Standing workstations, if used correctly, are a straight forward approach to promote postural change without negatively impacting productivity. Additionally, they are incredibly trendy too! Some of our past posts have identified ways to incorporate more postural changes into the traditional office workstation, and they can be found here:
Why is this important?
It has been long established that postural change at regular intervals throughout the workday can go a long way in reducing the likelihood of developing an ergonomic injury and discomfort. We all know that we should be incorporating some sort of postural change or break strategy into our daily routines, and for many of us it is much easier said that done! There are a number of methods to eliminate some of the common barriers that stand in the way (pun intended) of incorporating more postural change into our days. I’m going to talk about two ways that should be discouraged:
- Standing-only workstations (no height adjustment)
- Workstations that have the capability to switch between sitting and standing, but the user only works in a standing position
During assessments, I have seen many people who think that by using the standing only strategy, they are able to burn ‘as many calories as possible‘ during their normal workday and also look at standing (instead of sitting) as a huge health benefit for them. Reminiscing about some of my past office ergonomic assessments, I fondly remember one client who insisted that she stood all day to eliminate the need for her to go to the gym after work. As good as that sounds, stationary standing for long durations during the workday can contribute to a lot of discomfort, especially in the lower extremities. It can take just 30 minutes of standing for indicators of lower extremity risk for discomfort to be present. And, prolonged standing may be associated with the development of some more chronic long term conditions. Some sort of relief from standing all day (or vice versa in sitting all day) should be in everyone’s daily schedule.
What you can do to remedy standing only workstations or behaviours. One way to mediate the risks associated with prolonged and stationary standing is to provide the user a stool. These stools are known as perch or sit-stand stools. You may be wondering if this would just negate the positive effects of wanting to incorporate a standing workstation in the first place. It may if you will be standing as a postural change from sitting. But, if the only workstation that is available to you is standing, then a stool may reduce some of the risk. Prolonged standing has been associated with increased discomfort in the lower limbs and lower back. Other than lowering a standing desk into a seated workstation, using a stool while in a standing position may reduce the risk to the lower extremities.
What you can implement today
We wanted to provide you with some quick tips that you would be able to incorporate immediately!
- When standing, be aware that if you stand greater than 30 minutes, lower limb discomfort risk factors may begin to accumulate. If you are planning on standing for more prolonged periods of time than a specialized sit-stand/perch stool may be valuable for you to reduce this risk.
- The combination of stool with an angled and adjustable footrest can further increase comfort.
It is important to note that sit-stand/perch stools and footrest systems don’t actually change any back, neck or shoulder risk factors when compared to just standing. The real benefits of these stools/footrest combination is with reducing ergonomic risks in the lower extremities.
If you are interested in some perch or sit-stand stools, here are some options that I am quite fond of from an ergonomic perspective because they are both height adjustable and have a seat tilt:
- Sit/Stand Stool – 23-33″ Seat Height – Black
- Alera Plus SS600 SS Series Sit/Stand Adjustable Stool, Black
- Bevco 3505 Sit Stand with Mushroom Glides, 5-star Reinforced Plastic Base, 22″ to 32″ Height Adjustment
- Brewer Sit Stand with Tilt, Polished Cast Aluminum Base & Glides
Antle, D., Vezina, N. & Cot, J. (2015). Comparing standing posture and use of a sit-stand stool: Analysis of vascular, muscular and discomfort outcomes during simulated industrial work. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics. 45, 98-106.