By Josh Kerst, CPE, CIE
People ask me all the time, “Josh, how can I get more comfortable using my standing desk?” If this sounds familiar, know that you’re not alone. The harsh reality is that most folks who try a sit to stand or stand-biased desk go back to sitting after the honeymoon is over (4 to 6 weeks).
Here are four pro tips to help you break through potential barriers and find your comfort zone.
ONE: Break in Period
The amount of sedentary sitting time has nearly doubled over the past twenty years, so it is import to slowly transition your body to new upright postures. This means gradually increasing the amount you stand and decreasing the amount you sit over a few days or weeks. Most people who go “cold turkey” to continuous standing end up feeling fatigued and experience a wide range of pains and discomfort. Begin with no more than 2 hours of standing over the course of a day, eventually progressing to no more than 4 hours once acclimated.
I recommend standing in intervals of about 10 to 20 minutes at a time but the most important tip is to listen to your body.
Some folks have found it beneficial to use pop-up reminders or utilize a free phone app to help coach you through these transitions.
TWO: Stand Up Right
Lots of effort has been spent on getting people into a proper ergonomic seated position, but we rarely receive any training or guidance on how to stand. Proper standing posture involves:
- Placing your legs at shoulder-width without locking your knees
- Slightly staggering your stance with one foot in front of the other, which should help promote rolling your shoulders backwards
- Making sure that your head is sitting squarely over your shoulders with your chin up like a superhero
Adjust your desk height while standing so it just touches your pinky finger while simulating shaking hands with a friend above the desk surface.
Finally, adjust your monitor height so it is just below eye level and position it close enough such that the text on your screen is large enough for you to read, which is about arm’s length for most people.
THREE: Change it Up
Our bodies are meant to move, so I encourage people to change postures frequently and to fidget. Your BEST posture is always your NEXT posture. In essence, find ways to encourage slight postural movements throughout the day in order to promote what I like to call Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT for short. Little movements keep the blood flowing and prevent muscles from tightening up.
FOUR: Upgrade Your Workspace
A standing desk by itself is an excellent solution, but additional elements can really help you achieve sustained comfort.
Your feet deserve a lot more attention when you stand during the day, so consider equipping yourself with a high-quality anti-fatigue mat, footrest, or balance board. These devices let you shift your posture during the day and support one foot on a higher surface (think, the Captain Morgan pose). These surfaces enable you to stretch your calves, shift your weight, and present a clear objective for thoughtful movement.
Proper cushioned footwear can also make a huge difference. If your office allows it, sneakers are ideal for standing desks or leaning seats. Many people also like to roll their bare feet over tennis balls, lacrosse balls, or golf balls (be careful on golf balls), but, again, your coworkers have to be okay with you being shoeless. On the other hand, if you work from home, making sure you wear the proper cushioned footwear should definitely be top of mind.
I’d also encourage people to try stand-assist seating or perching seats. Research shows that they dramatically improve your comfort compared with prolonged standing, and allow you to float and fidget while seamlessly alternating between leaning and standing positions.
Finally, I’d suggest investing in proper monitor support and adjustable task lighting to make sure your visual environment is properly designed and comfortable.
Remember that a body in motion is a healthy body, and taking these small steps (pun intended) can help to ensure that you feel better throughout the day no matter your office setup. Keep those transitions flowing during the day and remember that your best posture is always your next posture, and that having the right tools and following best work practices can really make a difference.
Le, P., W.S. Marras., 2016. Evaluating the low back biomechanics of three different office workstations: Seated, standing, and perching Applied Ergonomics 56 (2016) 170e178
Toomingas, A., et al., 2012. Variation between seated and standing/walking postures among male and female call centre operators. BMC Public Health 12.
Wilks, S., Mortimer, M., Nylen, P., 2006. The introduction of sit-stand worktables; aspects of attitudes, compliance and satisfaction. Appl. Ergon. 37 (3), 359e365.