The case for sit-stand desks

man standing at an empty desk

We feel strongly that, just as with chairs, when it comes to desks: one size does not fit all.

We spend time, money and energy in finding just the right chair, monitor arm, keyboard tray and mouse, but without an adjustable-height work surface to use these tools with, can you consider your workstation truly ergonomic? For us, the addition of an adjustable-height, or “sit-stand desk,” to our work station was a completely natural extension. With tons of research behind this type of work station, the only question for us was finding something that worked seamlessly with our existing ergo tools. Keep reading to learn about the benefits and different types of adjustable height work stations.

It’s not just us at Ergo Depot touting the benefits of an adjustable-height work surface. Cornell University researchers, the American Cancer Society, along with several other industry research leaders have concluded what many office workers have known for years: your body is not meant to sit in a fixed position eight hours per day, 40 hours per week.

Just last year the American Cancer Society published a sobering study, finding that of 123,000 healthy Americans (with no prior history of heart attack, cancer, stroke, or lung disease) mortality rates rose  18% in men and an even more startling 37% in women who spent more than six hours per day sitting when compared with those who sat fewer than three hours per day.

Think about it: just a few generations ago when most of us would have been working in agriculture, do you think there was time to sit for six or eight hours per day? Or what about when we were all still running around looking for berries and sleeping in caves?

While the benefits of an adjustable-height work surface on the lower half of the body might seem obvious (better circulation, alleviating pressure on the back of the legs, increased movement), a study by Cornell University found that participants experienced a “significant decrease in the severity of muscuolskeletal discomfort for most upper body regions” (Cornell  2004). Furthermore, while most workers had experienced daily discomfort during the afternoon along with a decrease in productivity, researchers found improvement in both categories after just 4 - 6 weeks of using an adjustable height work surface.

The research is clearly in favor of adjustable-height work surfaces, but it’s the end-users’ experience that really gets us excited about working in this new way.

We repeatedly hear from folks that they expected to stand up 15 minutes here or there during the work day, but after a couple of weeks with an adjustable-height desk they find themselves standing 3 - 6 hours a day without thinking about it. What’s more, people love the ability to vary their position throughout the day, something that can’t be achieved by sitting in a traditional office chair for eight hours per day, especially one that forces your back and legs into a 90 degree angle. By working in a wide range of positions throughout the day, your blood circulates more effectively, alleviating pressure in the backs of legs or in your lower back. Standing helps your body achieve the natural  “S-shape” curve of the spine, again taking pressure off of the lower back and opening up the body’s airways.

When you get home at the end of your day, do you stand up to relax? Of course not. When we are seated our airways and blood flow are compressed, leading to fatigue and a lack of attentiveness — which isn’t always a problem. Our body is of course capable of sitting for long stretches, but when we’re working, we want to give the body its best chance to feel good and alert. If our body and mind were fully alert while we sat down to watch reality television for an hour per night, we’d likely never make it to the first commercial break.

After sorting through the mounds of research on adjustable-heights desks, we then had to sort through the different types of adjustable-height work stations.

The standing desk has been a popular option for architects and artists for several decades. While standing for eight hours straight tends to be much better for your body than sitting for that same period of time, the standing desk was too limited for our needs. After all, sitting can be a welcome break after hours of standing, and we find it to be conducive to certain types tasks. Over the past decade or so hand-crank adjustable height desks have been popping up more and more in the U.S. This can be a great option, but when we found an affordable electric adjustable-height desk option the choice was clear: anything that with the push of a button allows you to vary your position throughout the day is the right choice for us.