Could standing desks improve employee health?

Viviane Carter from CSI Products, explains why UK employees could benefit from standing desks and anti-fatigue mats, already popular abroad.

Many employees spend long days sitting in offices, only taking short and irregular breaks to stand when walking to the photocopier, the kitchen or the toilet. Many workers may find themselves sitting down for hours with little movement all day.

Many employers and employees are now aware of the negative effects that sitting can have on their health. However, when working in an office all day, these effects may seem unavoidable.

The good news is that there are healthier alternatives to sitting at a desk all day: Sit stand desks. In Scandinavia, they are already commonplace in offices across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark with over 90% of office workers using computers working at these adjustable height desks.

Why sitting is unhealthy

Sitting and physical inactivity are a leading cause of preventable death worldwide. They can lead to cardiovascular problems and diabetes in people who spend a large portion of their day sitting, such as office workers.

A British study from 1953 already showed that sitting could contribute to health problems: London bus drivers were nearly twice more likely to die from heart disease than conductors were.

More recently, research conducted by Loughborough University and the University of Leicester in 2011 showed a 112% increase in risk of diabetes and a 147% increase in cardiovascular events when comparing the longest time spent sedentary and the shortest time spent sedentary.

Benefits of using a sit-stand desk

Sit-stand desks provide employees with flexibility and the opportunity to choose whether they want to sit or stand. This means they can easily spend part of their day standing and part of it sitting, whilst their computer and documents are easily accessible and at ideal height in either position.

Sit-stand desks don’t take up any more space than regular desks and can easily be added to most offices. They give the employer an opportunity to encourage better working habits and improve their employees’ health in the long run. Given the enormous cost of work-related illness, this is a welcome development for employees and employers alike.

Electric height adjustable vs. gas lift vs. manual crank

Sit-stand desks come with one of three mechanisms for raising and lowering the desktop. Electric height adjustable desks provide quick and easy adjustment at the touch of a button. Some may even come with the option to store a pre-set configuration to quickly switch between sitting and standing. Gas lift adjustable desks are raised and lowered similarly to an office chair using a gas strut. A more economical solution are sit-stand desks which can be adjusted using a manual crank.

Which one you choose to buy depends on your preference and your budget. While electric sit stand desks are certainly more convenient to use and are over-all the most popular choice on the market, gas lift desks are more affordable than electric adjustable desks and hand-crank adjustable ones may suit a smaller budget better.

Standing all day is not ideal either

Having said that sitting for long periods of time is unhealthy, it is important to remember that standing for prolonged periods comes with its own set of risks. People who spend a majority of their day standing, for example, in kitchens and behind bars, can suffer from health problems including damaged joints, orthopaedic foot problems and swelling of the legs as well as venous disorder. Other possible issues include back, neck and hip pain. The reason for this is that standing still for long periods of time puts additional pressure on the circulatory system. The heart has to work harder to pump blood through the body, against gravity, which increases the pressure on the vein walls.

There are several solutions to prevent health issues from sitting and standing for prolonged periods:

  • Take turns of sitting and standing so that you don’t spend too long in either position
  • Take regular walking breaks when possible
  • Use a standing desk mat

Using a standing desk mat

A standing desk mat is an anti-fatigue mat with properties that have been optimised for standing at a desk. The high-density foam material both cushions and supports, whilst encouraging regular foot movement. This foot movement results in an activation of the venous pump which improves blood flow from the legs back to the heart.

Anti-fatigue mats delay the onset of pain and tiredness that many workers experience when standing on hard floor surfaces for extended periods of time.



Author Bio: Viviane Carter is Digital Marketing Executive at CSI Products, provider of workplace products including a wide range of standing desk matting and other anti-fatigue mats.

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