Standing desks only? Don't fall for the hype, study says
- Standing rather than sitting is the latest workplace trend, but Finnish researchers at the University of Jyvaskyla say the health benefits are mostly marketing hype, Science Daily reports.
- Science Daily says the hype began with recent reports about the health dangers of sedentary behavior. New ergonomic theories and standing equipment soon followed. Manufacturers have been fueling the hype by promoting active work stations with standing desks and treadmills, claiming that standing workstations can eliminate the health hazards of sitting by correcting posture, reducing mental stress and improving overall health.
- The researchers studied employees in the software industry, whom they thought would most likely fit the stereotypical sedentary workers, but they found that standing only results in "modest promotions of physical activity." Standing decreased musculoskeletal strain in the worker's neck and shoulders, but increased stress and strain in the legs and feet. They also found that standing workstations had no effect on posture or satisfaction.
Office ergonomics, which promote proper sitting, lifting, word processing and other work-related activities, can reduce fatigue and injuries. Wellness programs usually have a physical wellbeing component that includes getting up and moving throughout the workday. So while an employer may not want to encourage everyone stand all day at work, having a variety of ways for employees to sit or stand while working may be ideal.
Employers might also keep in mind that employees' preferences for how the work gets done will differ. Some companies provide lounge-like workspaces, with big cushy chairs for working, while others maintain cordoned-off offices for employees who need to concentrate without distractions. Whatever employees' preferences, employers can recommend ways to avoid strains and injuries while working — and make the workplace a pleasant space in which to operate.