Standing up at the office was once relegated to stretching before a coffee break or lingering at the copy machine while chatting about your weekend with a coworker. In other words, if you were standing, you weren’t working.
Today, standing is touted as a healthy office trend that can combat the negative effects of sitting for long periods of time. Consider the 2012 study, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, which followed more than 200,000 participants and found that those that sat longer were at an increased risk of death, even if they exercised regularly. Or the 18-year study from the American Cancer Society, which found that men and women who sit for more than six hours a day have a 20 to 40 percent higher death rate than those who sat for less.
Providing standing desks for your employees is one way to combat the problems associated with sitting all day. Make sure the desks are adjustable to suit different body types and heights. Some companies combine standing with adjustable standing desks. Padded foot mats and tall stools for occasional sitting will give those legs and feet a break as they adjust to the new routine. And it does take some adjustment.
But bear in mind that standing while working isn’t for everybody. Even though sitting for an entire day is far from healthy, not everyone is comfortable with a standing desk. Indeed, standing without moving for too long can have a negative health impact as well. Standing for long stretches can increase the risk of varicose veins and lead to pressure on your knee joints, increasing the risk of tearing. And some people just can’t get into a work groove while standing.
For those who really prefer to sit and be productive, there are a few things they can do to combat the negative effects of sitting. The easiest step is simply to move more. Getting up and going for short walks or stretch breaks increases blood flow and muscle activity. Doing something as simple as a few squats can make a world of difference for your body. Also make sure sitting desks are in the best position for ergonomics. Chairs should be reclined to 135 degrees to reduce pressure on your back, and putting your feet up while sitting has been shown to increase circulation in your legs. Standing desks can be great, but don’t force them if they don’t work.
Your office might also consider implementing standing meetings. An experiment at Washington University’s Olin Business School found that short meetings of a half hour or less were more productive and creative when participants were standing for all or most of the time. Professors Andrew Knight and Markus Baer found that those in the standing meetings “felt their colleagues were more open to their ideas, less territorial, and overall, made better decisions.” In her research on physiology, Amy Cuddy notes that standing is a “power pose,” one that can help you channel your energy and efforts. Standing up for as little as two minutes can start making a difference in your physiology.
There are a lot of ways to get people up and moving, even in traditional knowledge-worker, computer-centric jobs. Reducing sitting can improve health, attitudes, and creativity. Standing up just might help your business stand out.
Megan Torrance is the president and CEO of TorranceLearning, an elearning design and development firm in Chelsea.