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The goal of this blog is to provide useful information on every aspect of workplace health - from wellness and injury prevention through to rehabilitation and recovery at work.

Sit-to-Stand Workstations Might Not Be Standing Up

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The buzz phrase ‘sitting is the new smoking’ is spreading through offices like wildfire, and this message is vital in shaping the way we view our health in our modern society. The phrase highlights the correlation between prolonged periods of sitting and inactivity with a significantly increased risk of developing a range of metabolic conditions and diseases. In short, what people often don’t realise is that the benefits you thought you attained during the hour you spent sweating it out in the gym are negated by the 7+ hours of sedentary behaviour accumulated over the rest of the day. 

In the wake of this message and the ongoing education about the importance of an active workplace, the popularity of sit-to-stand desks has exponentially increased. The purpose of these desks is to reduce sitting time and workplace injury and discomfort; unfortunately, in our work as consultants, we frequently see individuals who are still experiencing issues, despite having all the latest ergonomic equipment and gadgets.   

A sit-to-stand desk should be utilised as its name suggests, i.e., to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. While extended sitting is undoubtedly detrimental, standing for too long - particularly with poor posture - may also cause a myriad of issues, such as lower limb swelling, lower back pain and shoulder/neck tension. Sit-to-stand workstations are designed to be easily adjusted between seated and standing positions, but it’s critically important that users learns how to alternate safely between postures. What we often see is that the workstation is not adjusted appropriately once the user changes position - and herein lies the root of the ergonomic issue. The key point is this: You can buy (and modify) equipment all you like, but if you don't use it correctly, it is just an expensive paperweight. This applies to high-end ergonomic office chairs, modified keyboards, computer monitors and all the accessories – if your workstation isn’t adjusted to suit you, then the value of the equipment is nullified. 

In fact, the first point of call for addressing an issue should always be to modify the individual’s behaviour and correctly adjust the equipment they already have. Adopting active workplace behaviours, such as postural rotation, movement breaks and stretches throughout the working day, is the most beneficial approach for preventing and relieving muscle tension, joint pain and correcting poor posture.   

An example of an active behaviour tip would be, upon realising that you’ve slipped into a poor seated position, simply standing up will mean you will sit back down in a better posture than you would have achieved if you had tried to modify your position staying seated. Frequent movement, correct ergonomic set up and postural awareness - no matter where you are working or what equipment you are using - are the foundations of effective workplace injury prevention and management.   

Christy Ward 

 Accredited Exercise Physiologist       

 Actevate offers a full suite of Ergonomic consulting services. For more information, contact us on 1300 669 552 

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