Do sit-stand desks really have health and productivity benefits?

by L&D26 Feb 2016
Employees who use sit-stand desks are more satisfied, energised and productive at work, according to a world-first study.
However, the research also found that in some circumstances standing for long periods of time can have its own health risks.
Namely, employees need to slowly build up their standing time and not revert from sitting all day to standing all day, said the co-investigator Dr Lina Engelen of the University of Sydney.
 “It’s a bit like training for a marathon - you don’t go from running 0 km to 42 km overnight,” said Dr Engelen.
“You need to help your body adjust to it gradually. Ideally, workers could aim for around two hours of standing or non-sitting time per working day.”
The research was a collaboration between the University of Sydney, Southern Cross University and Optus, and was published in Preventative Medicine Reports.
It involved measuring the effects of productivity of 30 call-centre workers over a period of five months using powered sit-stand desks.  
The study was a world first in terms of a sit-stand desk intervention in a natural office environment with workers in jobs not related to health.
“Our study found that workers who increased their standing by up to 60-90 minutes a day were more active and felt more energised than workers who used traditional desks, while not compromising their work output,” said the lead researcher Dr Josephine Chau, from the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health.
“They reported being more satisfied and feeling more productive at work.

“The proportion of workers who reported they had enough energy throughout their workday increased seven-fold, from 6% to 44% when using sit-stand desks.”

Dr Chau added that an increasing amount of research shows that prolonged periods of sitting is linked to a greater chance of developing obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  These risks are especially relevant to office workers.
However, Dr Chau warned that a sit-down desk should not be used as a substitute for exercise.
“People shouldn’t assume that a standing desk means they don’t have to exercise - we need to sit less and move more,” she said.