Sit Stand Desk Ergonomics: What Are They?

Let’s talk shop. American workers are more sedentary than ever before, and for the most part, it’s not our fault. After all, we’re also more innovative, more goal-oriented, more tech-dependent, more connected within our workplaces than ever before. The unfortunate consequence is that we ALSO have more desk jobs than ever before. You’re probably reading this right now, sitting at your desk. 

The question is: how do we offset our long commutes, our longer office hours, and our evening relaxation on the couch? Spoiler alert: Netflix is not on the chopping block; so with that assurance, we continue. Let's focus instead on trading that 8 or 9 hours of sitting at a desk into 8 or 9 hours of comfortable ergonomic movement at a sit AND stand desk.

Ergonomics 101

First, a little crash course on ergonomics. Ergonomics 1 is the study of people in their working environment, and more specifically, the understanding of how to best adapt the workplace for the worker. In its paradigm shift of fitting the work to the employee rather than the other way around, modern ergonomics—and the sit-stand workstations it has popularized—is leading the charge for greater on-the-job health.

And how does a height-adjustable desk specifically help with workplace ergonomics? You’ll be amazed at the positive effects and health benefits it has, including:

  • Encourages proper posture
  • Reduces bodily aches and strains
  • Improves cardiovascular health
  • Enhances productivity

Movement 

Just for clarity’s sake, it is the adjustability of the sit-stand workstation that is ergonomic here. Remember—fitting your workplace to you is all about natural movement 2 and what better way to do that than with an adjustable desk. Standing in one position for hours on end is no better for you than sittin in one position all day. Movement is key. 

The natural movement of standing up from a chair or vice versa is what changes your heart rate, flexes your joints and tendons, and puts resistance on a different set of muscles while allowing others to rest. Remaining sedentary for hours, whether sitting or standing, is the harmful component in your workplace. And that is the problem sit stand desk ergonomics solves so well.

Posture

There’s no denying it—we are slouchers by nature, especially over our desks at work. Even though we know we should sit up straight and practice good posture, we become engrossed in the stack of papers on our desk and all good intentions shrivel up… much like our spines inevitably will. 

But have you ever tried to hunch or slouch while standing up? Okay who would try that, right? It’s not easy, and it’s not natural. It can even cause pain after a while. Yet, it is the pose we strike every day sitting at our desks.

Neck Strain

And what about your achy neck? Yes, it is caused by stress, just not the type you’d assume. 

While you may think that looking down alleviates pressure on the neck vertebrae—and it actually may for a moment or two—a constant downward angle puts undue pressure on your spine and is neither healthy nor ergonomic. 

By utilizing a motorized standing desk, you will be able to adjust the height of your setup to minimize the discomfort. If you’re wondering how to stand at a standing desk properly, here’s the optimal setup:

  • Adjust the desk and raise it until your arms can rest gently on it.
  • Allow the computer monitor to sit at eye-level at least 20 inches away.
  • Use a footpad to reduce the impact on your ankle, knee, and hip joints.

Cardiovascular Health

Sitting in a chair all day may seem fairly relaxing, but your body as a whole—your muscles, tendons, circulatory and skeletal system—is being stressed from not moving. From obesity and high blood pressure to cardiovascular disease and cancer, it’s been shouted from the rooftops by the medical community that sitting for long periods of time is the new smoking. Standing, however, increases natural blood flow, keeping your heart and even your veins healthier. Again, it is the movement here that is key to increased blood flow—and it is the ease of transition from sitting to standing that the motorized standing desk addresses so masterfully.

Alertness and Productivity

Are you ready to think on your feet, literally? Standing while working has been shown to improve mental clarity, alertness, mood, and creativity. Let’s face it: there is a definite mind-body connection between sitting and relaxation as well as between standing and alertness. 

Remember the Law of Inertia in which objects at rest tend to stay at rest? Well, we don’t exactly need a law to tell us that we are far more likely to walk a memo down the hall if we are already standing. Conversely, it’s hard to rally once comfortable in our chairs. And that long email that could have been a 30-second conversation had we just walked a few feet? Yep, we’re looking at you Mr. Inertia. You are the comfy killer of office productivity.

Ready to Stand and Deliver?

An adjustable standing desk moves light years beyond a curved keyboard, adjustable monitor, and yes, even that lumbar support chair. But don’t let the thought of standing all day scare you away from improving your mind, body, and workspace. There are plenty of standing desk best practices that can help your body get used to this type of workstation. However, the ultimate ergonomic takeaway regarding your new sit-stand workstation is this: listen to your body and start slowly. 

It may take a few days to achieve the height adjustment that is comfortable for your neck and shoulders as you type. And it may take weeks to work up to standing for a few hours. But even small improvements will yield huge rewards in your workday and you will truly experience the standing desk benefits.

Sit when you want. Stand when you’re able. Move when you can. With an ergonomic workstation, you have the freedom to work how your body wants you to. 

 

Sources:

1. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Workplace Safety: Ergonomics. https://ehs.unc.edu/workplace-safety/ergonomics/

2. Mayo Clinic. What are the risks of sitting too much? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005