June 2016 Newsletter:
Sit Stand Workstations – Where to Begin

“Sitting is the new smoking.” “Too much sitting is bad for your health.” Headlines such as this point to the notion that sitting at a computer workstation for hours upon hours is detrimental to our health. Research studies have supported this, suggesting sitting for hours increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions (Katzmarzyk et al., 2009). And of course, the natural progression to improve health is to reduce sitting time and sedentary work.

As a result, people often believe that standing is the “cure”. Granted, it may help, but how is standing all day remarkably different from sitting all day? Both require static postures for long periods of time and each places stress on the body in some fashion.

Probably the most ideal solution to the issue of prolonged sitting is to achieve regular rotation between sitting and standing whether through task rotation, good work methods, regular short breaks or other means.  One option that has become more prevalent in recent years is the idea of a sit-stand workstation which will allow individuals to rotate between sitting and standing while continuing with their computer work.

Where do we begin?

First, employers determine whether someone truly requires a sit stand station, or whether they simply would like one. Many companies have begun to implement policies and strategies for addressing such requests (i.e. doctor’s notes), often first prompting an ergonomic assessment to have a qualified professional determine whether a sit-stand desk is a suitable option to combat any ergonomic issues.

Second, if a sit stand workstation is the optimal ergonomic solution, next is to determine what type of unit is the right choice for the employee and the employer.  This decision will be based on several factors including fit, cost, and size.  With any sit-stand station, the goal is to be able to work in either a seated or standing position, with neutral back, neck, shoulder, upper limb and wrist postures. There are two basic options to achieve this: 1) desktop units and 2) height adjustable desks.

What should you look for in a good sit-stand workstation?

A properly designed sit-stand workstation should typically include:

  1. Easy to adjust components to allow for simple and fast adjustments between sitting and standing postures;
  2. A height adjustable desktop or height adjustable keyboard tray that allows the user to adjust the level of the keyboard and mouse relative to their individual stature and align it at proper working height (i.e. just below elbow height when seated or standing);
  3. An adjustable monitor arm/platform that allows the user to align the top of the monitor screen with their eye height, whether seated or standing;
  4. A keyboard platform that is wide enough to accommodate both the keyboard and mouse on the same level.

Desktop Mounts

Desktop units mount directly to the desktop, which is advantageous as most existing desks can easily be converted, effectively utilizing the existing space. Additionally, with potential budgetary constraints, these units come at a relatively attractive price point, typically running between $500-800. However, not all of these stations meet the desired features of a good sit stand workstation.

A common issue with many of these units is that the keyboard platform does not go below desk height. For many individuals, the desktop is too high, generally resulting in awkward wrist and shoulder postures when typing and mousing so seated postures without a feature that goes below desk height is not ideal.

Ergonomic guidelines for dual monitors also suggests the primary screen should be directly in front of the user, with the secondary screen to either side of it. With many desktop mounts, however, neither screen is centered resulting in constant twisting of the neck, making these sit stand units less ideal for dual-monitor set ups.

Height Adjustable Desks

Height adjustable desks are the optimal choice for alternating between postures, however, one drawback is that they come at a steeper price point. Ideally, they should allow the user to align either the desktop or keyboard tray with their seated and standing elbow heights to promote neutral wrist and shoulder postures. Further, the top of the monitor should be aligned with eye height, regardless of posture. If this cannot be achieved with the monitor directly on the desktop, an adjustable monitor arm may be necessary to ensure neutral neck positioning. Finally, easy adjustability is necessary to maximize usage, meaning you should avoid cranks and instead incorporate desks with electronic pedals/buttons.  Whenever possible, desks with a programmable memory (like your car) are ideal.  Button A can be set to sitting height and B to standing height allowing for easy and quick adjustment between the two working positions.

With a basic understanding of the sit stand options on the market, it’s now important to develop your own workplace strategies to determine when these units are required versus when they’re simply desired. After all, we don’t want to create further ergonomic issues as a result of implementing an improper solution. Perhaps simply educating staff on how they can build standing and walking into their workday may be more appropriate than an adjustable desk.
 

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