APRIL NEWSLETTER:

Should we just get rid of office chairs?

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“Sitting is the New Smoking”, “The Health Hazards of Sitting”, “The Dangers of Sitting at Work”; it’s in the media everywhere we turn. Many of us work on a computer for long hours each day and when you combine that with a daily commute and down time after work, how are we supposed to avoid sitting?

One solution we hear a lot lately is that we should all stand at our computer workstations! Or better yet, why not take multi-tasking to a whole new level and turn our desk into a treadmill workstation, use a stationary bike, or trade in our office chairs for an exercise ball?  In general, people seem keen on wanting to increase activity at work in many unique ways – not all of which are practical, sustainable, or even safe.

Comparing sitting and standing

There are some obvious “cons” to the traditional seated workstation. Sitting changes the natural “S” curvature of the spine, causing an imbalance that increases intervertebral disc pressure. Sitting is relatively sedentary; it requires less energy, burns fewer calories, leads to reduced blood flow and lower muscle activation when compared to standing. However, this is not necessarily grounds to abandon your office chair in substitute for a standing option.

Consider the effects that long periods of standing can have on your body. Since standing requires more energy, it is more fatiguing. It also places additional strain/pressure on the low back pain, hips, legs, and feet when compared to sitting. Furthermore, will your business casual/professional footwear be comfortable and supportive enough to sustain a full 8 hour workday in a standing position?

Sit-stand desks

There are several products on the market advertising their ability to transform a conventional desk into a workstation that offers both sitting and standing options. While these types of workstations may seem like they offer the best of both worlds, there are many factors to take into consideration. Whether an employee is requesting this option (and/or they present with a doctor’s note for standing workstation), or a company is looking to make sit-stand stations the standard set-up, it is important to carefully examine whether this type of product will be a good fit.

One of the immediate drawbacks is cost. Outfitting each employee workstation with a height adjustable option is not necessarily “budget-friendly”. Other factors to consider include available space, what types of tasks are performed, and ease of use to adjust and install/remove.

What can we do

Don’t throw away that office chair just yet! In some cases, standing can significantly help to alleviate pain and discomfort caused by a medical condition (which may be aggravated by the sitting posture). However, a sit-stand workstation is not necessarily essential for proper ergonomic set-up and/or discomfort reduction. Use of a properly fitted and adjusted chair and making micro adjustments to the chair settings throughout the day will help to minimize static postures and engage otherwise sedentary muscles. Furthermore, making frequent posture changes and incorporating regular activity breaks can have significant positive health outcomes without making drastic changes to your computer workstation.
 

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