In the wake of the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and subsequent restrictions being imposed by many workplaces, UpDown Desk has been asked by several customers about setting up their home office as well as the ergonomic considerations.
A home office can be an effective place to operate and get the most out of a workday without being distracted by colleagues, though it does come with its challenges. The two main areas of challenge within a home office are physiological and physical. Physiological challenges include lack of social contact with colleagues, external distractions (that new computer game…), or simply not enough natural light which can help to improve your mood. We’re going to concentrate on the physical/ergonomic challenges in this article.
The biggest problem is that people who work from home tend to do more sitting hours. They become focused on what they’re doing and often forget to move! Sitting less is essential. No matter how active you are, even if you’re getting plenty of exercise daily, you still might be sitting too much. There are great benefits of standing desks.
Danger appears sooner AND later. Short terms risks can often be felt by the individual the same day or within days; lower back pain for example. Clinically proven medium and long terms risks include posture problems, weight gain and reduced energy.
If you’re in the boat of needing to work at home soon, here’s UpDown Desk’s guide to setting up a standing desk in a home office:
Enjoy the ongoing health benefits, which should be noticeable almost immediately!
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.
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.