to move around in front of your desk.
  8. Going out later? Take advantage of the opportunity to stand now – you will have plenty of time to sit in the car or a meeting room for the rest of the day.
  9. Popped in to the office at the end of the day? Don’t sit down. You have probably been in the car for hours anyway and you will get more done and get away earlier if you remain standing.
  10. Stand to be assertive. If you’re on the telephone making an appointment or dealing with a difficult caller, you will be more assertive when you’re standing. In the same way that the other party can “hear your smile”, they will sense your confidence. How do you think the expression “thinking on your feet” originated?
  11. Stand to lose weight. Standing burns energy in a way that sitting does not. Standing half the day burns 140+ calories.
  12. Find out more. There is an excellent booklet by Linak, the component manufacturer, that gives lots more information, including exercises you can do at your desk.
  13. Walk away. From a standing position, it’s easier psychologically to take a stroll.  Try “walking meetings” – take a walk around the block instead of cocooning yourself in a meeting room. The combination of walking and fresh air will make the conversation more dynamic, and probably more productive. If, like us, you’re at the end of a cul-de-sac, the point at which your turn around defines half-time for the meeting and it’s amazing how the discussion is complete by the time you get back so the meeting finishes on time.

Agree/disagree? Please comment or call me.

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