There was a time, perhaps not too long ago in some workplaces, that the environment was much more business-like and perhaps stricter than it is now.
Dress codes were more rigorous, deadlines and duties were grounds for dismissal if not adhered to, and there was no querstion that the boss was The Boss!
Certainly aspects of this still ring true today, however the workplace has become more equitable and casual in some regards.
Changes in the workplace
Casual Fridays and permanent business casual attire are the norm in many workplaces today. Many employees inadvertently make mistakes but thanks to unions, employment contracts and labour rules, it’s just not that easy to be let go of due to your errors.
And the boss…well, he or she may still be the boss, but it’s not unusual to have leadership, executives and management more involved on the employee level and front line business operations.
All in all, perhaps a healthier workforce.
This flexibility allows us to move around more often
Looking back, it may not have been acceptable to think that you’d be able to stand at your workstation, let alone leave for any reason or communicate with anyone other than for work purposes. These days we have email, cell phones, mandatory work breaks and even health and wellness in the workplace.
Who would have thought that the dynamics would have changed the way that they have in the last two decades.
Thankfully, this movement has brought with it several positive options in terms of improved work environments. The options now available to workers who are required to be at a computer or other such devices throughout their day require a different line of thinking than days of old.
Sitting, both now and then, has never been good for us
However, it seems that the advent of interacting with this electronic world we’ve created has really increased the potential for ergonomic problems. Therefore it’s wonderful that workers can not only take advantage of the benefits of standing versus sitting at work, but that they are also encouraged to do so.
This encouragement comes with the hopes of increasing comfort, performance, efficiency, productivity and morale, along with other such positive returns.
The ability to negate or minimize presenteeism, lost work days, human error and poor health while also having an impact on cost avoidance seems like a real shared win from all levels of business.
As a chiropractor of 18 years and a corporate health and wellness company owner of 10 years having a special interest and focus on posture, ergonomics and related health concomitants, it’s my opinion that this option to stand while working has been a long time coming!
Currently, according to the literature, there is debate, as there is with so many things, as to the actual health benefits and potentially the work related benefits of standing at work. Here is one perspective as to why standing at work is a viable option for many.
When looking at human mechanics, the consensus may be that we are not really designed to sit or stand for long periods
Sitting all day creates many challenges for our bodies
The pressures that are created in the lower back, for example, with sitting are more than in any other position we take on during the day like standing or lying down. And when that sitting is done poorly with bad posture and slouching or there are abnormal or repetitive forces thrown into the mix, we challenge our bodies in unproductive ways.
The results can be far reaching: back pain, hip pain, neck pain, headaches, poor digestion, decrease in vital capacity, etc.
Standing all day may have its challenges as well
Any retail sales associate, bartender, assembly line worker, stylist, cashier or the like will attest to that. Standing all day to work at a computer would also be challenging without movement or variety.
Hence the option, based on an individual’s preference, to shift their workstation up or down would allow for changes that suit not only the person but also the person’s current state, desire or need.
Some desks are now being made with “smart” technology that will move slightly up or down and/or alternate between seated and standing for the employee based on patterns or preferences set by the user or as determined by the desks technology as it records usage patterns.
As a corollary, athletes are often encouraged to cross train to prevent injury and to indirectly improve their performance
However, their primary sport can only be improved substantially by engaging in the exact task required to be better.
In other words, a runner can swim to help lower their risk of injury or to treat an injury and be fit, but it may not be used to directly improve running.
The exception would be running in the water, which has been shown to be effective for not losing performance when otherwise injured and perhaps even to improve performance if used as an adjunct.
Do what is necessary in the context of your work
Similarly, if there is work that needs to be done and it’s crunch time at the workplace, standing for some and sitting for others may not be the “go to” position to get things done.
While comfort and efficiency are a priority, and as contrary as it may sound, they should not come at the expense of meeting business requirements as they arise. After all, sometimes things just need to get done!
Standing at work is certainly OK if not even encouraged as part of a strategy that involves moderation with the various positions and tasks. Doing any one activity repeatedly over time without a change not only in position but also in task causes not only health effects but also quality and outcome effects.
Standing at work and its inherent benefits should make us certainly stand to attention!
Connect with Expert David Koivuranta.