As health and wellbeing become increasingly more important within the modern world, maybe the time has come to be standing up to the issues that threaten them, literally!

Standing up for health

The term active office is becoming more prevalent especially in many Scandinavian countries where companies are actively looking to discourage workers from spending long periods of the day sitting down. The idea behind this is driven from case studies which suggest that working standing up can affect productivity positively. There are also many experts who believe that it is beneficial to the health of workers who spend much of their time sat behind a desk.

Standing up for productivity

In terms of productivity the thoughts are that completing such tasks as checking emails and dealing with phone calls will be tackled far more efficiently when standing. The same is believed to be true when negotiating monotonous or repetitive tasks with research suggesting that not only is more work completed, but it’s done quicker too.

The average office worker spends around 5 hours 40 minutes sitting at their desk with research showing that being sedentary for much of the working day is associated with a range of health problems. By incorporating standing or pacing into a daily routine many of the negative effects of extended sitting can be countered.

Here’s how sitting affects your health: when you slump in your chair, your calorie-burning slows to a third of the rate compared to standing up. Metabolism drops. As a result, your risk of becoming obese and developing diabetes grows.

Stand up….then sit down!

However, as you dig deeper it seems that there are health risks associated with solely standing too. If you were to affect a complete sea change in your working environment and stand up all day long you are open to a number of ailments such as varicose veins and carotid atherosclerosis, a disease of the arteries.

In truth striking a workable balance between the two is probably as good as it’s going to get unless you can incorporate some low-level physical activity into your day also. Walking more is key to maintaining good health and utilises many of the muscles inactive when sitting.

Standing desks, when used correctly in conjunction with other activities, can be beneficial but they won’t solve the problem on their own. The points below give some ideas of other things to bear in mind when thinking about working healthily –

  • Use a gel mat with your standing desk – A gel or anti-fatigue mat supports your feet and lessens pressure on your body. As a result, you’ll stand longer.
  • Do simple exercises throughout the day – Doing air squats is a great way to break down of fats in your body and improving circulation in your legs. Do as many squats as you can between tasks or before lunch. You could do walking meetings, which not only add to your physical activity count, but stimulates alertness and creativity. Simple choices like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, once added up, could benefit you.
  • Prioritise productivity – If you’re spending too much time fretting about your routine or overexerting, it’s not worth it. If you feel uncomfortable standing after a while, sit. You can always go back to standing later. You’ll get into a rhythm over time. For example, you could start the day by standing, and tie in certain tasks with it. As the day wears on, you could sit and pair that with other routines. Or, if you prefer, switch between sitting and standing many times a day to keep yourself energised.
  • Getting your sitting and standing posture right – Finally, it’s not just how long you stand, but how your stand. Check guidelines on how to achieve the best posture both when sitting and standing.

So while the claims for standing desks are yet to be proved inconclusively all the signs point to the likes of Hemingway and Dickens, both of whom preferred to stand to work, being on the right lines in terms of productivity and healthy working.