Note: This article was fact-checked by Margaret Trashian MD.

Sitting for extended periods can be a source of discomfort for workers, causing a slouched posture and strained neck that can lead to various aches and pains.

Using a standing desk may reduce the physical strain on your body, maintain an active working posture, and enhance productivity throughout the day.

This article will explore the many standing desk benefits and how it can improve your overall well-being.


Quick Summary

  • Research suggests that sedentary lifestyle choices and prolonged periods of time spent sitting can present multiple health risks, including neck strain, bad posture, and blood clots.
  • A standing desk or sit-stand desk can reduce the amount of time office workers spend sitting, and contribute to a more healthy lifestyle and a number of other health benefits.
  • In addition to the physical health benefits, standing desks can also boost productivity and improve employee satisfaction.

What Are the Physical Standing Desk Benefits?

A standing desk can have many physical benefits, including improved heart health, reduced sedentary behavior, enhanced productivity, and fewer musculoskeletal issues.

Improved Heart Health

The prolonged use of a sit-stand workstation has increased the time spent being active each day, resulting in positive changes in some heart health indicators.

Targeting sedentary work behaviors presents significant opportunities for effective intervention strategies to improve lifestyle habits.

Given the increased number of individuals working remotely from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing sedentary behavior is now more crucial than ever.

Research emphasizes the vascular health benefits achieved by simply substituting sitting with standing.

Reduced Sedentary Behavior

Scientific studies have shown that not getting enough exercise and spending too much time sitting can negatively affect long-term health.

Sedentary behavior includes activities that don’t require much physical effort, like sitting, watching TV, reading, or driving. In the past 50 years, jobs that involve sitting have increased by 83% and now make up 80% of all jobs in the US.

This sedentary lifestyle has been linked to various health problems, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.[1]

Because so many people have sedentary jobs, finding ways to help employees be healthier is important. One solution that has gained popularity is using standing desks. To measure the impact of standing desks on health, researchers looked at how the blood vessels in the arms and legs functioned.

The health of these blood vessels is important because they can affect the risk of heart problems.

The researchers found that using a standing desk improved the function of the arm blood vessels, which suggests a reduced risk of cardiovascular events.[2]

man working at a standing desk

Enhanced Work Performance

Sedentary behavior increases the risk of physical and mental health disorders and affects job performance, work engagement, and presenteeism (being present at work but not fully productive).

Improving workers’ health can lead to more energetic employees, a better work environment, and increased productivity.

Studies have shown that physical activity, such as exercise, can improve work engagement. Additionally, reducing the sitting time during the workday has been associated with increasing employee vitality and enthusiasm.

Employees with higher health risks also tend to experience more productivity loss due to poor physical health, including musculoskeletal issues like neck and back pain.[3]

Less Musculoskeletal Issues

Introducing sit-stand desks to reduce sitting time among desk workers and its impact on their health and work performance was measured:

Over three months, the intervention group showed a decrease in the amount of time spent sitting during work compared to both the pre-intervention and control groups.

The participants reported improved subjective health and experienced less neck and shoulder pain. Regarding work efficiency, the intervention group showed increased vitality and higher self-assessment of their performance.

These findings suggest that using sit-stand desks can reduce sitting time and positively affect health and workplace productivity.[4]

Some studies have shown that clerical work done while standing can lead to a higher energy expenditure (EE) compared to sitting. For example, one study suggested that full-time standing workers may burn an additional 384 calories per day compared to those who sit.[5]

While EE is an important focus, it’s worth considering other potential health benefits associated with standing compared to sitting.

Maintaining an upright posture while standing can lead to greater activation of muscles in the lower back and pelvic region compared to passive sitting postures.

This increased muscle activation is known to influence changes in metabolic rate. Similarly, standing posture has been found to activate thigh muscles more than sitting.[6]

 

employees working: one is sitting and the other is standing

Lastly, the subjective experience of comfort, fatigue, and preference during the standing posture should not be overlooked, as these factors can affect workers’ productivity.[7]

With the rise of the virtual office, many people have remote, hybrid, or flexible work arrangements whereby switching to a standing desk can be a simple yet effective way to promote a healthier and more comfortable work environment.

What Are the Cognitive Benefits of Using a Standing Desk?

The effectiveness of standing desks in reducing sedentary behavior in office settings is well-established, but what about their impact on cognitive productivity?

Improved Employee Satisfaction

An experimental study lasting 15 weeks was conducted with adults who used standing desks for their office tasks. The study showed that discomfort was reduced, which could positively impact task performance and overall job satisfaction. It is reasonable to assume that work efficiency and productivity could be promoted in office environments with stand-capable workstations.[8]

Increased Productivity

Employee productivity was assessed in a call-center environment for six months to compare the effects of stand-capable offices, which included standing desks.

The study used the company’s performance metric software to measure productivity. The results indicated that employees assigned to stand-capable desks exhibited higher productivity than those using traditional seated desks.[9]

During the six months, stand-capable employees had an average of 0.5 more successful calls per hour than their seated counterparts. This increase in successful calls resulted in significant additional revenue, as the company’s revenue was based on the completion of successful calls.[10]

three employees working (an illustration)

Employees assigned to stand-capable workstations reported significantly lower body discomfort compared to seated controls and demonstrated the cognitive benefits of standing desks.[11]

Tips for using a standing desk

While there’s plenty of scientific evidence showing the potential health benefits of using ergonomic standing desks, there are a few things you can do to help yourself out.

Alternate Between Sitting and Standing Positions

Any cashier or server will tell you that standing on your feet all day can come with some serious discomfort. Make it a point to go sit in the break area, or catch up with a coworker.

If you’re working from home, go sit down outside and get some fresh air for a few minutes. You’ll feel refreshed and more energized once you go back to finish whatever you’re working on.

Stand On a Cushioned Mat

Working at a standing desk for extended periods of time is much more comfortable with a cushioned mat.

With more people opting for a standing setup, there are tons of extremely comfortable standing mats on the market to choose from.

Take a Break Every Few Hours

No matter how you work, every human body needs a break every now and then.

Office workers, remote employees, and hybrid teams can all benefit from stepping away from their workstations every two or three hours during the workday to stretch out or go for a short walk.

Position Height Adjustable Desks and Computer Screens Properly

Standing up while you work isn’t going to help you at all if you’re still having to strain to see what you’re working on. Follow the instructions and fitting setup guide to find the optimal height and placement for your desk.

standing desk adjustment

(Image Source)

The Consensus on Stand-Up Desks

Using standing desks offers numerous benefits for physical and cognitive well-being in the workplace.

The negative effects of prolonged sitting have become increasingly evident, and standing desks provide a practical solution to combat these issues.

By incorporating standing into the work routine, individuals can reduce sedentary behavior and improve their overall health. From a physical standpoint, studies have shown that standing desks can improve cardiovascular health, vascular function, and cardiometabolic indicators.

Standing while working can reduce the risks associated with prolonged sitting, such as musculoskeletal problems and poor physical health.

Additionally, the introduction of standing desks has been linked to increased productivity, vitality, and employee engagement.

The ability to move and maintain an active posture while working can positively impact both physical comfort and mental focus. The cognitive benefits of using standing desks are also noteworthy. Employees who use standing desks report reduced discomfort and improved task performance, contributing to enhanced work efficiency and productivity.

Studies have shown that stand-capable workstations in office settings can significantly decrease body discomfort and a substantial increase in successful calls per hour compared to traditional seated desks.

These findings highlight the potential cognitive advantages of incorporating standing into the work environment.

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FAQ

Are There Any Real Benefits to Standing at a Desk?

Standing desks offer a range of advantages that can positively impact both health and productivity. By reducing sedentary behavior and promoting an active posture, standing desks contribute to improved physical well-being, cardiovascular health, and musculoskeletal comfort

Further, the cognitive benefits, including increased task performance, work engagement, and productivity, further support the case for adopting standing desks in the workplace. As more people work remotely or in flexible environments, investing in standing desks becomes a valuable choice for creating a healthier and more productive work setting.

Is it Healthy to Stand All Day at a Standing Desk?

Although spending some time standing has shown a positive impact on health, standing for too long may lead to lower back pain and problems with leg muscles, tendons, and varicose veins. In 2017, an Ergonomics journal published a study that found that standing for long periods causes discomfort and can even reduce reaction times.[12]

Do Standing Desks Help You Lose Weight?

Yes, standing desks have been shown to lead to increased energy expenditure compared to sitting desks. When you stand, your body engages more muscles and activates them to maintain an upright posture, which can result in higher energy expenditure.[13]

How Long Should You Be at a Standing Desk?

It’s recommended to alternate between sitting and standing every 30 minutes to an hour to prevent fatigue and maintain ergonomic health. Always listen to your body and adjust your posture or take breaks as needed.

Do Standing Desks Help Belly Fat?

Standing desks can contribute to increased calorie burn compared to sitting, which may aid in weight management. However, solely using a standing desk is unlikely to target belly fat specifically; a combination of a balanced diet and regular exercise is essential for targeted fat loss.

Is Standing for 8 Hours Better Than Sitting for 8 Hours?

Standing for 8 hours straight can be as detrimental as sitting for the same duration due to potential strain on the legs and lower back. It’s best to strike a balance by alternating between sitting and standing throughout the day, ensuring regular movement and breaks to optimize health and comfort.


References:

  1. Bodker, A. et al. The impact of standing desks on cardiometabolic and vascular health. Vascular Medicine. (2021).
  2. Bodker, A. et al. The impact of standing desks on cardiometabolic and vascular health. Vascular Medicine. Ibid.
  3. Bodker, A. et al. The impact of standing desks on cardiometabolic and vascular health. Vascular Medicine. Ibid.
  4. Ma, J. et al. Effects of a Workplace Sit–Stand Desk Intervention on Health and Productivity. Environmental Research and Public Health. (2021, November 4).
  5. Ma, J. et al. Effects of a Workplace Sit–Stand Desk Intervention on Health and Productivity. Environmental Research and Public Health. Ibid.
  6. Ma, J. et al. Effects of a Workplace Sit–Stand Desk Intervention on Health and Productivity. Environmental Research and Public Health. Ibid.
  7. Rizzato, A. et al. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis in the workplace: The office is on fire. Frontiers in Public Health. (2022, October 28).
  8. Rizzato, A. et al. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis in the workplace: The office is on fire. Frontiers in Public Health. Ibid.
  9. Rizzato, A. et al. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis in the workplace: The office is on fire. Frontiers in Public Health. Ibid.
  10. Garret, G. et al. Call Center Productivity Over 6 Months Following a Standing Desk Intervention. Integrating Physical and Cognitive Ergonomics. (2016, July 1).
  11. Garret, G. et al. Call Center Productivity Over 6 Months Following a Standing Desk Intervention. Integrating Physical and Cognitive Ergonomics. Ibid.
  12. Garret, G. et al. Call Center Productivity Over 6 Months Following a Standing Desk Intervention. Integrating Physical and Cognitive Ergonomics. Ibid.
  13. Garret, G. et al. Call Center Productivity Over 6 Months Following a Standing Desk Intervention. Integrating Physical and Cognitive Ergonomics. Ibid.
  14. Garret, G. et al. Call Center Productivity Over 6 Months Following a Standing Desk Intervention. Integrating Physical and Cognitive Ergonomics. Ibid.
  15. Bodker, A. et al. The impact of standing desks on cardiometabolic and vascular health. Vascular Medicine. Ibid.
  16. Garret, G. et al. Call Center Productivity Over 6 Months Following a Standing Desk Intervention. Integrating Physical and Cognitive Ergonomics. Ibid.
  17. Sharif Nia, H. et al. Varicose veins of the legs among nurses: Occupational and demographic characteristics. International Journal of Nursing Practice. (2014, April 1).
  18. Smith N.J.G, et al. Use of a Standing Desk Increases Energy Expenditure in Obese but Not Normal Weight Subjects. Scientific Research. (2018, July).
  19. Bodker, A. et al. The impact of standing desks on cardiometabolic and vascular health. Vascular Medicine. (2021). ↑
  20. Bodker, A. et al. The impact of standing desks on cardiometabolic and vascular health. Vascular Medicine. Ibid. ↑
  21. Ma, J. et al. Effects of a Workplace Sit–Stand Desk Intervention on Health and Productivity. Environmental Research and Public Health. (2021, November 4). ↑
  22. Ma, J. et al. Effects of a Workplace Sit–Stand Desk Intervention on Health and Productivity. Environmental Research and Public Health. Ibid. ↑
  23. Rizzato, A. et al. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis in the workplace: The office is on fire. Frontiers in Public Health. (2022, October 28). ↑
  24. Rizzato, A. et al. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis in the workplace: The office is on fire. Frontiers in Public Health. Ibid. ↑
  25. Rizzato, A. et al. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis in the workplace: The office is on fire. Frontiers in Public Health. Ibid. ↑
  26. Garret, G. et al. Call Center Productivity Over 6 Months Following a Standing Desk Intervention. Integrating Physical and Cognitive Ergonomics. (2016, July 1). ↑
  27. Garret, G. et al. Call Center Productivity Over 6 Months Following a Standing Desk Intervention. Integrating Physical and Cognitive Ergonomics. Ibid. ↑
  28. Garret, G. et al. Call Center Productivity Over 6 Months Following a Standing Desk Intervention. Integrating Physical and Cognitive Ergonomics. Ibid. ↑
  29. Garret, G. et al. Call Center Productivity Over 6 Months Following a Standing Desk Intervention. Integrating Physical and Cognitive Ergonomics. Ibid. ↑
  30. Sharif Nia, H. et al. Varicose veins of the legs among nurses: Occupational and demographic characteristics. International Journal of Nursing Practice. (2014, April 1). ↑
  31. Smith N.J.G, et al. Use of a Standing Desk Increases Energy Expenditure in Obese but Not Normal Weight Subjects. Scientific Research. (2018, July). ↑
Miro Miroslavov
CEO and Co-founder of OfficeRnD
Miro Miroslavov is a software engineer turned into a tech entrepreneur. In 2015 he co-founded OfficeRnD - a leading flex space and hybrid work management platform. As a CEO at OfficeRnD, he grew the company from inception to a leading software vendor that serves thousands of customers worldwide. He is a big fan of flexible working and is on a mission to "Making Flexible Working the Way of Working".