Are you making an existing problem worse?

Do you need a standing workstation, really?

The world is defined by trends and fads. In the past couple of years we’ve been overwhelmed with hoverboards, planking and numerous other trends clogging up our social media feeds. As if that wasn’t enough, we now have innumerable reports of people getting themselves into strife playing Pokemon Go, as the augmented reality app leads people to find bodies and stumble into staged robberies.

Can one simple office addition really change the world?

Naturally, most people then retreat to the business world to escape the insanity. However, it turns out it’s no longer an escape, as reputable sources of information such as LinkedIn and Forbes are filled with their own fads, trends and myths. Of all that have taken over recently, few have had as much of an effect as the standing desk, a structure that’s been built up to near mythical proportions.

While we all know that sitting for too long can be a killer, and WHS legislation is evolving, can one simple office addition really change the world?

The rise of the standing desk

The health issues associated with sitting for too long are many. By encouraging employees to take regular breaks and work to ergonomic principles in the workplace, employers can greatly enhance the ongoing health of their employees. In some cases, this has led to them supplying standing desks, workstations where people can work as they normally do, but in an upright position.

It’s a good idea, but it’s one that needs to be met with measurable expectations. As a paper published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found, it takes much more than a couple of hours of standing to reverse the effects of long-term sedentary work practices.

Among the various scientific studies applauding the standing desk was a first-hand account of life behind a standing desk by Journalist Steve Mullis. According to his personal account of his time as a standing desk user, there were some advantages to what at first seemed like an awkward proposition.

Mullis noted that standing up made him feel like he had more energy, a feeling brought on by the fact that it’s much harder to become drowsy while on your feet. On top of this, he felt like he was more connected with coworkers as he was no longer crammed into a cubicle.

Can standing up all day really solve your WHS problems?Can standing up all day really solve your WHS problems?

Busting the myth

Along with the million manifestos and reports celebrating the standing desk and its supposed transformative powers, just as many people were quick to dismiss it as a fad. Not only did people reject it based on its trendiness, others found scientific research that offered a more measured approach to their potential benefits.

An NPR article drew from reports from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health which wrote standing desks off as fashionable accessories with little – if any – long-term benefits for employee health and wellbeing. While in some cases it may mark an improved posture, it barely burns enough calories to cover even the smallest snack, as alleged by a study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Back to a more personal account, Sullis also had a list of downsides in his eulogy for his lost standing desk. Ironically, what has been lauded as a saviour for those with back pain or other musculo-skeletal injuries associated with sitting down could actually be making them worse. In fact, Sullis doesn’t recommend the standing desks for anyone with “back, leg, knee or other health issues” that might be exacerbated by standing up for extended periods of time.

So if standing desks can’t fix what they were invented to solve, is there any point? For a greater understanding of what you can do in your business to improve posture and avoid getting stuck with the latest trends, get in touch with IPM consulting today.


Occupational and Environmental Medicine – Prolonged standing at work and hospitalisation due to varicose veins: a 12 year prospective study of the Danish population – 2005

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews – Health effects of sit-stand desks and interventions aimed to reduce sitting at work are still unproven – 2016

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