Every day we come in contact with people that provide services from a standing, not sitting, position. Bank tellers stand, fast food order takers stand, cashiers stand, and yet so much of the rest of the occupations find themselves sitting for the better part of the day. The naysayers may tell you that they went to college so they could do better than a profession in which standing is the norm. Well, they may have broadened their mind in the process, but their occupations are now broadening their behinds as well. Obesity, heart disease, back pain and other health problems are becoming commonplace in today’s society and it is becoming more and more apparent that sedentary lifestyles are to blame.
Getting and keeping a quality workforce is one of the major challenges that companies face. Many are beginning to recognize that wellness programs can go a long way toward employee longevity and productivity. It is not just small firms that are looking for ways to improve health. Google and Facebook both have wellness programs that include the use of standing desks in order to provide employees a way to overcome the dangers of sitting for hours each day.
Google noticed that some companies were allowing the use of standing desks but only if a physician prescribed their use for a particular medical condition. It seemed to them that if they were a good thing for someone already facing a health issue, they’d also be useful for avoiding those issues in the first place. They decided to offer standing desks to anyone that requested them and the results have been astounding. The long term health effects will take time to be quantifiable, but they already believe that productivity has increased.
Facebook concurs with this as they have noticed an incredible energy spike among those using the standing desks. Increased collaboration and the sharing of ideas makes for a friendly and enjoyable workplace that is more productive and has high employee retention.
When it comes to transitioning from sitting to standing, be sure that you equip your employees not only with the desks and high quality mats, but also with the information that they need for success.
How to Transition from Sitting to Standing
The important thing to note when choosing to offer standing desks to your employees is that they should be provided with information for making the transition. If they go from 8 hours of sitting to 8 hours of standing from day one, they are likely to quit after the first few days – not necessarily their job, but definitely the idea of a standing desk. If they didn’t use proper posture and movements, they may experience back pain, leg pain and foot pain. They’ll be begging for their regular desk and may even need a day off to recover.
The first thing to impart upon them is that years of sitting means underutilized muscles that may not take kindly to being put into action overnight. Let them know that it is better to stand just 1/4th of an hour at first or even just a 15 minute period here and there throughout the day. Each person should feel comfortable with choosing how long they are standing and at which point they can incrementally increase the time. It’s not a sprint, the goal is to get to the finish line, not be the first one there. Furthermore, let them decide which tasks that they do feel more natural standing and which are more conducive to sitting.
The second thing is to coach them on the right posture and movements while standing. Standing the wrong way can lead to extra fatigue. The best standing desk posture is to place the feet shoulder width apart with the toes facing toward the desk. The lower back should be arched so that the behind sticks out while tightening abdominal muscles so this feels neutral and natural. They should roll their shoulders then set them in a relaxed position while centering their head over their shoulders. Movements should be balanced. It is fine to shift from side to side, but try to not favor one side and definitely do not lock the knees. Movement is a wonderful thing to avoid fatigue and burn calories. The main thing to caution about is slouching which will put far too much pressure on the spine.
There are a number of problems that could develop, especially at the beginning, to watch for and overcome. Foot numbness or tingling is a sign that someone is staying in one position for too long or is locking their knees. Foot pain is usually the result of poor footwear and not using a high quality standing desk mat for cushioning. Back pain can result when the right posture is not achieved and the core muscles have not been strengthened to support the back properly. Leg fatigue is going to be normal at first and is most common with those that push to stand too much before their body has become strengthened.
There are many good reasons why companies like Google, Facebook and others are making standing desks available for their employees. The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages for most types of companies. It is better if you offer them as an option rather than having everyone come in on Monday and finding all their desks replaced. Not everyone will embrace the idea and there will definitely be some that will not take kindly to being forced into this as a wellness program. Eventually, some of them will meekly knock on your door to ask for a standing desk when they see how others are enjoying them, so bide your time and you’ll find many will embrace them before too long.