The Dos and Don'ts of a Standing Desk

February 08, 2019

Employees sitting and standing while working at their desk.
Linsey Knerl

Why is ergonomics important in the workplace? In addition to preventing long-term health issues, encouraging these good habits can boost productivity and worker satisfaction. We already know that sitting in one location all day isn't safe for workers, but standing can be just as detrimental. One of the tools available to modern offices that are helping foster a balance in body positioning is the adjustable standing desk. Here are some of the guidelines for ensuring that it's beneficially incorporated into the workforce.

Start Slowly

Just as you wouldn't run a 5K on your first day of marathon training, it's not advisable to do too much time at a standing desk right away. Work up to longer periods of standing over a stretch. This gives your body time to adjust to the new routine and helps create the muscle memory needed to make the sit-stand cycle a habit.

Stand with Care

According to OSHA, how you position yourself at a standing desk is just as important as using one. Improper posture, such as slouching or standing with your legs too far apart, can place unnecessary strain on muscles and joints, leading to fatigue and even chronic pain. Proper standing posture requires you to stand with your feet facing forward and shoulder-length apart or less. Your head, neck, body and legs should be in alignment with one another. It's OK to put one foot up on a small stool or foot rest while standing to shift weight as comfortable.

Avoid Too Much of a Good Thing

As healthy as standing can be for your body, all perks are negated if not done in moderation. The benefit of a standing desk is that it encourages a shift in body position and varied movement throughout the work day; standing in one spot for too long counteracts this goal. Make sure your standing desk time is balanced out by sitting time; break both sitting and standing up with walks around the office too. Cornell University recommends the 20-8-2 rule: every 30 minutes, you should sit for 20 minutes, stand for eight minutes, and move for the remaining two minutes. There are plenty of apps available that track standing versus sitting, using a method called the Pomodoro Technique.

Don't Replace Diet and Exercise

Most people answer the question of, "Why is ergonomics important in the workplace?" with an explanation of its role in overall health. Choosing to ignore its part of a holistic plan, however, is dangerous. Working from a sit-and-stand desk is an important piece of the puzzle — especially at work. It's not the only thing you should be doing for better health. Eating well, getting formal exercise (such as going for long walks or stretching), as well as seeing your physician regularly for preventive checks, are all vital for your long-term wellness goals. An adjustable workspace is a big step forward for these milestones, but you'll still have work to do.

Signs and Symptoms To Consider

Despite your best efforts to bring a healthy balance to the workplace with an adjustable standing desk, it's still possible for some workers to experience discomfort or strain. If your team complains of any of the following, take time to observe their habits and make adjustments, as needed.

  • Back, neck or shoulder pain
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms, hands or fingers
  • Headaches
  • Loss of focus or productivity

If issues continue, your worker may be dealing with personal health issues. Have them seek the advice of a physician for any symptoms unrelated to basic ergonomic best practices.

No One-Size-Fits-All Solution

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when starting any new wellness campaign in your workplace is that one product or idea won't work the same for everyone. The adjustable desk is especially effective when used in a way specific to the individual user. Don't assume that a configuration that is comfortable and successful for one worker will be effective for another. In addition to following specific setup guidelines for each user, there may be personal preferences that limit how well a desk works for each employee. Don't hesitate to contact the manufacturer of your chosen adjustable desk for assistance with making it a pleasant move for everyone.

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