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November 01, 2021

Standing Desks and Productivity

The health benefits of ergonomic workstations are well documented. But is there a connection between standing desks and productivity?

We know that occupational sedentary behaviour is associated with poor health outcomes. 

The detrimental effects of prolonged sitting have been widely publicised.

And the list is long. 

Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, muscle injury and more. All of which contribute to poor work focus and taking days off work. 

But it is not just the physical ill effects of prolonged sitting that should worry us. 

Prolonged sitting is also associated with a decrease in morale and an increase in cognitive decline, anxiety and depression. All of which also contribute to decreased productivity. 

How Standing Desks Increase Productivity 

Physical Health

There is hardly a system in the human body that is not adversely affected by extended sitting. 

From musculoskeletal discomfort, stiffness and overuse injuries that come from staying in a particular position for a prolonged time, to the more serious effects of reduced cardiovascular function and higher risks of diabetes. 

Standing lowers blood pressure, improves blood sugar and increases circulation lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Standing improves core muscle strength and posture, impacting both lower and upper back pain. 

Feeling healthy and working comfortably increase focus and productivity. 

Cognitive Brain Function

Alternating between sitting and standing has been shown to stimulate the frontal brain and enhance cognitive skills we use to problem solve. 

“Executive functions” are what help us carry out steps that achieve objectives. 

Research has shown a direct correlation between sedentary behaviour and degeneration of the area in the brainresponsible for memories and spatial cognition. 

Morale 

Employees who feel that employers are observant of their well-being are 38% more engaged at work.

Providing an  ergonomic standing desk set-up is a way that employers can display support for their employees. Whether individualstanding office desks or flexible workstations that encouraged collaboration.

Introducing stand up desks promotes movement and alertness making workers more eager to collaborate with colleagues encouraging communication and connection.

Mood 

standing desk productivity

Symptoms of anxiety and depression are commonly associated with sedentary behaviour, so too is stress and suicide ideation. 

Movement and physical activity are significant factors in stress reduction and maintaining mental well-being. 

The Effects of Prolonged Sitting on Productivity 

Multiple studies reveal that poor posture can have a significant detrimental impact on energy levels, hormone balance and even cognitive function.

Sitting office workers often present with repetitive strain injuries of the neck and shoulders, hands and arms as a result of postural degeneration. This impacts performance, and productivity is affected. 

A study surveying risk factors and musculoskeletal symptoms of the upper body in almost 3000 adults, concluded that poor posture during computer use was significantly responsible for reduced productivity. 

Financial Implications 

The financial implications of poor performance cannot be overlooked. 

For example, back pain alone costs employers in the U.S.A over $7 billion per year through absenteeism and lost productivity. 

The loss of productivity attributed to lifestyle diseases is high. Aside from the time off work that it takes to recover from surgery or illness, there is the cost of premature death.

Absenteeism impacts a company not only through paid leave days but the resulting decrease in productivity and the negative impact on staff morale. 

What Does Research Show?

Scientific evidence that increased productivity is directly linked to the use of  standing desks creates much debate in the science community, 

But, several studies suggest a direct link, and the indirect link between standing desks and an increase in productivity is indisputable. 

Productivity Among School Children 

The effects of standing on children's concentration span have been studied by associate professor and  ergonomic engineer, Dr Mark Bendon, at the Texas A&M Health Science Centre School of Public Health,

282 children across several grades were given an option to use a stand desk or stool in the classroom environment.

Over two years psychologists measured the children's focus using a series of markers. Results of the study showed that students in the study group were up to 25 times more engaged than students using the traditional desk settings 

Plus, classrooms using stand up desks reported increased participation in group work and class activities thereby reducing disruptive behaviour and enhancing the learning environment.

Productivity in Students 

A study published in the International Journal of Research and Public Health provided evidence of neurocognitive benefits of sit-stand desks in classrooms. 

The research carried out on freshman students indicated that using  standing reading desks significantly improved executive functions.  Executive Functions are skills directly related to academic skills that promote effective time management, understanding and memorising what they read and complex problem-solving. 

Productivity in Office Workers 

Studies on productivity in office workers and adjustable standing desks are both limited and conflicted. But, a one-year-long study led by Dr Elizabeth Garland, associate professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai reported that 65% of participants with height-adjustable desks found that after a year they were more active, felt more energetic and had improved concentration and productivity.

Who Else Could Benefit?

It’s not just traditional white-collar workers who could benefit from an  adjustable writing desk.

Most creative jobs require hours of sitting at a screen.  Standing desks for video editors and graphic designers, for example, carry the same benefits as for sedentary office workers. 

Gaming standing desks are valuable for recreational gamers. Posture is important regardless of what you are doing and muscle tension or misalignment can quickly turn your pastime from pleasant to painful.

Conclusion

There is enough evidence to be convincing that sit to stand desks increase productivity.

It can be substantiated that a rising desk is necessary for an injured or disabled employee to carry out essential duties of the job. As we go forward, we may even be able to show that physically healthy or neurotypical people benefit enough from standing desks for them to become the standard.

You don’t have a qualifying injury but still wondering  how to get a standing desk at work

Convincing your boss that using a standing desk will increase office productivity, may just sway your employer's decision in your favour. 

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