Productivity

Standing desk guide: Say no to sitting at work all day

Alexandra Cain
Business Journalist

Alexandra Cain writes regularly for the small business sections of The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review

Alexandra Cain
Business Journalist

Alexandra Cain writes regularly for the small business sections of The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review

Stand up for your health at work with our list of budget friendly standing desk options.

Our sedentary lives have hit the headlines as the consequences of spending most of our lives resting on our gluteus maximus hits home. The research is in and the news is not good: we’re doing damage by too much sitting.

If you employ staff, you also have occupational health and safety obligations to them, which includes looking after their physical wellbeing. If they are sitting too much, they could be doing long-term damage. But there are things you can do to increase your and your team’s activity levels. One of the main ones is to invest in standing desks at work or in your home office. 

Orange chairs in a pile

What is sitting doing to you?

Have you ever really thought about how much you sit? You probably sit at your computer for eight hours or more at work each day. Then, you sit in your car, or on the bus or train, on your way to and from work. When you get home, you probably sit at your desk to do more work, or sit at the dinner table. After that, the day ends sitting in front of the TV. That’s a lot of sitting.

There’s now a substantial body of research to suggest sitting can have severe consequences for our health. One study found that inactivity accounts for 9 per cent of premature deaths globally and that we spend between 55 per cent and 70 per cent of our day engaged in sedentary activities, which equates to between nine and 11 hours of our day. Another study indicated the more time we spend in sedentary activities, the greater the risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. 

The huge chunks of time we spend being inactive is such a problem, the Australian Department of Health issued guidelines this year that recommends minimising the amount of time spent sitting and breaking up long periods of sitting as often as possible.

Standing desks have the answer

One of the easiest ways to minimise the time we are seated is by working at a standing desk, also known as a stand up desk. If you’ve ever googled ‘standing desk’ you may have been confronted with options costing many thousands of dollars. Yes, there are expensive electronic versions out there. But there are also lots of more affordable alternatives that will help your health without breaking the bank.

Bargain basement: eBay and DIY

Toying with the idea of standing at work but not ready to invest? If this is you it might be a good idea to look for second hand standing desks on eBay and Gumtree. There are also DIY options involving phone books and boxes – search ‘IKEA Standup Desk Hacks’ for inspiration. However, if you’re serious about a standing desk, it’s probably a good idea to invest in a quality one – the investment might be the motivation you need to really commit.

While the electric and wind-up desks are more convenient, the options that sit on top of a desk are a good place to start if you just want to test it out first – or move your setup between home and office. 

 

Entry level: Varidesk

This is a great choice for the more budget conscious business owners. The equipment sits on top of a standard desk, with separate levels for the keyboard and monitor.

The Varidesk offers a number of different configurations. For instance, there’s a single monitor or double monitor option.  The range also comes with a rubber mat to stand on, to ease any strain on the lower back from standing. 

Mid range: Motiondesk

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for and the Motiondesk really delivers on features.

The desk can be adjusted to a height that’s between 610 mm and 1245 mm from the ground, which you can change at the touch of a button – a fantastic way to cater to different work station users, or to go from seated to standing in a minute. So this option means you can either stand or sit at the desk, and switch between the two. There are single and corner desk options and you can choose from a range of attractive finishes.

Big spender: JP Office Workstation

If money’s no object and you want to give a number of staff the option of working at a standing desk you might consider the JP Office range. Their range goes from basic one-person standing desks through to six-person standing desks for the whole team. They even have standing desk chairs to give the legs a rest.

Making a smooth transition

Successfully switching to a standing desk does take a bit of forethought to get the transition right. Here are some tips to make a smooth move. 

Do

  1. Make sure when you set up your standing desk that your monitor is at eye level. If your neck is at an angle to your spine when you look at your monitor you could damage your spine, so bring the monitor up to eye height to make sure this isn’t an issue.
  2. If you’re going for an option that sits on a standard desk it might be an idea to have one desk set up for sitting and one for standing. That way you can easily switch between the two without having to worry about moving any equipment around.
  3. Your feet are going to be in for a surprise, so ease the pressure with a specially designed task mat. These cushion and support your feet and legs, allowing you to stand comfortably for longer periods. 

Don't

  1. Don’t expect to immediately go from sitting down all day to standing up all day. You might want to split your time between standing and sitting – maybe an hour spent sitting, followed by an hour standing.
  2. Standing too much can be just as bad for you as sitting too much, especially if your posture isn’t perfect. To ensure you’re not damaging yourself by standing too much, engage your core muscles when you’re standing – not 100 per cent, just enough to ensure your lower back is supported. It’s also worth keeping a bend in the knees to reduce strain.
  3. Don’t go all in with a top of the range standing desk until you’ve at least trialled some sort of standing arrangement for a day. Use a filing cabinet or kitchen bench, or a DIY stand to give it a go first. 
Stand tall

One of the great benefits of a standing desk is that it keeps you more alert and focused. So look forward to being more energised, and healthier generally, when you switch to standing. Just rememer to ease into it, and once you’ve got the hang of it, stick to it!

Should your workplace move to standing desks?

Read why the Medical Journal of Australia wants businesses to adopt a standing desk policy.  

Find Out More

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