Standing desks have made a big boom in the office furniture market, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when working from home became a necessity.
The main appeal of standing desks is their ability to address common issues in office environments, such as long sitting hours and lack of physical activity.
Today, there are many different types of standing desks. You can purchase a finished product in furniture stores, build one from existing pieces of furniture, or make one by combining a make-shift construction with a wooden plate. Regardless of what type of standing desk you have or are looking to get, one thing you’re probably asking yourself is “How long should you stand at a standing desk?”.
Although sitting long hours is considered bad for your health, standing too long without movement is not recommended either. That’s why combining the two ends up being the best option.
In this article, we’ll talk about how long to stand at a standing desk and how to do it correctly.
How Long Should You Stand at Your Desk
Standing long hours behind a desk can be harmful to our health, which is why health experts usually advise people to stand between 15 and 30 minutes within the hour for the best results. In other words, the ratio between 4:1 and 2:1 is a good sitting-standing ratio.
A study conducted by Canadian experts for spine injuries discovered that more than 50% of participants developed lower back pain when asked to stand for more than two hours at their standing workstation without a break. Lower back pain is something people also develop when sitting for too long, so the key is to find the optional balance between the two.
Since sitting has been demonized in the public discourse, people have tried to stand as much as possible while working. The problem is that there is an optimality threshold, meaning that the time spent in any one position is a crucial factor. When people cross the optimum threshold for either sitting or standing, the results are inevitably bad.
So how should you do it? How can you organize your workday to optimally use your standing workstation to stay within the recommendations of the sitting-standing ratio?
Here are a few tips you can try.
Switch Positions Frequently
Try to alternate between sitting and standing every 15 to 30 minutes. If you prefer, you can make these intervals even shorter. However, ensure that you don’t have more than 30 or less than 15 minutes of standing within one hour.
You can even set up an alarm or a timer to remind you to change your position in your desired time intervals.
Make Adjustments to the Screen and Desk
If you properly adjust your screen and desk, you can minimize the adverse effects of both sitting and standing.
First, ensure that the desk height is to your elbows in both positions. If it’s higher, your shoulders will suffer an additional burden; if it’s lower, you’ll fold your back and neck too much. Your body posture will be optimal for both sitting and standing at the elbow position.
Second, we recommend having your screen between 20 and 28 inches from the face. The top of the screen should be at your eye level so that your eyes are positioned naturally when looking at the middle of the screen. The point is to prevent neck and shoulder tilting and keep your back and head straight at all times.
If you are using a laptop only, you will likely have to compromise something. Either you’ll optimize the keyboard to be at elbow height or position the screen to be at eye level. From this, we can conclude that working is always better with a PC — health-wise. You can also buy a separate keyboard, which is more affordable, or a separate monitor, which is easier to optimize.
Use an Anti-Fatigue Mat
If you’ve ever worked a job that requires extended standing hours, you probably have experience with anti-fatigue mats — even if you aren’t aware of it. Anti-fatigue mats or anti-fatigue flooring are common in factories where workers are expected to stand for eight hours straight.
Anti-fatigue mats promote subtle movement in your leg muscles, which makes blood circulation better and reduces the experience of discomfort in the body.
In a recent study, people who spent more than two consecutive hours per day standing reported that they experienced less discomfort and were not as tired when using these mats.
Anti-fatigue mats can also be helpful for people with leg problems and lower back pain. If you want to alleviate or prevent pain from developing but changing your job is not an option, you can try working with an anti-fatigue mat under your standing workstation.
Anti-fatigue mats come in many shapes and sizes, and you can find them in various price ranges. In the upper price range, you can find highly durable models with added perks, such as calculated terrain and a non-flat-standing surface.
Use an Ergonomic Mouse Padding
Whether using a laptop or a regular computer, consider giving up on the mainstream mouse pad and a regular mouse. Ergonomic options can help you avoid carpal tunnel syndrome and other inconveniences related to prolonged computer mouse use.
The ergonomic or vertical mouse will keep your wrist in a more natural and comfortable position, while the ergonomic mouse padding will support your arm during long working hours, whether you’re sitting or standing; just make sure it has a gel filling below the wrist.
Due to the negative consequences of prolonged sitting, using a standing desk is highly recommended.
However, those employed in jobs that require long-standing hours know best about the consequences of standing for too long. The key to health is change by continuously moving from sitting to standing and vice versa.
Like everything else in life, it’s necessary to find balance and a personal sweet spot regarding the ratio between standing and sitting while working.
Experts recommend a ratio between 4:1 and 2:1 in favor of sitting, which is between 15 and 30 minutes of standing to 45 and 30 minutes of seating.
Nevertheless, the best ratio is when you factor in personal preferences and comfort. If you prefer to stand, stand for 30 minutes instead of 15 minutes every hour or change positions every 20 minutes.
Finally, you can add small, personal changes to your work environment to make your standing workstation more comfortable and ergonomic. For example, you can add arm-supportive mouse padding, an anti-fatigue mat, or an alarm notifying you when it’s time to change positions.