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Standing at the Office: Finding a Balance While We Work

September 2, 2016

The traditional office space has begun to change.  Our mode of work has shifted as more systems, processes, and information has become paperless which leads to more time working with a screen, tablet or phone in-hand.  Our deskbound time has increased as we’ve shifted away from manual hands-on-tasks to more information based screen time.  But the newest trend in office design doesn’t mean that deskbound time is also chair bound time; enter the sit-to-stand workstation.  Is this new option for the workplace something employers should be excited about or wary of?

Published research reports are raising fears about the actual physiological risks of prolonged sitting. According to researchers with the Mayo Clinic, too much seated time can lead to increased risk of obesity and diseases associated with metabolic syndrome which includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer along with an increase chance of musculoskeletal disorders of the neck and back. 

The muscle activity needed for standing and other movement seems to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars within the body which can help control weight, cholesterol and glucose levels in the blood.  The whole-body effect of standing and moving, even if it’s as simple as standing, can be impactful especially when considering what can be accumulated over the course of a career or lifetime.  Any amounts of unplanned movement are referred to as non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) which include common activities such as standing, fidgeting and walking.  The benefits of NEAT include an increase in daily calories burned, reduced risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular events. NEAT is an important part of the human body’s daily energy expenditure and can be increased with regular intervals of standing while at work with a sit-to-stand workstation. 

An additional benefit of giving an employee the option to stand while at work is their overall feeling of wellbeing and the perception that their employer cares about their employees.  When an employee is in control of their decision where and in what position they work they’ll feel more engaged and more creative thus increasing productivity and adding to the positive culture of the workplace. 
However, there are also potentially harmful consequences to prolonged standing that are often over looked. As with anything in life moderation is key, and this also seems to be ringing true for the sit-to-stand workstation.  For some people, standing can be contraindicated because of medical reasons such as congestive heart failure, arthritis or other reasons. For these employees it is generally recommended that employers receive a physician's clearance before giving an employee the option of a sit-to-stand workstation. After determining that the back is healthy enough to safely engage in periods of standing, the worker needs to be coached on understanding the signs of fatigue and on the best sit or standing option. 

No matter what position the employee finds themselves working in they should be aware of proper posture.  Maintaining good posture is only possible for so long no matter how “in-shape” an employee is.  The muscles of the human body will eventually fatigue if placed in the same position for an extended period of time which is why small amounts of movement, like a TC Fit “Take 10” stretch break, are important for giving the body a break from long stretches of similar positioning.  Being able to have the choice to move between sitting and standing can be a great way to try to attain proper posture. 

The ROI for companies interested in investing in standing options will vary by each organization’s unique circumstances but the potential savings can add up.  Adding sit-to-stand options can pay for themselves in the form of lowered instances of medical claims due to musculoskeletal overuse injuries, reduced use of real estate or floor space, increases in employee productivity and overall employee retention. 

Adding standing options in the workplace comes with a commitment to finding a balance between too much time in the same position.  Incorporating frequent, safe, easy and practical ways to deal with the effects of gravity, will produce the best results for the worker that potentially minimizes fatigue and potential health risks.  As a fitness, wellness and rehabilitation company, TC Fit is excited to see how this new norm will impact our clients’ overall health and wellbeing. Interested in learning more about ergonomics and standing workstation options?   Contact us at for more workplace ergonomic consultations or talk with a TC Fit trainer about improving your posture.