Don’t get a standing desk, until you read this! It seems that everywhere you look, someone is touting the amazing benefits of using a standing desk. Whether you are considering one for your home office, your cubicle at work, or to outfit your staff with them, there are plenty of very good reasons to do so. However, these gems that are taking the office world by storm are not without their downsides. It is important that you understand the benefits, the hazards and how to minimize the hazards before you finalize your decision.
Benefits of a Standing Desk
Let’s look first at all the benefits of using a standing desk at least part of your workday. The most obvious is that you’ll burn a ton more calories. Okay, perhaps a ton is a bit of an exaggeration when you consider you’ll just burn about 50 calories an hour. However, when you consider that in order to lose a pound of fat you need to either trim 3000 calories from your diet (no more Starbucks!) or do something to burn it, you’ll realize that for every 60 hours you spend standing, you could say goodbye to that pound.
If you use a standing desk for even just half of your workday, in the course of a year you could lose about 15 pounds of fat, all other things remaining the same. And, that doesn’t even take into consideration if you do some pacing while you are standing at your desk, such as when you are on the telephone.
If you suffer from back pain, sitting for hours could be part of the cause, and it can certainly exacerbate the problem. The human body wasn’t made to sit for hours upon hours. It was made to be active. To use all those muscle groups. And, the legs have huge muscles that get very little workout when you are sitting at a desk for 40 hours or more per week. In addition, your abdominal muscles are allowed to weaken as well. Once you lose your core strength, posture suffers and then compression on your spine and misalignments result.
The increase in back ailments has a direct correlation to the shift from labor work to service, mainly office, type professions. This is due, in part, to the advances in agriculture. No longer does each family need to put in the effort to provide food for their family. They do not need to farm, hunt or fish. They just spend an hour or so a week at the grocery store and they are set. The rest of the time they can work, relax, watch television and do a host of sedentary activities that often lead to poor overall health.
If you can at least spend some of those sedentary hours standing instead, you can not only ease the pain of a back ailment but perhaps avoid it happening in the first place. We use a host of muscles to be erect thus standing helps them stay strong.
Productivity is another facet to consider. There are so many things that can directly affect productivity that a standing desk can address. Everything from the minute seconds saved here and there not needing to take the time to get into and out of a chair to move about an office to the fact that standing allows you to breathe better providing more oxygen to your brain resulting in better thought processes. You’ll be able to focus better as well. Additionally, a side effect of using a standing desk is having more energy. If you are in an open space environment, you’ll also find it quicker and easier to communicate with others.
Hazards of a Standing Desk
With all those benefits, you may be thinking, “Sign me up!” It would be remiss to not point out that there are some hazards to consider as well. Ask anyone that must stand for hours on end in their job – cashiers, servers, fast food restaurant staff, etc. – and you’ll hear the woes of sore legs, tired feet, and aching muscles. You will likely experience these too, and it will be challenging, at least at first, to get used to.
Lunch time could be a two-edged sword. If you go elsewhere for lunch, such as to a cafeteria or restaurant, you’ll appreciate the chance to sit down for an hour. On the other hand, if you typically eat at your desk, you’ll find eating standing up to be annoying at best. The downside of eating elsewhere, is that you could look forward to it so much for a respite from standing that you have trouble focusing on your work for that last hour or so before the break.
Another potential downside is if you work in an open space environment, you’ll be far more visible than you would be seated in a cubicle. Cubicle walls rarely go high enough to afford you privacy when working at a standing desk. Employers might appreciate this as a positive, however, as that means the staff will be more productive since they can’t goof off when they are easily observed.
Having just a standing desk is a tough option for anyone, especially if the work day goes beyond the typical eight hours. The longer the day, the easier it will be to become quite fatigued.
Compensating for the Hazards
Many of the physical discomforts of using a standing desk will lessen over time when you become accustomed to it. If you start out with a weak core it will take time to strengthen it so that your muscles can support your body’s new erect status. Just keep envisioning how it is worth it in the end.
As for the demands on your feet and legs, the best thing to do is to use a high quality standing desk mat. Don’t go for the cheap ones that will break down in no time and are not very effective. A quality gel foam that provides cushion for your feet, yet doesn’t compress to nothing, will enable you to stand far longer without discomfort than not using a standing desk mat would. If you have the type of standing desk that lets you adjust height and thus sit for part of the day, you’ll want a standing desk mat with features that allow you to easily move it out of the way when not needed.
Think about your shoes! Much of foot fatigue is caused by improper footwear. It used to be that you had a choice of great style or comfort, but shoe manufacturers are beginning to recognize that today’s workers need both. With a little searching you should be able to find shoes that can handle the rigors of standing without sacrificing style. That said, however, always put comfort as a priority when using a standing desk.
An addition thing you could do is ease into the standing desk thing. This will be easier if you have a convertible desk. Start with the period of time you can handle comfortably and then add to it over time. Also, make sure the configuration is adjustable so that you have the right ergonomic placement to avoid putting tension on your arms, shoulders or wrists.
Now that you know the benefits, hazards and ways to make it work for you, you are probably more comfortable with the idea of using a standing desk which is a positive move toward better health. Once you have the right equipment, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits with few of the disadvantages.