As a solutions provider for the interior environment, one of the most commonly asked questions I receive is: “to sit or to stand”? What are the benefits, hazards, costs, and rules of sit-to-stand work styles? There are so many questions that surround the sit to stand trend right now:
- Is it a fad?
- Is it healthful?
- Does it increase productivity?
- What is the recommended amount of time to sit and to stand?
- How can I offer it more cost effectively to my staff?
Why are Employers Currently So Interested in Sit to Stand?
Increasing the health and well-being of your employee WILL save you money and increase your bottom line. Poor health costs the US economy $576 BILLION dollars annually, resulting in a 39% loss in productivity. Healthy, engaged and productive workers, are better for employers’ bottom line. With a worker shortage that is expected to continue for decades, management must find a way to get more out of the workforce they have. Creating healthier, more focused employees is the best way to do that.
The Benefits of Standing
According to research, including studies from Texas A&M, we already know that sit-to-stand work habits can lead to an average of 14-15% increased productivity. But let’s be honest. We just cannot stand all day; it just isn’t good for our bodies. That being said, even with the best, most advanced chair, our bodies need movement to stay healthy.
Standing reduces risk of metabolic syndrome, a condition that leads to type 2 diabetes. It reduces the risk of cancer, and scientists are now linking the elevation of a protein linked to cancer in people who sit for long periods of time (research is ongoing). Standing also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease – excessive sitters are 34% more likely to develop heart failure. A 2010 Australian study found that for each extra hour participants spent sitting daily, their overall risk of dying during the study period (seven years) went up 11%.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Too much standing in one place can put pressure on knees, feet, and arteries. It also increases risk of carotid atherosclerosis (disease of the arteries) by almost 10x, due to the extra load on your circulatory system. Men are more likely to get varicose veins, and improperly adjusted workstations can cause posture issues that can create fatigue, and chronic pain. Standing also makes it difficult to concentrate when doing heads down work.
Finding The Balance
According to an independent ergonomic study by Cornell University, the recommended ratio of sitting and standing at work, is for every 20 minutes, a worker should stand 8 minutes. In addition to this ratio, Cornell also found that one should move for approximately 2 minutes. They found that absolute time isn’t critical, but about every 20-30 minutes, we should take a posture break and stand, then move for a couple of minutes. Movement is key. It is important to get blood circulation through the muscles.
While research shows us we need to get the ratio correct on sitting, standing and moving, we also need to make sure we are doing so properly. Following proper ergonomic guidelines is critical to worker health and well-being, and cutting workers comp claims and healthcare costs.
At BSI, I work closely with organizations to find solutions for their challenges and to encourage a healthy, productive and innovative workplace for their employees. We have introduced several ways to encourage movement in the workplace, including:
- Incorporate Standing Meetings: A healthy culture needs to come from the top down. Management must walk the walk. Literally. Consider offering standing or walking meetings.
- Destination Work Tools: Limit or strategically locate – commonly used items like waste receptacles, copiers, and office equipment to encourage employees to move.
- Standing Campsites: Try adding a few standing desks in strategic locations around the office, for employees to drop in and use occasionally throughout the day.
- Collaboration Stations: Consider adding a worksurface on top of file cabinets adjacent to workstations. This incorporates storage to nearby employees, while also acts as a standing-height space for employees to collaborate.
- Height Adjustable Workstations: Consider height adjustable work surfaces and tables, even add height adjustable legs to existing desks. The options are endless.
Partnering with a trusted commercial interiors resource, like BSI, is important. We can provide you access to changing trends, healthy work styles, and researched-based solutions; all while offering you the peace of mind that you are offering a healthy and productive work space for your employees. We can even assist you in figuring out your return on investment and help guide you to cost savings analysis.
If you are interested in learning how you can implement sit/stand options into your office, please contact me.