We discuss the health benefits of standing in the office.
Modern office working can bring benefits, but also health risks. More periods of standing can help overcome postural problems, but it needs to be interspersed with frequent sitting, and your office environment needs to help not hinder.
Many people working in an office spend a lot of their time sitting at a desk. However, this isn’t good for their health. Those who spend the most time sitting down at a desk are at a higher risk of musculoskeletal problems, deep vein thrombosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even risk death from these causes.
According to Government statistics, our postures at work can decrease the amount of time that staff work. Every year, 30.8 million workdays are lost due to musculoskeletal problems. Research has therefore concluded that offices should be designed to allow for office staff to spend some of their time standing.
The health benefits go far beyond the minimising of risks. Those who spend a significant amount of time standing are less likely to suffer from headaches, have better posture, and experience better mental health. Those who regularly get up and use a standing desk also experience weight loss after a few months.
There are also benefits for the company. Those standing have higher energy levels and can be more productive. Their positive mood can also rub off on others in the office and impress customers which can help to improve sales.
Standing for the right amount of time
Of course, there is a balancing act here. In laboratory-controlled studies in Canada, it has been found that 50% of workers who were told to stand for too long (over two consecutive hours in the study) developed lower back pain. These participants had not experienced back pain before the study.
The actual amount of time for people to stand is challenging to determine. Health experts have stated for a long time that office workers should be standing for about 15 minutes in every hour of work. However, research from the University of Waterloo has found the health benefits aren’t experienced unless the person is standing for about half an hour in every hour of work.
The research also found that some people won’t experience any benefits of standing unless they sit for 15 minutes and stand for 45 minutes. But this has to be done in moderation.
A member of staff can’t just sit down for a couple of hours and then spend four hours standing. This is what causes back pain and bad posture. The change between sitting and standing needs to be frequent and that is why your office design needs to be such that it allows for frequent changes.
Designing the office for standing desks
To ensure that your office designs are suitable for this more mobile and active style of working, you need to consider several aspects. First, staff should be able to move between sitting desks and standing desks. This will require more hot-desking and less assigned areas for work.
Also, as more staff are going to be more mobile, you need to ensure there is enough space for their activity. This might include changes to your commercial flooring by using coloured areas or different types of flooring, where activity is expected to remind staff to keep those areas clear of obstructions.
There are many other ways you can improve standing ratios as well. Meetings could be held stood in a meeting room and not around a table, for example.