standing desk in the workplace

Standing desks in the workplace: do the benefits outweigh the cost?

Standing desks in the workplace have adjustable heights to enable you to work on them, whether standing up or sitting. Due to their adjustability, they allow office workers flexibility to fit their comfort and activity levels.

The idea of working while standing is not new. It’s has been around for more than 100 years. In fact, the inventor Leonardo Da Vinci is known to work while standing. Apart from him, famous personalities like Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway – have been known to use standing desks for their work.

Why integrate standing desks in the workplace? 

There is a popular saying –“Sitting is the new smoking.”

This effectively conveys the detrimental health effect prolonged sitting has on people. The rising awareness is what has pushed the usage of standing desks significantly in offices.

The emphasis on employee wellness and well-studied health and productivity benefits have led tech giants like Apple and Google to offer standing desks to all its employees, boosting the trend further.

Today, employers understand that an employee spends most of his time at his desk and they need to offer their employees a more ergonomic and active  work environment. Research shows that employee productivity and creativity is significantly enhanced when they feel cared for.

For employers who are not yet convinced of the benefits of standing desks in the workplace, we’ve listed out the following pros and cons:

The pros of using standing desks in the office:

  1. Helps employees lose weight.

    According the National Academy of Sciences published in this Forbes article, “sitting could really be killing us because it distorts the body’s own picture of how much it weighs, screwing with the systems that regulate body fat.”

  2. Reduces obesity-related diseases.

    Research shows that standing desks help to shed an extra 1,000 calories every week. This means burning 48,000 more calories every year without much effort – that’s almost 186 Big Mac burger!

    Besides, people do not just stand at their desks; they shift weight from one foot to another and move forward and backwards. These micro movements increases the calories burnt and helps to deal with obesity. This implies weight reduction AND a reduction in associated obesity-related diseases.

  3. Reduces the risk of diabetes in employees.

    When you stand, your large muscles in your legs and back are at work. This additional work actually lowers your blood sugar levels and risk of diabetes.

    Doctors agree that standing brings the blood sugar levels to normal levels much faster compared to sitting, for diabetic patients. Higher blood sugar levels after a meal is a major risk specifically for Type 2 diabetic patients.

  4. Reduces the risk of heart diseases in employees.

    British researchers conducted a study on bus drivers and conductors and found that bus drivers (who sit more) were prone to heart and other related ailments, compared to bus conductors (who stood more).

    Standing lowers the risk of cardiovascular and related heart diseases in individuals. In fact, standing at a standing desk desk causes our heart to beat ten times more every minute.


  5. Improves the mood of employees at work.

    Standing increases blood circulation, and this has been shown to improve the mood, energy levels and mental alertness in individuals. This improves an employee’s productivity and concentration at work.

  6. Possibly reduces the risk of breast and colon cancers.

    Studies have shown that reduced general physical activity leads to high cases of breast and colon cancers. Besides, many other types of cancers like prostate, lung and ovarian cancer have been found in people who spend most of their time sitting at their desks. The implication is that standing or moving more could reduces the risk of cancer in sedentary people.

The benefits of sit stand desks in the workplace go beyond the above-mentioned lifestyle diseases. Keeping these diseases at bay would mean an increased life expectancy and overall better life for people. This should be a priority for the Human Resources Department of any company that has the welfare of its employees at heart.

The sheer idea that just by transforming an office space could result in a multitude of health benefits to employees, is one that companies should seriously consider.

The cons of standing desks in the workplace: 

  1. Could be uncomfortable for employees with certain types of existing health problems.

    Standing for long durations can be discomforting for employees especially the ones who are already dealing with existing back and spinal problems or the ones with weight issues.

  2. Prolonged standing could result in lower back problems.

    Though sitting for longer durations has damaging health effect, prolonged standing can get tiring too. In fact, standing for overly long durations can cause lower back problems and increase the risk of varicose veins in individuals over a period.

    Therefore, it’s important to get a desk that is adjustable height, not just a static stand up desk. When employees get tired, they should have the option to sit.

In conclusion

We can say for certain that the benefits of using standing desks in the workplace far outweigh the costs of using them.

There is a growing consensus among experts that the best way to work in offices is to use a combination of sitting and standing positions. Not only does it improves the overall work efficiency, but this also offers a way to extract maximum health benefits while working. A healthier employee feels comfortable, more energized, focused, productive, happier and less stressed.

Dr Peter Ottone, DC, a chiropractor from New Jersey puts it well “My feeling is that using a standing desk is a sound philosophy and will be recommended by back specialists much more frequently as more research is available”.

Learn more about being healthy at work

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