Standing Desk Ergonomics: 7 Benefits of Standing at Work

We’ve all been there, slumped over a computer, typing away, back aching, shoulders hunched, as the hours tick away. Chances are if you’ve ever been in this (poor) position, you’ve likely wondered about the benefits of standing at work.

Standing desks and treadmill desks have gained in popularity over the past several years. A recent survey of HR professionals reported that the use of standing desks had increased by 7% in the last year as an employer-provided office perk. Offering a standing desk is one of those wellness options that are easy for employers to support and really improves office morale.

At the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, helping you work comfortably and safely is one of our top priorities. We care about your back health. Stave off back pain and the damage from too much computer work by learning about standing desk ergonomics. Here are the benefits of standing at work.

Standing Desk Ergonomics: Get the Position Right

You may hear the word ergonomics associated with office furniture and computer equipment. Ergonomics refers to the way designers create equipment to align comfortably with the shape of the human body. Using biotechnology and design engineering, office furniture manufacturers have some ingenious solutions to help you have better posture while you work.

In the early days, standing desks were often a few boxes or a pile of books propped up under your laptop. Now a standing desk may be adjustable with different levers to raise and adjust the keyboard, keep the monitor at eye level (to counteract “hunching” and neck strain), and even a comfortable wrist pad for your mouse.

It’s often not practical to stand during every task. For example, taking a call, video conferencing, or quick emails might be easy standing activities. On the other hand, writing, design, or intensive research may be easier to do while sitting down. Give yourself time to ease into a routine of sitting and standing. Aim for a few 15-30-minute standing intervals throughout your day until you reach a balance that feels right to you.

Another aspect of standing desk ergonomics to consider are measures to prevent knee and leg strain. Standing for a long time with your knees locked or wearing heels can cause stress to your legs and even your lower back. Keep your knees loose and slightly bent. Look for a comfortable standing mat that’s made to accompany the desk and wear comfortable, supportive shoes while you stand.

Choose an adjustable standing desk. Many options sit right on top of your standard desk and use hydraulics to raise and lower the platform that holds your computer easily. These ergonomic standing desks make it simple to reap all the benefits of standing at work.

7 Benefits of Standing at Work

Whether you’re working from your home office or working from a busy shared space, a standing desk is a great option to improve your health during the workday. Here are 7 benefits of standing at work.

1. Burns Calories

Standing burns more calories than sitting, even if you simply stand still. Now, the calorie difference between standing versus sitting isn’t huge. Standing burns about 100-200 calories per hour, while sitting burns 60-130 calories. But over time, it can add up.

The other calorie-burning benefit of standing at work is the shift in your mindset. When you’re standing up, you’re more likely to keep your mind in “wellness mode.” You’ll walk around a bit more often throughout the day. You might do some leg lifts or take a quick break with some squats or jumping jacks. These little shifts in activity help you burn more calories during your workday.

2. Gives You an Energy Burst

In an analysis of 53 studies published in the Applied Ergonomics journal, having a standing desk encouraged workers to spend more time on their feet. Researchers in the UK found that 66% of workers felt more productive and 87% felt more energized by spending just an hour of their workday standing. The findings were so useful that they began the Smart Work and Life program to encourage office workers to get more active.

Small movements and active moments throughout the day help you stay awake and alert. You feel more engaged when you literally “think on your feet.” If you’re feeling sluggish throughout your workday, adding a few periods of standing can help you get back some of that energy and enthusiasm.

3. Improves Posture

Using a standing desk with proper ergonomics can help you have good posture at the computer. Your monitor should be at eye level, about 20 inches from your face at a 20-degree tilt, while you should bend your arms at 100-degree angles at your sides. Wrists should hover comfortably above the keyboard, with weight shifting between legs.

If you’re regularly standing, the right posture position will start to become second nature and doesn’t put the compression on your spine that sitting can. Sitting for more extended periods can put pressure on your back and discs, leading to back, shoulder, and neck discomfort.

4. Reduces Back Pain

Like poor posture, you may think back pain is caused by sitting, but it’s not something that you have to live with or accept as part of work. If you have a comfortable chair designed with back and lumbar support and alternate with periods of standing, you will likely remedy your minor back pain.

According to the NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 8 out of 10 people experience back pain during their lives. If your pain doesn’t get better with some minor posture adjustments, it may be time to reach out to one of our orthopedic experts to see if you need additional intervention.

5. Helps with Wrist Position

If you’ve sat with a laptop on your lap while typing, you’ve probably noticed your wrists start to fall and “rest” on your keyboard. This can lead to wrist strain and pain. Sufferers of carpal tunnel syndrome, a pinched nerve in the wrist may notice more discomfort when wrists are held in the wrong position (although contrary to popular belief, there’s no correlation between keyboard use and CTS).

It’s good to be cognizant of your wrist position and strain on your body while you work. If you use a standing desk, you can keep your arms comfortably bent at a 90-100-degree angle. This is often a more ergonomic position and may even improve your typing speeds!

6. Keeps Circulation Going

If we look back at human evolution, our bodies were made to move. When we stand, we improve our leg muscles, our balance, and our core strength. We also prevent blood clots from forming in the legs. When people sit for a long time (such as on a plane), blood may slow and pool in their legs. In the worst cases, this can lead to a blood clot.

When we stand up, we move our legs and get the blood flowing throughout our bodies. In some studies, people who sat for long periods even had shorter life spans due to poor cardiovascular health. Standing often is part of a healthier lifestyle.

7. Boosts Your Mood and Focus

Finally, if your workday seems long and you find yourself distracted, standing up can give you a focus and mood boost to increase your productivity. A study at Texas A&M University found people who stood up at work in a call center were 50% more productive.

Standing helps us feel healthier, and when we feel well, we’re often in a better mood. Participants in standing studies at work have reported improved mood as a peripheral benefit of standing at work. So if you’re having a slow workday (or feeling down), get on your feet!

At the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, we want to help you work, play, and live pain-free. If you’re experiencing discomfort during your workday, please contact us for an assessment. We can help you move and work with ease.