In recent years, it’s become widely accepted that certain aspects of the 9-to-5 office life aren’t the best for workers’ health. Countless studies attest to the long-term health problems that stem from the many hours that employees spent hunched over a screen: it’s a fact that sedentary working puts staff at risk of weight gain, diabetes and heart disease.
But while offices have made an ergonomic breakthrough to tackle the problems of day-long sitting with standing desks, the rise of employees working from home means these issues could rise again. With over 20 of the largest firms in Britain agreeing to work from home in the long term, the question is: how can we ensure that the UK’s workers are ready for this move?
One of the greatest assets in the push for better health when working from home starts with the basics: your working area. Below, we explore some of the best desk options available to those looking for a new and improved home office.
Benefits of a standing desk
An obvious choice to tackle the UK’s seated working problem is more standing. That is where the standing desk comes. Along with getting you up and onto your feet during the day when working from home, there are more specific ways that the standing desk can benefit you. We’ve detailed some of these below.
Help to relieve back and shoulder pain
One of the key benefits of a stand-up desk is that it can help to relieve the back and shoulder problems that huge numbers of those who work on computers complain about. Sitting puts more pressure on the lower back than standing does and can often force the arms to be raised at unnatural angles, causing pain. A standing desk can help encourage better posture and relieve this pain.
Help to reduce stress and improve productivity
Reports show that standing desks reduce stress levels, as sitting down can allow stress to accumulate in your body. Improved concentration and productivity have also been noted by those who work at a standing desk, which could be linked to reduced stress levels.
Help to reduce the risk of serious health issues
A now-infamous 1950s study on sedentary bus drivers and their bus conductor colleagues first found the link between serious illness and sitting for long periods. The drivers were found to be twice as likely to have a heart attack than the conductors, who spent most of their shift on their feet. Simply put, the energy we use to stay standing helps our bodies fend off long-term cardiovascular problems.
Does a standing desk burn more calories?
Yes standing rather than sitting when you’re at work helps to shave off a few calories. While it isn’t a one-stop fix to getting the abs of your dreams, it can certainly help. Studies have shown that standing can help burn around an extra 54 calories a day when compared to staying seated, which is the same as your morning cup of coffee with skimmed milk!
What are the benefits of a seated desk?
Standing at your laptop has some undeniable benefits, but that isn’t to say that taking some time to sit down isn’t necessary. In fact, sitting has a few health benefits of its own.
Sitting can take the pressure off of the legs and feet
Standing for prolonged periods can put serious pressure on your legs and feet. Varicose veins and swelling in the legs and feet are just a few of the ill effects you can expect if you spend too long on your feet. In more serious situations, it can even cause compression of the spine.
Sitting desks relieves pressure on your back
Some of the unwanted side effects of working in a seated position can be mitigated by simply adopting a good posture. Cornell University found that sitting at a 135-degree angle can relieve some of the pressure put on your lower back during a normal working day. Propping your feet up may have previously been thought of as unprofessional, but it may also contribute to better blood flow.
Standing desks are not laptop-friendly
One common complaint with those who have opted to use a standing desk isn’t helping to mitigate their back pain. This is because some standing desks are naturally optimised for the use of monitors, where a keyboard and mouse would sit much lower than the screen. This isn’t the case for most laptops, meaning the user would have to lean over the desk, putting pressure on the shoulders and back.
What's best: sitting or standing desks?
As with most things in life, a healthy balance is usually best. When working from home, this means that the most effective option by far is an adjustable sit/stand desk. This allows you to cut down on those dangerous standing hours, while also ensuring there will never be too much stress placed on your lower body.
For some workers, it may be necessary to stick with one style of working. Those with existing conditions in their legs or feet, for example, may want to limit their standing time.