Standing up makes for happier and productive employees

As the body of research on the negative effects of sitting down all day grows, new research from Australia has found that spending as little as 60 minutes standing during the work day can make workers happier and has no impact on their productivity.

The five month study, carried out by the University of Sydney and Southern Cross University and published in Preventive Medicine Reports, measured the effects of using a sit-stand desk on the productivity of a group of call centre workers. Participants reported feeling more energised, more satisfied and more productive while at work.

“Our study found that workers who increased their standing by up to 60 to 90 minutes were more active and felt more energised than workers who used traditional desks, while not comprising their work output,” lead researcher Dr Josephine Chau said. 

“The proportion of workers who reported they had enough energy throughout their workday increased seven-fold from six per cent to 44 per cent when using sit-stand desks.”

Numerous studies have found that sitting at a desk all day can lead to a higher risk of developing chronic diseases, including obesity, heart disease and type two diabetes. Some have even labelled sitting ‘the new smoking’ for all the negative effects it can have on our health.

Read more: Will offices of the future be standing room only?

“We must be aware of the dangers of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles and do all we can to combat this,” Dr Chau said. “A sit-stand desk is one of many things you can do to improve your health, but exercising is crucial.

“People shouldn’t assume that a standing desk means they don’t have to exercise – we need to sit less and move more.”

The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a recommendation commissioned by Active Working CIC and Public Health England last year, stating that workers should spend two to four hours either standing or doing light activity such as walking during their working day, regularly breaking up seated based work with standing based work.

“For those working in offices, 65 to 75 per cent of their working hours are spent sitting, of which more than 50 per cent of this is accumulated in prolonged periods of sustained sitting,” they said.

“The evidence is clearly emerging that a first 'behavioural' step could be simply to get people standing and moving more frequently as part of their working day.”

However, Dr Chau’s co-investigator Dr Lina Engelen pointed out that it’s important not to overdo it. “People need to be mindful to build up their standing time gradually and avoid going from no standing to standing all day at work,” she said. “It’s a bit like training for a marathon – you don’t go from running 0km to 42km overnight. You need to help your body adjust to it gradually. Ideally workers could aim for around two hours of standing or non-sitting time per working day.”

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