Does Standing At Your Desk Genuinely Improve Productivity?

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Young man working on computer in modern white office

In response to increasing awareness of the stresses and strains brought about by working long hours standing desks have began to become really popular in recent years.

Standing desks have been linked to a number of health and wellness benefits including lowering risk of type 2 diabetes, reducing incidences of back and neck pain and improving the psychological state of workers.

If the primary motivator behind buying a standing desk is improving your health then you would no doubt like to have assurance that the claims being made are in fact true and not simply a marketing ploy.

Let’s have a look at the specific benefits associated with standing desks and explore a few of the studies that support the notion that this style of desk is a positive revolution.

Standing desks improve overall health

Using a standing desk has been associated with a multitude of health and wellness benefits.

Some of these can provide striking headlines such as “swapping a traditional desk for one that can be raised reduces your risk of cardio-metabolic diseases“.

This group of diseases includes type 2 diabetes which itself has been linked to the length of time that adults spend in a sedentary state, such as when sat in an office chair.

Some of the improved health benefits are less striking but valuable none the less.

As would be expected, working from a sit-stand desk also burns more calories. This is a result of being more active when you raise yourself from the seated position and carry your own weight for extended periods.

The number of steps actually taken by workers who utilised sit-stand desks is largely unchanged however additional calories are burned when compared to sedentary work.

Standing desks reduce back and neck pain

Woman rubbing her sore shoulders while working at a desk

A common complaint from many who have worked from a traditional desk for an extended period of time is aches and pains in the neck and back region.

When sitting at a traditional office desk, looking down at a laptop screen typically lowers your gaze below the ideal angle of 17-18 degrees. This in turn causes us to stoop into an unnatural position and places additional stresses upon the lower back.

Facing the computer screen at eye level by using a standing desk eliminates this need to crane our neck forward.

One particular study found that making a sit stand desk available to workers reduced the time spent sitting down by 66 minutes per dayThis in turn had a dramatic effect on the health of participants who reported a massive 54% reduction in upper back and neck pain.

These findings were then supported by a second trial where workers reported that breaking up long periods of sitting resulted in improvements to lower back discomfort.

As ailments distract workers from their regular duties it could be said that the standing desk ultimately allowed employees to be remain focused on their tasks for longer.

These positive influences however only lasted as long as the standing desk was used as aches and pains returned soon after the standing desk was exchanged back to a the sit down desk.

Standing desks improve your psychological state

Inactivity in adults is known to be linked to a higher risk of depression and cognitive impairment. In a typical office based role inactivity is the status quo, something which until recently has just been accepted as part of the job description.

The mood of employees can be vastly improved as a direct result of swapping out sedentary time with standing time. This is easily achieved through the use of a standing desk.

The period of standing was also reported to not introduce any unforeseen negative impacts upon work performance.

In fact, a boost in creative problem solving was also recorded when working from a platform that required the worker to stand.

In addition to psychological state, standing desks have been recorded as improving performance. This outcome was explained as being a direct correlation to the reduced tiredness felt by someone who is standing up and moving around.

These performance related benefits have not been lost upon large employers such as Apple, who now provide sit-stand desks to every single employee based out of their headquarters, Apple Park in California.

The not so good side of standing desks

Although the argument for giving standing desk a go, it would be wrong to close the case file without considering the other side of the debate.

A popular question often asked when discussing standing desks is whether there are actually any negative effects associated with standing for long hours?

Fatigue is clearly going to become an issue if stand for a full shift is something you’re not accustomed to and may actually onset sooner than expected.

Additional negative effects when standing for a minimum of 2 hours straight were reported to be discomfort and lower limb swelling.

With this knowledge perhaps a sit-stand desk, as opposed to a dedicated standing desk might be the best solution. This configuration offers the opportunity to easily switch between standing or sitting in response to growing fatigue.

Additional support to standing desk users can also be provided through the use of an anti-fatigue mat.

These simple soft mats typically made from rubber provide safety benefits to a worker who is standing on a hard surface for long periods.

As the name suggests the mat helps reduce fatigue in the legs and joints by forcing the employee to constantly adjust their stance. This promotes good circulation and prevents any one muscle group from becoming over tired.

Standing desk benefits vs risks

To close out our brief review of standing desk benefits here is a quick recap of both the positive benefits and negative effects we have discovered.

Positive benefits of using a standing desk

Reduce risk of cardiometabolic diseases

➕ Burn more calories

➕ Improved productivity

➕ Improved mood

➕ Less neck and back pain

 

Negative effects of using a standing desk

➖ Discomfort

➖ Muscular fatigue

➖ Lower limb swelling

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