The hype around the water cooler at the moment is all about standing desks. Should I invest, or is it just a phase?
Workplace ergonomics is a growing field used to prevent acute and chronic pain. An assessor will visit your workplace to check your desk posture, or if you perform manual labour, the assessor may check your lifting or equipment handling technique.
After your assessment, your employer will be issued a report with recommendations for changes to prevent possible injuries. These interventions could be as simple as moving your phone or computer keyboard to a different position, or could involve purchasing new equipment, such as a more suitable chair or desk. This is where the sitting/ standing desk debate begins.
Is working at a sitting desk ok?
Let’s start with a sitting desk. Desks come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Your desk should be deep enough for your computer and keyboard to sit a comfortable distance away from you, but not so deep that your arms are outstretched. The optimum height will depend on the individual. This is where a fixed desk height can be difficult. Most office chairs are adjustable, but don’t always cater for the extremes of height. A shorter person may require a footrest to make up any height difference. A taller person may require a taller desk. Height adjustable desks are great for workplaces where workstations are used by multiple people. The advantage of a height adjustable desk is that it can be used as either a sitting or standing desk.
Is working at a standing desk ok?
Standing desks have become popular of late as it has been deemed poor for our health to be sedentary all day. Everyone needs the recommended amount of physical exercise and sitting desks generally promote an incorrect rounded posture, leading to neck, shoulder, low back pain and headaches. The solution for some has been the standing desk. It allows us to spend part of our day standing rather than sitting. This is good.
The danger is, assuming a standing posture all day is not great for our posture. When standing for long periods, we often place weight on a preferred hip, which sews the seeds for pelvic imbalance, which leads to low back pain. You may also end up leaning on the desk when you tire, causing you to stoop or place too much pressure through your elbow and shoulder, thus again resulting in neck or shoulder pain.
The key, as with most things, is moderation. It is recommended that if you do have the luxury of desk height choice (which most of us don’t), you should alternate regularly throughout the day between the two.
For guidelines on setting up your workstation correctly download this Worksafe PDF.