The workplace ergonomics industry has gathered a lot of traction over the past few years, possibly as a result of our increased understanding of the risks of sedentary lifestyles. The popularity of standing desks has increased significantly during this time, which makes perfect sense considering prolonged sitting at work is one of the main reasons for our sedentary lifestyles. However, questions have been asked lately about the efficacy of standing desks. Questions such as, Are standing desks any good for you? Do standing desks actually work? What evidence is there to support the use standing desks? have been written about in recent times.
The purpose of this article is to discuss the efficacy of standing desks from the perspective of a Physiotherapist. We would like to thank Jordan Lees, Principal Physiotherapist from The Ergonomic Physio, for writing this article.
From a Physiotherapist's perspective, there is absolutely no doubt that standing desks are beneficial. We know that the majority of injuries sustained by office workers are due to overuse and prolonged postures. Our bodies simply are not designed to spend hours upon hours in the same position. This is what happens when we sit at our desks all day. In doing so, small physical stresses accumulate, and postural muscular adaptations occur. Because these stresses are so small, we usually don't notice them, until they have accumulated to the point of an injury developing. At this point, it is much harder to fix the problem.
Sit-stand desks provide office workers with the ability to change positions between sitting and standing regularly throughout the day. Very simply, this is the easiest way to prevent overuse injuries and postural adaptations from developing, by avoiding prolonged postures. So from a preventative perspective, standing desks are brilliant.
With that said, our team of Physiotherapists at The Ergonomic Physio don't advocate that standing desks are a cure for all musculoskeletal problems experienced by office workers. Injured employees should be assessed and treated individually, based on their presentation. Ergonomic assessments are a great way to achieve this. Nevertheless, for the majority of people, and the majority of overuse injuries sustained in an office setting, standing desks are likely to be a major component in the treatment and prevention of those injuries for the very simple reason that they are the best way to prevent office workers from sitting in prolonged positions for too long, which in turn reduces the accumulation of physical stresses and the likelihood of postural adaptations from occurring.
This article has been written by Jordan Lees, Lawyer and Physiotherapist. Jordan addresses the physiological and legal arguments to support your request for a standing desk in your workplace.
So, you have an injury (let's just say it is back pain, since 80-90% of Australians will experience back pain during their life), and like most people, you find that prolonged sitting aggravates your symptoms. You have asked your manager at work for a standing desk to help with your recovery. The only problem is that your request has been denied! Well, don't despair, and keep reading, because this article will arm you with all of the information that you need to help change your manager's mind.
The obvious starting point is to bring to your manager's attention that most injuries or pains experienced by desk-bound workers are caused by overuse - simply doing the same thing, in the same position/posture, for hours on end. This causes physical strain to accumulate in the same areas, and for some people, this progresses to pain or injury. By using a standing desk, you will be able to regularly switch between sitting and standing throughout the working day, thereby reducing the continual accumulation of physical strain to your symptomatic area.
After discussing this with your manager, hopefully he or she is starting to see the benefit of a standing desk. However, you will likely run into a bit of a road block when it comes down to cost. At this point, let your manager know that an UpDown Desk standing desk frame is less than $700. And if you are getting a standing desk for your office, UpDown Desk will even provide you with a free ergonomic assessment to help you get the most out of your standing desk.* In most cases you will be able to re-use your existing desktop, so there is no need to buy a new one. This $700 might sound expensive, but you could kindly let your manager know that if your injury gets worse, and progresses to a WorkCover claim, the employer will be liable to pay $707 in medical expenses (this is the Victorian amount, it is similar in other states around Australia) before their workers' compensation insurance kicks in. Add to this the lost productivity caused by your absence from work, and the $700 for a standing desk doesn't seem like such a bad option now!
Now, in my experience, it is unlikely your manager will still stay no at this stage. However, if they do, you have one final trump card. Simply get a medical certificate from your treating GP, Physio, Osteo or Chiro, which states that a standing desk is recommended to help with your recovery and prevent further exacerbation of your injury. An employer is playing with fire if they try to overrule the opinion of a treating health practitioner, as it begins to raise questions under employment and OHS law, especially if your condition gets worse. Further, employer's have a legal responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to your workplace if an injury requires such adjustments for you to complete your work. By my reckoning, a standing desk is a reasonable adjustment, especially when the cost is actually less than the minimum amount the employer will be liable for should your injury progress to a WorkCover claim.
So there you have it, a guideline to getting a standing desk in your workplace. Hopefully you'll be reading this from your new standing desk in the not too distant future!
This article is not intended to be legal advice and it should not be taken as such.
* Free ergonomic assessments limited to the Melbourne CBD region.
So, you've gone and purchased a sit-stand desk to improve your health and wellbeing in the office. There are now a two key points to address to help make sure you get the most out of your standing desk. These are:
This 3-minute article will provide you with a succinct answer to these two questions, enabling you to get the most from your standing desk.
How High Should Your Standing Desk Be?
There is not an exact science to how high your desk should be when you sit or stand, and you should always consider any current injuries you have, or anatomical variances that are particular to you.
However, a safe guideline is to have the desk at a height that sees your elbows being just above (i.e. 0 - 1cm) the top of the desktop when you are typing on the keyboard. This is typically 90-100 degrees at the elbow.
This height works for most people. At this height, you reduce the chances of the forearms and wrists digging into the desk if the elbows are too low. However, it is not too high that it results in increased strain on the shoulders due to the forearms not being adequately supported on the desk.
How Long Should You Sit & Stand For?
The majority of injuries and discomforts that people experience at their desk are accumulative in nature, and typically arise as a result of prolonged postures.
Those progressing from a standard desk to a sit-stand desk may be inclined to try and stand all day. However, this is not necessary.
Standing in the one spot all day is harder than you might think. Indeed, walking for two hours is easier on the body than just standing still for two hours. Further, prolonged standing is a prolonged posture in itself. Therefore, the possibility of accumulative-based injuries and discomforts developing is very real if you try and stand all day.
Moreover, when you stand, you rely on your postural muscles to keep you upright. These are deep muscles that lay close to your spine and are likely to be somewhat deconditioned if you've been sitting at your desk for 8-10 hours per day for who knows how long.
With this in mind, the best tip for using your sit-stand desk is to switch between sitting and standing regularly throughout the working day. This might look like 10-15 minutes standing every 2 hours for some, or 20-30 minutes standing every 1 hour for others. The important thing is that by changing postures, you are changing where the physical stresses accumulate.
A good idea is to work out your sitting and standing thresholds. This is the length of time that you can comfortably sit or stand for at your desk before you feel the need to change position. Once you know this time, never allow yourself to sit or stand for more than 75% of your threshold.
By sticking to this rule you will significantly reduce the likelihood of ever spending enough time in the one position to develop an accumulative-based injury or discomfort.
UpDown Desk standing desks are already the best value standing desks in Australia by a long way. We have cut out the middleman completely and avoid expensive retail shopfront overheads, which get passed on to our customers as massive savings.
However, do you like the sound of receiving an additional $500 off the price of your standing desk? Well, if you're a small business owner in NSW, you're in luck!
The NSW Government is currently offering up to $500 rebate to small business owners who buy and install eligible safety items to address a safety problem in their workplace. And the good news is that height adjustable desks are specifically mentioned as being an eligible item for this rebate!
There are a few conditions attached to the offer, but it's a simple process. More information can be found here: www.safework.nsw.gov.au/health-and-safety/how-we-can-help/small-business-rebates.
UpDown Desk is not your normal provider of standing desks. In fact, we don't really consider ourselves to be a retail store at all. Our background is in occupational health and safety, and our team are all Occupational Health Physiotherapists and OHS Consultants. As such, the focus of our business is to ensure that all of our customers, both corporate and individual, have safe and comfortable workstations. Selling standing desks just helps us to achieve our business vision.
Getting a standing desk goes part of the way in achieving an ergonomic workstation, as it at least provides you with the option to switch between sitting and standing, thereby helping to eliminate prolonged sitting. The next step is to get an ergonomic assessment of your workstation to ensure that everything is ergonomically friendly, and set up according to your individual requirements.
Our team of OHS professionals specialise in office and workplace ergonomics. Whilst UpDown Desk is based in Melbourne, we have ergonomic specialists performing ergonomic assessments in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Adelaide.
What is an Ergonomic Assessment?
An ergonomic assessment is focused around ensuring that your workstation is safe and comfortable for you, and that all of the furniture and equipment has been set up to suit your individual requirements.
Ergonomic assessments should involve three stages:
1) The assessor will have a discussion with you to find out important information, such as current or past injuries, areas of symptoms, and sitting tolerances. Providing the assessor is a qualified and experienced health professional who specialises in injury management (i.e. an Occupational Physiotherapist), they will use this information to make appropriate changes to your workstation.
2) The assessor will make appropriate changes to your workstation to improve the safety and comfort for you. Whilst there are general principles that apply when setting up a workstation, there is no one-size-fits-all that works for injured employees, or employees in pain. This is because their specific injuries need to be taken into consideration. Attempting to use a generic checklist to set up a workstation is often fine in preventative instances, where they individual does not have an injury. However, if the individual has an injury and/or is in pain, a generic checklist is likely to make their symptoms worse, leaving the employer liable to prosecution under the OHS legislation.
3) The final stage of an ergonomic assessment is a report, which outlines the changes that have been made, why they have been made, and also provides recommendations for further improvement, such as new furniture or equipment. The report component of an ergonomic assessment provides the employer with guidance on to manage the employee moving forwards, as well as providing legal protection.
Who should get an Ergonomic Assessment?
There are two forms of ergonomic assessments - proactive and reactive.
Proactive ergonomic assessments are suitable for everyone, and are performed as an injury prevention tool, or an employee wellbeing tool. The focus is to improve comfort and productivity, and help prevent any injuries from developing. We term these sort of assessments an Ergonomic Office Sweep.
Reactive ergonomic assessments are for those who have an injury, or are complaining of pain at their workstation, or have a medical certificate requesting an ergonomic assessment. Such assessments are more in-depth than proactive ergonomic assessments and require more time with the individual. These assessments are termed Individual Ergonomic Assessments.
Who performs Ergonomic Assessments?
There are many providers of ergonomic assessments out there. However, there is one rule that you should consider when choosing your provider:
Ergonomic assessments are aimed at improving comfort and safety, thereby eliminating the risk of injuries. If the overarching purpose is eliminating injuries, then the person performing the assessment must have an understanding of the causes of injuries, how to management injuries, and the pathology involved. If they do not have this knowledge, then how can they effectively prevent an injury from occurring? This is why all of our assessors are qualified and experienced physiotherapists, recognised experts in injury management.
How to book an Ergonomic Assessment in Melbourne
Our HQ is located in Melbourne. However, as well as performing ergonomic assessments in Melbourne, we have consultants located in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide and perform ergonomic assessments in these cities and the surrounding areas.
To make a booking, please complete the form located on our Ergonomic Assessment page here. If you would like to learn more about ergonomic assessments and get further information on the services that we provide, please visit our partner business, The Ergonomic Physio.
The team at UpDown Desk are all OHS Consultants and Occupational Health Physiotherapists. We launched UpDown Desk to be able to provide our corporate clients with premium quality standing desks and sit-stand desks for a price that they could afford when we recommended them as part of an ergonomic assessment.
The beauty of our ambition is that we have been able to eliminate the cost barrier that has historically prevented many organisations from getting an office fitout of standing desks. This has enabled us to help so many more organisations than our own corporate consulting clients.
We are based in Melbourne and provide office fitouts in Melbourne and around Australia.
Ten Reasons to get an Office Fitout of Standing Desks
How to get an Office Fitout of our Standing Desks in Melbourne?
If you would like to enquire about our office fitouts in Melbourne, please complete our enquiry form, which can be found on our "Office Fitouts" page.
Once we have received your enquiry, we will be in contact to arrange a time to meet with you to confirm your requirements.
Because our entire team are OHS Consultants and Occupational Health Physiotherapists, each office fitout of standing desks is accompanied by an ergonomic office sweep of ergonomic assessments FREE OF CHARGE. We do this to ensure that each workstation is set up ergonomically at the time of installation, thereby making sure that your employees are safe and comfortable, and that your organisation is compliant with its OHS obligations.
For all questions regarding standing desks and height adjustable desks, or ergonomic assessments, please contact us here.
Standing desks are a brilliant way to reduce the incidence of repeated stress injuries in the office workplace, because they can stop the accumulation of physical stress to the same parts of the body. They achieve this by providing an opportunity for you to change postures regularly throughout the day. Despite the benefits associated with standing desks, you should progress gradually, to allow your body a chance to get used to the new posture.
Here are my top 5 tips to consider when progressing to a standing desk:
If you’ve been desk bound for some time, the muscles that are responsible for holding you upright will be somewhat deconditioned. When you add in a standing desk, these muscles will be required to wake up and actually do some work. As such, it is important to add in more standing gradually, to allow your body time to adapt to the new stresses. For specific guidance on how to do this, read the article How Long Should I Stand?
Don't stand all day
There is no need for you to stand for more than about 3-4 hours of your working day. This total time should be accumulated throughout the day, and not in one long bout of standing.
If you don't feel comfortable standing for a total of 3-4 hours per day, this is also completely fine. In fact, I'd encourage you to only stand for whatever period of time is physically comfortable for you.
And remember, don't start on 3-4 hours per day straight away. Progress gradually - even starting with 30-60 minutes standing per day is beneficial for you.
Learn your standing and sitting "threshold"
I teach my clients to learn their standing and sitting "threshold" to help them avoid staying in the one position for too long. This threshold refers to the length of time that you can comfortably sit or stand without feeling the need to change position.
Once you know your threshold, never allow yourself to sit or stand for this long. Instead, change position after 75% of this time. For example, say that you can comfortably stand for 30 minutes before you feel that you need to sit down. I suggest that you only stand for 75% of 30 minutes at any one time, or 22 minutes.
Make sure your desk is set to the correct height
Having your standing desk set to the correct height will help ensure that no new musculoskeletal issues arise. See the article Standing Desk Height for how to do this. As a guide however, ensuring that the angle at your elbow is between 90-100 degrees is a good starting point.
Alternate your stance
I recommend alternating between several different stances regularly throughout the day. This will reduce the likelihood of any particular area getting sore from an increased physical load. You can view what stances I recommend alternating between in the article Standing Desk Stance Posture.
Please feel free to circulate this email amongst your colleagues or employees for injury prevention purposes.
For more information on standing desks visit www.updowndesk.com.au or for more information on ergonomic resources visit www.theergonomicphysio.com.au.
If you have any questions, please feel to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Headaches and neck pain are common complaints of office workers. There are a number of factors that may contribute to such symptoms, such as posture, eyesight, water intake, and fatigue. However, since I've got a physiotherapy background, this article will focus on posture and the musculoskeletal causes of headache and neck pain, and how a standing desk may be able to assist.
From a musculoskeletal stand-point, the majority of headaches seen in office workers are called cervico-genic headaches. This means that the headache is caused by an irritation to the cervical spine (i.e. the neck). This irritation refers pain to the head (as well as usually being felt as neck pain as well), which is felt as a headache.
The common referral points for a cervico-genic headache are the base of the skull, behind the eyes, and around the forehead and temples.
So, why does this occur?
This referral occurs due to the stresses placed upon the cervical spine. When you're sitting, it's very common to adopt what is known as a "forward head posture", or "poking chin posture" (shown below). This posture compresses the upper cervical spine more than usual, which in turn irritates the surrounding structures. What exactly is being irritated may vary, but may include the intervertebral joint, ligaments, or nerve roots. Alternatively, the surrounding muscles may just go into spasm due to the discomfort, which may also refer pain to the head as a headache.
The connection between poking chin posture and sitting usually comes to fruition after a while spent sitting. It is easy enough to sit with "good posture" for a little while. However, if you're sitting for hours on end, it is all too easy to fall into a poking chin posture, as the body fatigues and you forget about your posture. When this happens, irritation to the structures in the neck occurs, and cervicogenic headache is often the result.
How can a standing desk help this?
Firstly, I'm not a typical retailer, so I'm not going to shove standing desks down your throat as a cure-all. With that said, there is little doubt that a standing desk can help to reduce both the frequency and severity of cervicogenic headaches.
As mentioned above, a key cause of cervicogenic headache is a poking chin posture. The main cause of a poking chin posture is prolonged sitting and fatigue. As you sit for longer and longer, the body is less likely to be able to sit upright. Thus, you fall into a poking chin posture. Have you ever found yourself slouching in your chair? Well you would also have been sitting with a poking chin posture.
Also, how often have you found yourself consciously poking your head forward to take a closer look at the computer screen? This is the same posture as a fatigue related poking chin posture.
Unfortunately, it's a downward spiral as well. Once you have experienced the first bout of discomfort or pain from sitting with a poking chin posture, it is easier for it to happen again. This is because the discomfort and pain may result in muscle inhibition, whereby the supporting muscles of the neck are "switched off". If this happens, the cervical spine has less stability and is even more susceptible to irritation, leading to increased cervicogenic headache symptoms.
Having a standing desk provides you with the ability to switch position regularly throughout the day. This on itself is of great importance as it reduces the monotonous accumulation of muscular strain/stress to the same areas (which occurs when you sit all day), which reduces the likelihood of muscular fatigue and pain.
Here are some more benefits of having a standing desk at the stand-by:
1) You're less likely to fall into a poking chin posture out of fatigue;
2) When you do happen to need to poke your chin forwards to look at the computer more closely, you can move your entire body forward, as opposed to just poking the head forward in sitting;
3) You can't slouch in standing (well, you can, but it would look and feel ridiculous so you're not likely to do it!);
4) If you do happen to experience some pain or discomfort, you have the ability to quickly switch position, helping to prevent the problem from exacerbating.
Short answer - yes!
There are some studies that back this up, which I'll get to shortly. However, firstly I'd like to discuss why, in my opinion as a WHS Consultant, standing up at work increases productivity.
In my experience, most people have a sitting tolerance of between 30 - 60 minutes. After this time, restlessness, irritation or discomfort results in the individual "wanting" or "needing" to change position. Once this occurs, the individual is unlikely to be able to concentrate on the task at hand, because their central nervous system is telling them to MOVE!
The reason this occurs is commonly because the body does not like staying in the one position for prolonged periods. Unfortunately, this is the usual way of things in traditional office settings.
Now to the research....
A study published in the IIE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors, found that employees who had the option to use a standing desk were a whopping 45% more productive than those who didn't. For this study, they analysed the number of calls taken by employees in a call centre.
Another study, published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that periodically switching between sitting and standing reduced fatigue levels by at least 15% and up to 33%, as well as reducing musculoskeletal discomfort by 31%. Both of these factors are crucial to productivity as they are directly proportional to how long an individual can concentrate on a particular task.
Further, a study published in Preventing Chronic Disease found statistically significant improvements in fatigue levels, vigor, tension, depression, confusion, and overall mood, in employees who used standing desks peridoically throughout the day for a 7 week period. At the end of the study period, 87% said they felt more comfortable, 87% felt energised, 75% felt healthier, 71% felt more focused, 66% felt more productive, 62% felt happier and 33% felt less stressed.
So, the research and clinical experience tends to suggest that standing desks can improve employee productivity. I'd like to point out that I do not advocate standing all day, because most people can't do it - and this itself would qualifiy as a prolonged posture, which standing desks are aimed at eliminating. Standing periodically throghout the day, for about 50% of the working day, is the way to go.
For help in progressing to a standing desk, please visit the "How long should I stand" article here.
If you have any questions, please email email@example.com.
At least 8 out of 10 Australians will suffer from lower back pain in their lifetime. So the chances are that at some point, you will experience a bout of lower back pain yourself.
There are two main forms of back pain that physiotherapists see and treat. There is acute back pain that has a specific mechanism of injury, such a lifting injury, or there is more chronic non-specific back pain, which typically presents as a general ache or discomfort and results from a gradual build up of pain with no obvious mechanism of injury.
Excessive sitting can be linked to both of these types of back pain. The more common relationship is between sitting and the second type of back pain mentioned above, that of non-specific back pain.
Following are some reasons why prolonged sitting causes lower back pain:
Constant Lumbar Flexion
When you sit, your lower back is placed in a flexed position. It is just the reverse of what you would usually associate with flexion - when you're standing and bend forwards, you take your torso towards your thighs, whilst when you're sitting, you bring your thighs towards your torso. Nevertheless, the strain on the lumbar spine is similar.
When the lumbar spine is constantly flexed (as in sitting), there is a build up of pressure on the lumbar discs. Over time, this pressure can wear away the integrity of the disc itself, the surrounding ligaments, as well as simply irritating the intervertebral joints (the joints between each level of the spine) . This is likely to result in a sensation of pain.
More pressure is placed on the lumbar spine in sitting than in standing.
If you sit with bad posture, the load that is transferred through your lumbar spine is 2.75 times greater than standing. Even sitting with perfect erect posture still transfers a load 1.5 times greater than when standing.
Over time, this increased pressure is likely to wear down the structures in the lumbr spine, causing pain and discomfort, not to mention increasing your chances of a more serious injury.
When you sit, the body's natural posture is to slightly round at the shoulders and slouch forwards. This automatically brings the whole upper body forwards. Now, you can resist this posture, by making sure your chair is set up correctly and that you lean back into your backrest. However, most people who experience back pain do not do this - hence why they have back pain.
If the body is constantly leaning forwards, even slightly, then gravity wants to pull you down even further - until your face hits the desk! To resist this, you have to activate your lower back muscles, to hold you upright. This constant contraction of the lower back muscles is likely to result in fatigue over the course of the day, as well as causing a sensation of pain.
Excessive sitting results in weight gain when compared with switching between sitting and standing throughout the day. See this blog post.
Weight gain around the midsection places much more stress on the lumbar spine. Think of your lumbar spine as a fulcrum or pivot point. The further away from the fulcrum that your stomach is, the longer the lever is, and the harder it is to produce the force required to support that weight.
I'm sure everyone has heard of the saying, "use it or lose it". Well, it applies in this instance. If you're sitting all day, then your postural muscles, or the muscles responsible for keeping you upright, don't have to do any work. Over time, these muscles will deteriorate.
If you lack strength through these muscles, your lumbr spine has less muscular support to protect it, making it more vulnerable to injury.