woman at ergonomic sit-stand desk

If you haven’t been able to tell, we’re big fans of standing desks here at Goldtouch. After all, sitting all day is a surefire way to wreak havoc on employee bodies. Health risks including diabetes and heart disease. And that’s not even mentioning the stress sitting (and hunching) puts on the musculoskeletal system. Physical pain can quickly morph into psychic pain, which in turn leads to a distracting workplace, in which employees are less efficient and productive. And innovation? Fuggedaboutit.

An adjustable standing desk is an effective and often simple solution, as it forces employees to stand up straight rather than hunch, and it also engages employees’ legs, which keeps blood circulating and can even lower insulin and glucose levels in your bloodstream.

Or at least, that’s the theory. In practice, standing desks are only as good as the person standing behind them. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the risks involved with using a standing desks, and how you can overcome.

The Problem With Standing Desks

There are a number of reported problems with standing desks. For one, standing is like any kind of exercise. You can’t sit for years on end and then suddenly stand without a few issues arising, like muscle fatigue that in turn leads to improper muscle use that in turn becomes a serious injury that in turn becomes a workplace distraction. What’s more, standing desks have been reported to lead to varicose veins, swelling around the ankle, foot numbness, knee problems, and in rare cases, atherosclerosis.

Most of these problems, however, can be attributed to two things: doing too much too soon; and not moving as you stand. Yes, it turns out that standing still, while slightly better than sitting still, is problematic. The whole idea of standing, after all, is that you’re naturally adjusting and moving around, which will keep your blood flowing. What’s more, standing too still often also means that you’re keeping your knees in a locked and hyperextended position, which can put pressure on your fibular nerve.

And of course, if you’re still hunching while you type — and now, leaning too — you’ll experience all of the same musculoskeletal problems, from a strained neck and back to Repetitive Strain Injuries.

How to Make a Standing Desk Work For You

All of that said, this is not the end of days for the standing desk. In fact, there are a number of easy ways to make it work for you.

  • Use an Anti-Fatigue Mat.

    As assembly line and restaurant workers have known for years, standing up all day on a hard service puts a serious strain on the arches of your feet as well as on  your calves, with effects that radiate through your musculoskeletal system. Gel mats and anti-fatigue mats provide ample cushioning and support to the parts of your feet that need them most.

  • Wear Good Shoes.

    Of course, a gel mat won’t help you if you’re still wearing sky high stilettos. Sure, you’ll never see us endorsing high heels from an ergonomic perspective (except perhaps very low high heels with a broad platform), but we especially can’t recommend them when you plan on standing all day. Opt instead for a good pair of shoes that provide ample arch support. Don’t worry, you can always pack your high heels in your bag for after work hours.

  • Train Up.

    Would you run a marathon without any training? Would you cycle across the country without having touched a bike since you first wheeled yours down your parents’ cul de sac? Of course not. Standing all day means engaging muscles that need to be developed after years of atrophy. This may be true even if you’re an avid exerciser, as your chosen exercise may not engage the right muscles you need to stand. Rather than trying to do it all at once, try alternating between a sit and a stand every half hour or so, and building up from there. You could also speed things up by adding in new exercises at the gym to train those muscles specifically. Soon enough, your calf muscles will be like Rocky Balboa’s — and we’re not even going to mention your one-two punch.

  • Change It Up.

    If standing for one hour is so good for you, surely standing for eight hours is even better, right? Wrong. Again, it’s not necessarily standing itself so much that leads to health benefits as it is the movement and engagement of muscles that standing requires. So, rather than simply standing all day, adjust the height of your desk throughout the day. Also, alternate between sitting in a chair, leaning on a stool, and standing. Not only will this keep you moving, but it will also change up the way you’re approaching your desk, which in turn can help prevent Repetitive Strain in other areas of your body.

    How will you know when it’s time to change it up? You could set a timer to help you do so, which in turn will ensure you don’t forget. You could also try having “standing sprints.” That is, saving certain kind of tasks that require a “just get it done” mentality for standing, and more contemplative tasks for sitting. Even better, though, is simply to listen to your body. Have a pinched nerve in your neck while you sit and type? Try standing. Arches feeling tired? Sit. Let your body guide the way and you’ll go a long way towards preventing injury.

  • Check Your Posture.

    As the excellent diagram included in this article shows, posture is just as important when you stand as when you sit. Make sure to keep the screen at eye level and about an arm’s length away. Position your split keyboard so that your hands can naturally float over the board, rather than straining too far up or down (this will prevent hunching as well as carpal tunnel syndrome). Keep your elbows at ninety degrees, and close to your body. And of course, stand up straight.  If need be, set a timer for every fifteen minutes or for a posture check, so you can readjust.

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In Short

Despite their risks, standing desks are still a highly effective and innovative way to work, especially when compared with sitting. With these techniques to help you, you’ll be sure to make the most of your standing desk and power your way to career success.