Beyond the Standing Desk: Wellbeing in the Workplace
Someone you know has probably built a standing desk at work. Maybe it’s someone at work or an acquaintance. Maybe it’s your own spouse who has become obsessed with the gym, eating a gluten-free diet … and now they want a standing desk too. Standing desks have become all the rage recently.
Maybe you’ve been considering a standing desk yourself, or maybe you think your friend with the standing desk is just a bit “extreme”. It may not seem so extreme when you consider that over 80% of the average office worker’s day is spent in the sitting position.
As we get more and more data about the dangers of being sedentary, many are looking to buck the lifestyle changes of the last half-century. Our desk jobs are killing us, they say. The American Heart Association reports, “Sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950”, making it harder for us to stay active on a daily basis. Today, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes are our workplace dangers.
We would argue that, rather than completely converting to a standing desk, you simply find a way to BALANCE your movement in the workplace. As your elders used to enjoy reminding you: there can be too much of a good thing.
Think about your own day:
- You drive to work (seated in your car)
- You sit at your desk for 8-10 hours each day
- You take a break to eat lunch (often at your desk, but if not, probably still seated)
- You sit in your car to drive home or you take public transportation (seated if you’re lucky)
- You’re finally home, now it’s time to sit down for dinner
- You unwind by watch television (seated) or a hobby (probably also seated)
Although we agree that workers need to stand up more, there is a missing link. That link is movement! We no longer spend much time during the day using our body for mobility or even movement between various positions.
Movement is a partner of vitality, one of the pillars of wellbeing. Sitting, walking, standing, leaning, and reclining are all natural positions of human biomechanics. Too much time spent in any one position can degrade your overall health in subtle, consistent ways, which an hour at the gym cannot fully undo. Having a variety of positions available to you in your workspace would be best, allowing all-day adjustments in your positioning, each ideally-suited to your variety of tasks throughout the workday.
To get more movement into your day, try spending half of your lunch break on a walk around the block or climbing stairs between floors. Never sit for more than an hour straight. Instead, lean against a wall during a phone call, have a walking meeting as you and your colleague discuss a project, or just take the long way back from the restroom.
Made for Sitting … and Shifting … and even Slouching!
We don’t want to ban sitting. That would create a host of new pain points, like plantar fasciitis, especially without allowing the body time to adapt. Sitting is arguably, still the best way to get certain types of work accomplished.
Experts recommend not a prim, upright sitting position, but a reclining 135 degree angle, to reduce the shortening of our hip flexors and hamstrings, and to release the pressure on our sciatic nerve. Back pain, anyone?
The Gesture chair supports tablet and laptop usage, with armrests that move like human arms and adjustments that are made synchronously for continuous support, no matter how we shift or which position we prefer to use our technology.
Walking for Wellbeing
Walking can be something you take a break to do on your own, or something to aid productivity — moving on the Walkstation, a Steelcase walking desk, for example. The Walkstation is not for everyone, but businesses in unsuitable walking neighborhoods may find it a welcome addition to the workplace, allowing colleagues to stretch their legs periodically without an outside trip to the gym. Promote these options as a workplace benefit; employees who value an ideal work-life balance (and, who doesn’t?) will appreciate having choices in how they complete their work.
Standing Room Optional
The Airtouch, Steelcase’s best height-adjustable desk makes a wonderful collaboration space, giving people the option to stand or sit when they come together on a project. Having a flexible space, where table heights adjust seamlessly, but others can choose to sit takes the pressure off of anyone to conform to what everyone else is doing and to make activity choices for themselves.
Your office shouldn’t be where people get paid to be stagnant. Allow your employees to have active bodies and still excel at their job by providing them with workable options. The extra attention now to healthy activity will benefit them and your bottom line over the long term.