Here at Axis, we are often asked to assess the ergonomics of seated workstations and provide guidance on sit-to-stand workstations.

Research undertaken in recent years has demonstrated that too much sitting can have negative impacts on health, regardless of whether we meet the current physical activity guidelines (moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day) outside of our work hours

This can include a higher risk of musculoskeletal disorders such as back and neck pain, but also other lifestyle illnesses such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Seated workstations promote sedentary behaviours and a lack of postural and cardiovascular variation throughout the day.  A height-adjustable workstation gives you the flexibility to perform your usual work tasks in either a standing or seated position.

However it is still dependent on you, the user, to use the equipment appropriately to gain the benefit.  In the first instance, this requires you to be aware of how long you have been sitting or standing for, and then change your desk height to alternate your working postures.

So before buying a height-adjustable workstation, consider changing your work habits with the equipment you already have as practice for changing your behaviour.  There are plenty of strategies you can use to start improving your work variation:

1. Increase your amount of break-time from sitting:

Set goals for the maximum time sitting without a standing or walking break (e.g. for 1-2 minutes for every 30 minutes of sitting) and brainstorm what opportunities you have in your current work flow to enable this.

The break can be as simple as standing at your workstation, performing a couple of counter-posture stretches, a couple of deep breathing exercises and focusing on a distant object.

It could be an ad-hoc productive work task such as standing and walking to the office printer or fax or walking to speak with a colleague instead of phoning them.  You could have a small glass that you refill every hour which requires you to walk to the kitchen area, or you could get rid of individual bins to encourage walking to the central bin area.

2. Integrate standing work tasks that you would normally perform seated:

Review your usual desk-based tasks that don’t require you to type or mouse frequently.  This could include:

  • Reviewing documents online
  • Reading hard-copy documents or
  • Speaking on the phone.

All of these tasks can be done in standing! Take the opportunity to change your posture and you will see immediate improvements in your comfort and attention levels.

Find a spot in your office where you can stand around elbow height, such as a filing cabinet or next to the photo-copier, and use this as an alternative to your seated desk workspace.

Turn staff meetings into standing or walking meetings, and you may be pleasantly surprised to see your productivity improve!

3. Stand or move for meetings:

Here are some ideas:

  • Plan standing meetings within your workplace instead of sitting around the conference table
  • Walk over to your office colleague instead of phoning or emailing them
  • OR Propose a walking meeting if you need to discuss something with a colleague.

4. Get out of the office more:

Leave your seated workstation for a prolonged moving break at least once during your day. Eat your lunch while walking or standing, to remove more sitting in the lunchroom!

The first step in changing your behaviour is to precisely ide tify what you want or need to change.  You can use these ideas as a starting point to determine what opportunities there are in your workflow to implement more variation in your posture.

In our next article, we explain how to safely use a sit-to-stand workstation.