Often the advice given about how to improve our health and wellbeing can be conflicting. Don’t eat fat – do eat fat. Eat 5 a day – no, make that 10 a day. Drink a bottle of wine a day - you get the idea! There are all kinds of contradictory messages out there and it’s sometimes difficult to know which of the latest guidance to follow. That’s why we thought we’d give you the lowdown on height adjustable desks – are they just another fad or do they really provide wellbeing benefits to their users?
Standing desks certainly aren’t a new invention. The idea of standing whilst working was popular back in the 18th and 19th centuries too. However, height adjustable desks in the workplace do seem to have made a comeback with their health and wellbeing benefits being considered by many employers.
There is scientific research to prove many of the benefits linked to standing rather than sitting, especially for long periods of time. Using a standing desk, over the period of an afternoon in the workplace, rather than remaining seated, has been shown to burn 170 more calories, equating to quite a difference over an entire working week.* But, would a brisk walk in a lunch break not burn even more calories and provide additional health benefits too?
With back pain being such a common complaint, especially amongst office workers, can sit-stand desks offer some relief to back pain sufferers and reduce sick leave? Is it the sitting that’s the problem or can bad posture, whether seated or standing, cause issues? There is some evidence to suggest that going straight from working at a seated desk for 8 hours a day to working at a standing desk for 8 hours a day, may cause transitional problems, so an extreme change in working methods isn’t advised.**
Some of the research in support of standing desks has been questioned. Many studies are now suggesting that it isn’t sitting that’s the problem – it’s simply being still. So whether you’re sitting still or standing still, you are of course being ‘less healthy’ than if you’re moving and being active.*** So, are treadmill desks the answer?
In essence, and after digesting reams of research on this subject, we have concluded that as with many things in life it’s about finding the right balance for the individual. Certain back complaints could be aggravated by too much standing or by too much sitting – so treat each case on the evidence presented.
Employees should be encouraged to include breaks and short walks within their working day. Sit-stand desks that can be adjusted between the two heights offer the benefits of both positions, enabling personal choice depending on the user and their tasks. It’s about finding out what’s right for your organisation and your staff, offering choice wherever possible and encouraging good working practices.