An article in the Telegraph on Saturday 24 February suggested that “Standing desks do more harm than good” and that they “increase lower body pain and slow down people’s cognitive functions at work”. Experts also warned that the “feverish” trend towards adopting the adjustable desks has little evidence to support their use.
The study, was published by the journal Ergonomics where researchers at Curtin University in Australia observed 20 people working at standing desks for two hours! Also, Professor Alan Taylor, a physiotherapy expert at Nottingham University said: “The bottom line is that this expansion has been driven more by commercial reasons than scientific evidence”
Oh, I do love academia when they don’t understand the context, so I just had to write to the Telegraph.
The article in Saturdays Telegraph reporting on research that suggested Standing Desks do more harm than good is interesting, but the source and interpretation of the information lacks one key element, and that is common sense. If you are going to stand at work at a desk for long periods of time it is of course going to be tiring, and it may well cause discomfort in various body parts. This will certainly make concentration more difficult. Moving around is more important than the process of only standing on the spot for long periods of time. And who precisely is suggesting that office workers should do this.
These height adjustable products are not designed to replace sitting but give the user the opportunity to adopt a way of working that suits them best. The very fact that they can be adjusted will accommodate different sizes and heights of people including those who use wheelchairs. Often called “sit stand desks” (the function is in the name) they provide the facility to sit, and when required to stand, such as meetings for small groups. It is a well-known fact that meetings held when standing are concluded more quickly.
The efficiency of the workforce relies on a workplace that provides an environment that is flexible to support working on different tasks and in different ways, whether that is on one’s own, or interacting with others. This means having furniture that allows a choice on how to work, and employers adopting enlightened practices that are in tune with their business, and their employees. The common-sense solution to physical well-being, is to adopt and encourage a routine that includes cycles of movement.
I was once asked the question on the Radio 4 PM show hosted by Eddie Mair, “would the trend of standing in the office be the end for the office chair”. They put this to the test by standing throughout the whole show. My answer then was, you can sit, you can stand, you should certainly move around, and you really must use common sense. As for the cost of office furniture (something also raised in the Telegraph), especially the chair and an adjustable work surface? Well, employers should invest in the best possible products that provide efficiency and comfort. Workers will be more effective and after all they probably spend more time at work than they do in bed – and would anyone, given the choice, want to sleep in an uncomfortable bed?
I am quite sure that the Workplace industries are encouraging their clients to use these excellent products in the most effective ways, and when necessary further advising the Experts in academia.
Secretary General: The European Office Furniture Federation