There is a growing ergonomic trend that workstations should be height adjustable. This allows the user to be able to work in either a sitting or a standing position, thereby reducing the negative effects of prolonged sitting.
While it is certainly true that sitting for long periods of time is not easy on the body, recent research has indicated that sit-to-stand ergonomic workstations are not necessarily the answer.
Standing certainly reduces the load through the lumber spine when compared to sitting, and it requires about 20% more energy (and burns 20% more calories). However, it is also more tiring and increases the risk of varicose veins. When going from sitting to standing, the height of the monitor should also change and be made higher because if left at the same height as when used in a seated posture, the result will be prolonged neck flexion while standing and working.
In field studies conducted by Cornell University, it was found that users work standing for very short periods of time – 15 minutes or less per day. Other studies that Cornell University reported on found that the use of sit-to-stand workstations rapidly declines so that after just 1 month the majority of people are sitting all the time.
There is a reason we sit to work, sitting helps to stabilise the body so it is the easiest position in which to type, drive, write, etc. That is why Cornell University also quotes on studies showing that treadmill and bicycle workstations decrease computer work performance. Typing and mousing are slower and significantly more mistakes are made if you are walking or pedalling at the same time.
At Ergotherapy we continue to be governed by what is practical and what is easy for people to implement. We have always said that if compliance is poor, then the solution is wrong. The answer is tosit comfortably, well supported and relaxed. And to not let an hour go by without doing something that involves a change in posture – a walk to the canteen or printer, or a phone call while standing up at least.
Get comfortable at your workstation, and get into the habit of building frequent movement into your work day.