Should your office have standing desks?

Standing desks can improve energy and focus and counteract the negative effects of sitting

As upright alternatives to traditional desks, standing desks have the potential to transform the workplace. They require the user to stand instead of sit while working, a change that comes with a whole host of pros and cons. Learn about the benefits and drawbacks of standing desks and decide whether this type of desk would work well in your office.

Standing (or stand-up) desks have enjoyed increased popularity in the past few years, and for good reason. Many people have adopted this type of desk in an effort to improve overall health. The Smithsonian reports that the average office worker spends nearly six hours per day sitting at a desk, which can have a detrimental effect on your health. Researchers have uncovered evidence linking such long periods of sitting with conditions ranging from cancer to obesity to diabetes.

While many office workers hit the gym after work as they strive to counteract the negative effects of a long day at a desk, this doesn’t necessarily make up for all the sitting. Instead, it’s essential to stay active throughout the day or to take frequent breaks at the office. Researchers often recommend taking walking breaks, climbing flights of stairs, or standing for extended periods of time to fight the detrimental effects of sitting.

Standing desks are ideal for ensuring that you stay active throughout the workday. Since they’re positioned much higher than traditional desks, they keep you on your feet and prevent long periods of sitting.

However, stand-up desks have a few downsides, too. When you first transition from a traditional desk to a standing desk, you might find it both tiring and uncomfortable, especially if you aren’t in great shape. You’ll get used to the energy demands of a standing desk over time, but if you tend to work long hours, you may never be able to stand comfortably for the entire 10- or 12-hour stretch.

Rather than pushing yourself to the point of fatigue, try to ease into the transition, only standing for a few hours at a time. Invest in an anti-fatigue mat, as it can provide much-needed cushion and support. Consider swapping your typical work shoes for a more comfortable pair, too. With supportive shoes, you may be able to stand much longer than you expect.

Depending on your office setup, you may also find that a standing desk exposes you much more than a traditional desk ever did. If you’re in an open office, you’ll stick out more than ever before, and if you have a cubicle setup, you might find that the low walls don’t offer much privacy.

Adjustable height desk benefits

While adjustable height desks come with a few challenges, they offer the best of both worlds. Take a look at some of the most significant benefits you’ll gain from having the option to stand or sit at work.

Improved energy and focus

When you’re sitting all day, it isn’t uncommon for this position to make you feel lethargic and sapped of energy. After all, when you can simply sit and relax in a comfortable chair, there’s no need to keep your energy levels up.

In contrast, when you use a standing desk, you’ll increase your energy levels naturally. You can’t just zone out when you’re using a standing desk, since you need to stay upright. With a standing desk, you’ll work to improve your productivity while staying active.

Focus is a different story, though. While keeping your energy levels up can help you stay engaged with your work, standing doesn’t always help you focus. In fact, studies have shown that most people are best at performing tasks that require intense concentration and advanced motor skills while seated. If you want the option to alternate between maintaining high energy levels while standing and allowing yourself to do more in-depth tasks with greater focus while sitting, an adjustable height desk is a smart choice.

Easier engagement with colleagues

A standing desk may make you stick out from the crowd, but this can be a good thing if you’re working on a collaborative project or if you have a social workspace. When you stand as you work, you’re likely to find that colleagues engage with you much more easily, in part because you’re already at eye level when they walk by.

Of course, everyone needs private space to focus from time to time, whether you work from a shared office space, a large corporate headquarters, or a small office. An adjustable height desk enables you to get the privacy you need so that you can complete the task at hand.

Motivation to move

Sitting during a long day at work isn’t great for your health, and you’ll need to make a conscious effort to take activity breaks and get your blood flowing throughout the day. Simply swapping a traditional desk for a standing or adjustable height desk isn’t necessarily a sure win, though. After all, standing in place for hours on end isn’t much better for your health than sitting for multiple hours in a row. An adjustable height desk makes it easy to change positions as often as you like.

Fortunately, many office workers who make the switch find that doing so makes them naturally inclined to move. When they’re already standing, it’s easy to include movements like lunging, stretching, and pacing into their regular routines.

Better posture

Most standing desk adoptees don’t expect to gain better posture when they make the switch, but many do. This happens naturally, as standing up straight goes a long way toward strengthening your core. If you didn’t have a particularly supportive or ergonomic chair to begin with, you might notice your posture improving even more.

Of course, not everyone who tries a standing or adjustable height desk enjoys better posture. For instance, if your desk is positioned at a height that forces you to look down at your computer screen, your posture could worsen over time. Make sure that your screen is positioned at eye level and your desk is at a height where you can rest your arms comfortably.

Less chronic pain

Sitting in an ergonomic chair is comfortable for many office workers, but for some people, maintaining a seated position for hours on end is never comfortable. Those who suffer from chronic back, neck, or shoulder pain often find that an adjustable height desk provides immeasurable relief.

In some cases, however, these desks can produce painful side effects rather than alleviating chronic conditions. If you find that you’re developing swollen feet or varicose veins, make sure that your footwear offers enough support and that you’ve invested in a floor mat that provides an adequate cushion. Ensure that you have an ergonomic chair on hand and adjust your desk to a sitting position as you need to.

Decreased risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes

Whether you’re at risk of becoming obese or developing type 2 diabetes or you’d simply prefer to take a proactive approach to these conditions, an adjustable height desk can help. A recent Mayo Clinic study showed that people who spent more time moving at work had a lower chance of gaining weight, even if they consumed more calories. Since an adjustable height desk can encourage you to keep moving during the day, it may be a smart investment for your health.

Lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer

For decades, scientists have known that people who sit for longer periods of time tend to experience greater risks of cardiovascular disease. More recently, studies have begun to suggest that similar links exist between sitting and some types of cancer. As the Smithsonian reports, lack of physical activity could be the cause of tens of thousands of cases of breast and colon cancer.

While walking, pacing, and other movements are better antidotes to sitting than standing is, for many office workers, an adjustable height desk is the first step in the right direction. Get moving with an adjustable height desk, and lower your risk of several serious diseases.

Both standing and adjustable height desks offer a range of benefits that make them worthwhile investments for professionals in a wide range of industries. Consider implementing one of these desks in your office to combat the dangers of sitting, improve your health, and boost your productivity.

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