ergonomic standing desk
Christoph Hohl

Christoph Hohl

Does an ergonomic standing desk really offer me advantages?

 

It is becoming increasingly well known that a sedentary job is not good for your health and some even make the comparison that sitting is the new smoking. More and more people are talking about standing workstations in order to move away from poor ergonomics and towards an upright posture within a new workplace.

But are the ergonomics when sitting at a desk really so bad and unhealthy? In this article, I want to show the advantages an ergonomic standing desk offers and what special features need to be considered.

 

 

Avoid unhealthy and rigid posture, strive for a natural posture with movement

 

The human body is made to move and not to stay in a fixed posture. Our ancestors used to move a lot more: working in the fields or hunting for food. In doing so, they often covered considerable distances and used the natural innate features of the human body much more than is the case today with the modern, sedentary person working behind the screen.

ergonomic standing desk

It is important to get away from an unhealthy, rigid posture for hours on end and to return to a natural posture with movement, especially at the office workstation. Ergonomics when sitting at a desk and standing at an ergonomic standing desk play a central role in this.

 

 

What should good standing and sitting ergonomics entail?

 

In order to ensure a positive ergonomic evaluation in both sitting and standing, the two aspects should harmonize. It is safe to emphasize that alternating sitting and standing produces the best ergonomic results.

ergonomic standing desk

Let’s start first with the classic sitting in an office chair. For optimal ergonomics when sitting at a desk, the following should be considered:

 

1. ergonomic office chair

2. correct adjustment of the office chair

3. dynamic sitting

4. correct height of the desk while sitting

5. no obstacles under the desk

6. arrangement of devices and aids on the desk

7. height of the computer monitor

 

and the following for an ergonomic standing desk

 

8. correct height of the desk when standing

9. posture and movement when standing

10. intervals between sitting and standing

11. correct footwear

12. is standing healthy for people who are very overweight?

13. points 5, 6 and 7 are also valid when standing

 

 

1.     ergonomic office chair

In an ergonomic office chair, it should be possible to adjust the seat depth individually in addition to the height adjustment. Also, adjusting the seat tilt would be another plus. For good ergonomics, seat and back cushions with an anatomical shape and a certain thickness are recommended so that no hard spots are felt. It should also be possible to adjust the height of the backrest individually to suit one’s own body size. Armrests that can be adjusted in height, width, depth and angle are also helpful for ergonomics so that there is never a conflict with the office desk.

ergonomic standing desk

2.     correct adjustment of the office chair

The office chair should first be adjusted in height so that the thighs are horizontal or slightly higher than the knees. The feet should rest on the floor. Then the seat depth can be adjusted so that you are supported by the backrest in an upright position. However, the backs of your knees should not rest directly on the edge of the upholstery but should be a few finger-widths away from the seat cushion to ensure good blood circulation in your legs. If your office chair allows it, it would be ergonomically advantageous if the seat inclination could also be adjusted in such a way that pressure on the intervertebral discs is relieved and no blood congestion can be felt while sitting. The backrest should also be adjusted to provide optimum support in the lumbar region. The armrests are adjusted in height so that the shoulders are in a resting position and a right angle is created between the upper arms and the forearms so that they rest comfortably on the armrests. At the same time, the upper edge of the armrest should now be level with the desk.

 

3.     dynamic sitting

For your back, especially for the intervertebral discs and the nerve cords in the spine, it is of considerable added value if the backrest of your office chair does not remain fixed but is adjusted to move freely. In this way you create dynamic sitting, which keeps the intervertebral discs supple, stimulates blood circulation and thus does not block the nerve cords.

ergonomic standing desk

To ensure maximum ergonomics when sitting at a desk, adjust the backrest counterpressure accordingly. This must be stronger for heavy persons, that is, with more resistance than for lighter people.

 

4.     correct height of the desk when sitting

The correct height of the desk results from the seat height of the office chair, as already explained in point 2. There is a guideline as to how high a desk should be, but this depends on the height of the person. For most people with a “normal” height, the desk height should be between 26 and 30 inches, with 28 inches being a general standard. Feet should rest flat on the floor when seated, not dangling in the air, as this can affect blood circulation in the back of the knees. If this is not possible for small people, a footrest will help. A footrest that is adjustable in height is best, so that optimal ergonomics remain guaranteed when sitting at the desk. For taller people, the maximum adjustable desk height can become a problem if it cannot be set high enough. In such cases, the office desk should still be set at the required height so that there is certainly no poor ergonomics. Often this can be achieved by placing wooden blocks, bricks or even books underneath in an emergency. However, a professional solution should be found so that overall, even the slightly higher setting of the desk can achieve an acceptable ergonomic evaluation and good stability. Any tall person will appreciate this adjustment very much and will certainly be able to work more ergonomically.

 

5.     no obstacles under the desk

Legroom under the desk must always be maintained. Frequently seen obstacles are hanging cables, wastebaskets, or containers, which can restrict or even block the freedom of the legs.

ergonomic standing desk

For an ergonomic cable management there are several professional solutions, which can be attached in a simple way. For a quick solution, cable ties can help, so that the individual cable strands can be tied together and thus be attached to a suitable place under the desk or to its legs. You should not touch any obstacles with your feet when your legs are stretched out and likewise should always have enough legroom to the left and right so that your body never has to assume a slouched or crooked position and an ergonomic sitting position is always guaranteed.

 

6.     arrangement of the devices and aids on the desk

Now, when you work at your desk, you need to pay attention to the ergonomic arrangement of devices and tools. This starts with the computer monitor or screen of the laptop, which should be placed directly in front of you. If you are working with two or more screens, the center of the screens should coincide with the centerline of your body. Again, your head or back should never be unnaturally turned or angled for extended periods of time. With your arms extended, your fingertips should be touching the screen.

Furthermore, the keyboard should also be centered in front of you and your body should not twist away while typing. A common mistake with the keyboard positioning is poor placement. Unfortunately, the keyboard is often positioned too far away, which means that the arms must be stretched, resulting in tension in the shoulder and neck area. For good typing ergonomics, the elbows should always remain close to the body and there should be no open angle between the abdomen and upper arms. When typing on the keyboard, the wrists must be relieved of pressure and must not rest bent on the desk, otherwise there is a risk of tendonitis. Ergonomic wrist rests offer a good solution here.

The computer mouse should be right next to the keyboard. Here, too, a common mistake is that the mouse is sometimes placed too far out, forcing the wrist and forearm to move far away from the body, creating an unergonomic angle and putting tension on the shoulder. The computer mouse should not be outside the width of your shoulders. Additionally, many people suffer from wrist pain or tendonitis when working with a mouse. This is because the wrist is bent while resting on the office desk. An ergonomic position with the wrist is achieved with either an ergonomic vertical mouse or a wrist rest.

 

7.     height of the computer monitor

ergonomic standing desk

The ergonomically correct screen height is ensured when the top edge of the screen is about 1-2 finger thicknesses below your eye center. A common mistake is screens that are too high. As soon as you need to move your head upwards because of a screen that is too high, tension in your neck is created. This can soon cause headaches or make it harder to concentrate for long periods of time, as the nerve cords in your neck become slightly angled. Also cramps in the shoulder area or tiredness are further negative effects of a too high height of the computer monitor. With screens that are too low, the suffering is less frequent, since looking down relieves the neck area, provided that it is not bent down too much. This danger is particularly prevalent when working with a small notebook or laptop. Here, an external screen is recommended to avoid this poor ergonomics.

 

 

Now, if you work standing at an office desk, the following points should be considered for ideal standing ergonomics at the desk:

 

8.     correct height of the desk when standing

Adjust your height-adjustable standing desk so that your 90° angled forearms rest horizontally on the office desk surface. In doing so, your body has an ideal posture and you relieve the strain on your shoulders and neck. If your standing desk cannot be adjusted in height, try to raise it with wooden blocks or bricks or add different layers of wooden boards to the work surface or in case of emergency some unfolded cardboard boxes. Surely, it would be beneficial to look for a professional solution here, so that the workplace looks beautiful as well as comfortable. An ergonomic desk attachment can also be an ideal solution.

ergonomic standing desk

In any case, it is still better to start with wooden boards or cardboard layers than to adopt a crooked posture while working.

 

9.     posture and movement while standing

Now when you are standing working at your ergonomic standing desk, you should always be careful not to stand crooked. This can happen especially to people who have a crooked spine or when you get tired for a long period of time. Keep a watchful eye on your posture here. The spine should always remain plumb to the body. Alleviate fatigue by resting the foot on a small elevation, e.g., a footrest or specially provided ergonomic aids to relieve the weight of the leg. However, always alternate regularly with the legs so that no one-sided relief occurs here either. Here, too, there are special ergonomic solutions to promote movement while standing. For your blood circulation, it is good to constantly keep moving a bit, to shift your weight a bit every now and then, and not to stand completely rigid. If you only stand statically, this can create poor ergonomics.

 

10.  intervals between sitting and standing

You can achieve the best ergonomics when sitting at your desk and standing ergonomics by alternating between sitting and standing. Change positions several times a day and sit for administrative work, for example, or stand for phone calls. This alternation of sitting and standing has a particularly healthy effect on your body.

 

11.  correct footwear

Shoes with high heels should never be used at the standing workstation, as this puts too much strain on the joints.

ergonomic standing desk

If you like to go to work in high heels, you should have alternate footwear available at the workplace. This can be comfortable slippers or loafers. Comfortable and slightly springy footwear, such as sneakers, is recommended. Special floor mats can also help to provide a slightly softer surface when standing.

 

12.  Is standing healthy for severely overweight people?

Heavily overweight people can experience problems when standing and quickly feel uncomfortable. In this case, it is advisable to visit your doctor beforehand to make sure that the strain of prolonged standing will not cause joint problems. Always listen to your body and seek advice from specialists if necessary.

 

13.  Points 5, 6 and 7 are also valid for standing work

The previously explained points 5, 6 and 7 remain valid in the same way when working at a standing desk. However, I consider point 7, the correct height of the computer monitor, to be the most important.

 

 

Final thoughts

ergonomic standing desk

An ergonomic standing desk is certainly an important piece of the mosaic in the overall ergonomic evaluation of a workplace. However, only the overall interplay of the individual ergonomic means ultimately brings real benefits.

These benefits can be better work efficiency, less fatigue at the end of a working day and can bring various health benefits, such as less headaches, better blood circulation, no or hardly any tension in the neck and shoulder area, less back pain, and a further reduction of various classic office diseases.

The advantages of an ergonomic standing desk are obvious, and I would not want to work without a standing desk anymore, as I have come to appreciate the many individual ergonomic points.

You can also use standing desks for daily meetings. This has the advantage that work is usually done more efficiently, while the dynamics can be much livelier.

Overall, however, sitting will continue to make up the largest piece, about 60% of the time. Standing is about a third or about 30%. The remaining 10% should be moving activities. These are guideline values to aim for, but ultimately you will need to put together your own balance between sitting, standing, and moving, which is an optimal ergonomic mix for you and with which you can achieve your best ergonomics in standing.

 

If the topic of ergonomics in the office or home office appeals to you and you are interested in it further, my book “Wellness in the Office” can provide you with even more tips and tricks. Combined with humorous drawings, I present 50+1 tips to make your office a little paradise.

wellness in the office 50 + 1 tips
50+1 tips to make your office a little paradise

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Christoph Hohl

Christoph Hohl

Christoph Hohl comes from Switzerland and is an ergonomics expert. For more than 20 years he has been offering many solutions with different products and many tips to provide more quality of life and a greater sense of well-being. SANTERGO is a special piece of this mosaic.