Could you stand an office without chairs?




As regular readers of our blog will know, we’ve often commented on the importance of ergonomic office chairs and the need to sit correctly whilst working at a desk. However, we’ve just read a very interesting article on the BBC News website on studies which appear to show that it could be better to stand rather than sit at work.

According to the article by Chris Bowlby, there is mounting evidence from medical research which shows that constant sitting is bad for health and can potentially cause a whole range of health issues, from cardiovascular problems through to diabetes.

As Chris Bowlby says, the problems caused by prolonged sitting can’t be remedied by a few trips to the gym – it could mean big changes to the way we work – particularly those of us who work in offices and have sedentary roles.

Standing up, rather than sitting, sounds simple enough but when it comes to office design, it means re-thinking the architecture, changing the routine of an office and spending money on adjustable sit-stand desks.

Many offices are designed to fit in as many desks as possible as this is, of course, one of the best ways to cut down on the amount of rented floor space; however this kind of layout is not suited to employees who’d like to be able to choose between sitting and standing.

Those who advocate standing whilst working is not only good for health but can also improve energy levels and creativity with the result that some companies are looking into change. Chris Bowlby’s article quotes Jonathan McGregor, an engineer at the US firm General Electric’s British plant in Leicestershire: “It’s becoming more well known that long periods of sedentary behaviour has an adverse effect on health so we’re looking at bringing in standing desks.”

As the article acknowledges, the cost of making the changes required has to be acknowledged. Sit-stand desks vary in price but all are more expensive than conventional desk designs.

Workers should be encouraged to move around more while they work

Alan Hedge, an expert in ergonomics things that it’s unlikely that many workers will make radical changes to the way they work and some will simply want to remain seated. However he does think that workers should be encouraged to move around more while they work and the BBC News article quotes him as saying: “We need to think of sitting like driving. Take a break regularly.”

Simple changes can make a huge difference such as abolishing the tea trolley so that workers have to get up and move to a different location to for their tea break.

Of course standing at an office desk isn’t such a new idea: Victorian office clerks stood at their desks and as a result moved around a lot but things seemed to change when time and motion studies showed that it’s easier to control people when they are sitting down.

Jeremy Myerson, professor of design at the Royal College of Art says that in the United States and the UK there is a: “tendency to treat workplace design as a cost not an investment. Denmark has just made it mandatory for employers to offer their staff sit-stand desks.”

To read the article in full, please visit the BBC News website.

Posted May 19, 2014

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