How To Hack Your Health With Standing Desks

This article is about Standing-Only desks. These desks are just for standing; there is no adjustability to go between sitting and standing. Not only is it trendy today, but there is a bit of confusion that I want to settle with this post. A lot of the attention surrounding Standing-Only desks is with optimal standing schedules to prevent long-term risks. Standing desks, if used correctly, are a straight forward approach to promote postural change without negatively impacting productivity. Check out our 4 suggestions below on how to make sure you work as safe and as comfortable as possible with a Standing-Only desk.

4 Ways To Hack Your Standing Schedule

Tip #1. Try Not To Stand All Day.

One of the most common misconceptions that I come across is that standing all day is a good thing. In reality, just like sitting all day, prolonged standing without much movement or activity is not a preferred ergonomic activity. For instance, research has shown that it can only take about 30 minutes of standing for indicators of lower extremity discomfort risk to develop. That’s all! Which really is not a lot of time in the grand scheme of your workday. So, what can you do about this — STAND LESS. That’s it. Changing up your posture (between sitting and standing) at regular intervals can go a long way to reduce discomfort risks. Do you only use a Standing-Only desk? Well, I have some specific suggestions for you in Tips #2 and #3 (including this Tip of course). If you have a workstation that can be adjusted between sitting and standing but only tend to use the standing function, this advice would be useful to you too. This research has categorized safe durations of standing into safe, slightly unsafe, and unsafe. Whenever possible you should obviously try to work your schedule to be within the safest category possible, whether that be the ‘safe’ or ‘slightly unsafe’ categories. You can check these out below for a more detailed explanation to be used with any standing workstation:

  1. The ‘Safe’ Category (lowest ergonomic risk): Standing continuously for less than 1 hour AND for a maximum of 4 hours total throughout their shift.
  2. The ‘Slightly Unsafe’ Category (moderate ergonomic risk): Standing continuously for more than 1 hour OR more than 4 hours total throughout their shift.
  3. The ‘Unsafe’ Category (highest ergonomic risk): Standing continuously for more than 1 hour AND more than 4 hours total throughout their shift.

Tip #2. Incorporating Breaks Are Key.

Even with the most ergonomic set-up, if you physically don’t move (except for those speedy little fingers of yours on the keyboard) for hours at a time it’s ergonomically risky. The tips in this section are specifically for those with a Standing-Only desk because it can be a little more difficult to incorporate standing breaks into your workday. Why? Well, when compared to sit-stand desks where you can pretty much go between sitting and standing without sacrificing your productivity, with a Standing-Only desk it necessitates more directness. You almost need to plan out your work breaks to ensure that you can work safely. This research (when combined with the ‘safety zones’ from Tip #1), gives you a really good timeframe to work within. It shows that limiting prolonged standing to just 2 hours at a time, with 5 minutes of seated rest at every hour has been shown to be incredibly useful at reducing the ergonomic risk. Ways to put this in motion include incorporating quick and frequent breaks (for instance, a few minutes/hour) into you workday and work breaks should be an activity where there are large body movements — going from standing to sitting is a good example. Nervous that this may impact your productivity? No worries here as this research found that even with taking more frequent breaks throughout the day, productivity can actually be improved by up to 10%. How about stretching programs? This research shows that stretching programs are advised against due to the limited results in reducing worker discomfort. They indicate that it can take a lot of training and refreshers to show staff how to effectively incorporate stretching programs into their schedules.

Tip #3. Get The Equipment.

Probably one of the easiest ways to hack breaks into your Standing-Only desk is to have the right equipment. Of course you’ll need a desk that is set-up ergonomically (see Tip#4 for more information!), but beyond that there are many options that can be purchased to enhance your experience while reducing the risks associated with prolonged standing. Here are the top add-ons for Standing-Only desks:

  1. Anti-Fatigue Mats (AFMs): Research has found that foot discomfort is proportional to the amount of time standing. With this in mind, getting an anti-fatigue mat can be a big value-add at improving comfort levels. This study found that AFMs are engineered to make the body naturally and imperceptibly sway, which encourages subtle movement by calf and leg muscles. This promotes blood flow and keeps blood from stagnating in the veins (causes workers to feel fatigued).
  2. Perch Stools: These specific types of stools are not quite for sitting, and not quite for standing; they are kind of an in-between. Perch stools can be used as a method to incorporate a slight rest break while you are still standing and the big emphasis is on slight because these types of chairs really lack structure. None-the-less, this research finds that perch stools are a reasonable solution for reducing back discomfort for a Standing-Only desk.
  3. Foot Rails: These are placed underneath the desk to allow you to rest one foot on the rail during prolonged standing. It’s aim is to reduce some of the load and/or strain that accumulates on the lower back and lower extremities. The height should be approximately 15 cm (6”) from the ground and it should be long enough to rest either foot on it.
  4. Cushioned (like Running) Shoes: This is a really good budget-friendly suggestion. This research shoes that more supportive shoes have been proven to effectively improve comfort and reduce back, leg, and foot pain for anyone who must stand throughout their workday.

Tip #4. Set Your Workstation Up Optimally.

The last, but probably most important tip is to make sure that your Standing-Only desk is set-up ergonomically. Since your Standing desk is considered your main workstation, it makes sense to make sure that it is set-up as best as possible for you. Here is a BIG TIP: For setting up your desk, it is all about making sure the heights are right for you. Compared with ergonomically setting up a sitting desk, a Standing-Only desk is a little more straight forward in my opinion. Why? Well because you really only need to ensure that two general areas are optimized for you. The 2 key things that you need to know here to optimally set-up your standing workstation:

  1. Standing Elbow Rest Height: The working surface (keyboard and mouse) should be slightly below your standing elbow height to ensure that the upper extremities are relaxed and comfortable. Standing elbow height is measured from the ground to the underside of the forearm (the fleshy part beneath the elbow) when the forearm and upper arm are at 90 degree angle.
  2. Standing Resting Eye Height: Monitor height is an important yet often forgotten aspect to an optimal Standing-Only desk set-up. With a monitor that is optimally set-up for you many of the risks related to neck discomfort and headaches can be reduced! The top of the monitor’s screen should be just slightly below your standing resting eye height with the bottom of the monitor tilted upwards. Standing eye height is measured from the ground to your natural and comfortable eye position. If you happen to work solo, you can always hack this measurement by placing something straight (like a ruler) from your neutral eye position to make sure that the top of the screen is slightly below it. With this, your chin should be parallel to the ground and your eyes should be looking straight ahead.

Note: for more information on all the other details about optimal workstation set-up, you can check out our free e-book.

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