Countless health studies have shown that prolonged sitting can cause a myriad of serious health issues. The results of the studies, in addition to the accompanying recommendations, have given rise to the popularity of alternative designs for office furniture. For some time now, standing desks are a staple in workplaces. This design allows workers to alternate sitting and standing during their shifts, which helps in alleviating pressure caused by too much sitting or too much standing.
Why The Sit-Stand Chair?
Standing desks should not replace regular sitting desks for many reasons. The top reason is that standing for too long can be just as unhealthy as sitting for too long. In addition to exerting too much pressure on the feet, poor posture can strain the spine as well as cause several vascular issues. People who stand too much in the course of their work are likely to suffer from haemorrhoids, varicose veins and prevalent swelling. Additionally, prolonged standing leads to other issues such as hip, back and knee pain. It is also common to see collapsed veins in lower extremities. The recommended solution is to alternate sitting and standing. Each worker can decide at what rate they wish to alternate between the sitting and standing position.
It Is Not Just a Sit and Stand Affair
Stretches, walks, and other movements should also be incorporated in a typical work shift. These simple movements, in addition to alternating between sitting and standing, allows for better blood flow. It is also advisable to take a flight of stairs instead of taking the lift and walk a little further than usual on a daily basis. Take every opportunity possible to move around to encourage better bone and muscular health.
If you work in an environment that makes you overwork your legs and back, it is advisable to practice a few yoga poses every now and then. Yoga is one of those exercise routines that stretches the muscles and realigns the bones to their rightful place after strenuous activity. Here are a few particular exercises as recommended for specific areas of the body.
• For the shoulders and neck area, the recommended exercises are shoulder rolls, neck rolls, eagle arms, chin retraction, cow face pose and cross-body arm stretches
• For the back, try out the puppy dog at the desk or use a wall, the cow or cat on a chair or twist the back side to side with the help of a chair
• For the legs, you can do chair stand excercise such as knee lifts while standing, calf stretches and one leg lifts while sitting or standing
The best part about these exercises is that they are simple and can even be done in the office! If you feel any pressure or strain in any of the aforementioned areas, simply stand and stretch for a few seconds before you resume your tasks.
Best Sit-Stand Chairs - Posture and Health
Whether seated or standing, good posture is vital in staying healthy and free of pains. While having the right furniture can be very helpful, good posture allows you to carry on your tasks without straining any part of the body. The truth is that everyone knows what a good posture should look like. However, few know how it should feel like. This makes it easy for many workers to slide into a bad posture without their knowledge, only to get aches later on. So, how do you know if you are in the correct posture position?
One of the most repeated statements in health is that the bone structure is designed to hold the bodyweight without straining. The body is inclined to line up joints and muscles and have them in the rightful position. Therefore, imagine that a string is dangling from your head’s crown down the spine to the legs. Hold the spine straight and keep the chin leveled – don’t drop it towards the neck.
Visualize your shoulders sitting straight above the hips, then knees then ankles. Allow the body to rest while at that solid structure. While holding this position, visualize your tailbone pointing the floor so that it is not arched to face the wall or to feel tucked forward. When every part of the body is in its rightful place, you feel restful; no strains or stretches or aches. When you achieve your restful position, consider it a good posture. If you are not sure whether you are doing it right, you can make an appointment with a chiropractor who will guide you on how to hold the right posture. Once guided, you will know how it feels and can practice good posture if you have been doing it wrong for a while.
Now that you know how good posture feels like, it is time to practice at your work station. Your keyboard and mouse should be at the height of the belly button when in a standing position. This means that your arm should bend at 85 degrees, which is a neutral position. The computer screen/monitor should be about 18 inches away from the face with the eye-level at the top of the screen. This gives an allowance to look down at 10 to 15 degrees. This is important so that the neck is not strained.
If your work involves lot of typing, it is important to give your arms periodic rests in between the typing. You can take a two minutes break for every 30 minutes of continuous typing. This allows your wrist muscles to rest. In the two minute break, you can do some simple wrist and arm stretches. This helps to keep Carpal tunnel syndrome at bay. You can also engage in other tasks around your workstation as you take a break from typing.
Choosing a Sit-Stand Workstation
The decision to get the sit and stand chair and desk is fuelled by the desire to start a healthy work-life. But where do you start looking for the perfect workstation? There are endless resources and store where you can buy any type of ergonomic sit-stand work station. Let’s look at some of the most common types of sit-stand desks available in the market today.
1. The Sit-Stand Platform
The main concept of the platform is to work with already existing worktops. The platform is designed to be placed on top of your regular desk to give an adjustable surface that is easily used while either sitting or standing. This is a low-cost practical solution that will not have you spending a fortune to replace already good furniture with expensive full-size sit-stand furniture.
If you have a lot of equipment in your work area – computer, scanner, printer etc., you can opt for a larger platform. The best thing about platforms is that they come in a variety of sizes and styles to suit different budgets and needs. Some of the most popular platform styles include the following.
• Portable platforms
• Cascade platform
You will find that some platforms are too heavy to move around. This is where portable platforms come in handy. If you have a hot-desking or home office environment and you need to move from one area to the other, you can consider using portable platforms. They are lightweight, thin yet sturdy enough to give you good service.
Cascade platforms are designed with a sloped back panel. This back panel is between the bottom and top tiers where you can store your documents, papers and books for easy retrieval. A system that facilitates easy retrieval of the material you need makes work easier and more productive.
2. The Adjustable Sit-Stand Desk
Adjustable sit-stand desks are quite popular. With this design, you only need to adjust the height of the table. These desks come in a variety of deigns and finish and are available in two forms.
• A manually adjustable sit-stand desk
• The electrically adjustable sit-stand desk
Manually adjustable desks come with a handle crank that is used to move the surface up and down to achieve the preferred height. They are relatively affordable while giving you the benefits of a fill size sit-stand workstation. These desks are available in a variety of sizes and finishes.
Electrically adjustable sit-stand desks are adjusted by the push of a button. The lever is electrically wired to automatically move the desk’s surface up or down smoothly and quietly until the desired height is achieved. You can also add accessories to this system such as calorie counters and timers at preset intervals to remind you to stand up.
3. Corner Cut Sit-Stand Work Desks
These are perfect for oddly shaped spaces or small offices. They are designed to make good use of corners and other spaces that would otherwise be easily wasted. They feature ergonomic shapes and designs that help with comfort and improve productivity. If your work requires you to move round from one electronic to the other – computer, scanner etc. – the shape of this desk allows you to swivel around easily. You will have ample space to switch between tasks as the angle of sitting optimizes the area that can be used.
4. The Bench Sit-Stand Desks
If you have decided to purchase new work station for the entire office, consider the bench sit-stand desks. This design is compact, neat and stylish. It allows for the configuration of the office space to fit the preferences of the users. The bench design is designed to have a frame that is shared by different workers but the surfaces can be individually operated and set according to the user’s personal preference.
5. Arms/Monitor Raisers
If you do not want a full-size sit-stand desk, you can get monitor and arms raisers. The best part of these solutions is that it can be changed around and used in a variety of settings – labs offices, at the home office and even in clinics! The monitor raiser comfortably holds a laptop or tablet at standing height and can be tilted to suit individual preferences. The raisers are foldable for easy storage. The monitor arm raiser has a platform for the mouse and keyboard, should you choose to use them while standing. These raisers are perfect in communal or collaborative spaces.
Materials That Make Sit-Stand Desks
Laminate is the most commonly used material as it is affordable and stylish. It is made of particle wood that may come with wood grains, though the boards are made to look like they have real wood grains. Laminate is durable, and hence perfect for high traffic desks. Laminates do not bend easily or get scratches and it is easy to keep clean and maintain. It is one of the best options when you want your office to look good even on a budget.
Wood veneers are another option if you are looking for a formal wooden look but your budget will not allow you to get solid wood sit-stand desks. Veneers are a lot like laminates, only that the boards are covered by a thin layer of wood. While they are relatively easy to clean and maintain, they are definitely not as easy as laminates. However, they bring a richer aura to the office setting, which makes it popular with executives.
Solid wood sit-stand desks are rare to find in typical office settings. However, high-end offices feature quality office furniture made of solid wood. These pieces tend to be heavy, are pretty expensive and are some of the highest quality furniture pieces in the market.
Metal is a commonly used material in the making of many sit-stand desks; it is contemporary and durable. You will find that most sit-stand desks feature metallic framework or accent for stability and to create the industrial look in an office. Metallic frames often feature other materials as desk tops such as wood or glass. The metal parts of your desk may come coated with powder finish or chrome.
Glass has quickly gained a spot as one of the top furniture materials found in the modern office. It is advisable to get tempered glass work tops as they are thick and hard to shatter. Glass works very well with metallic frames to give the office a contemporary feel. While glass work tops are easy to clean, they quickly retain marks such as fingerprints which can be annoying. If you still want glass featuring in your office décor, but don’t want to make it the main work surface, you can have wooden tops with glass inlays.
Quick Tips to Choosing Ergonomic Chairs and Stools
There is no perfect office furniture; what makes any seat or desk comfortable depends on personal preference. The most important feature that any office furniture should bear is comfort. The seat and desk features should make it easy for the worker to adjust the different parts of the work station to suit their needs. Here are some guiding questions that will help you pick the perfect ergonomic sit-stand chair.
How much do you sit still in a day?
Normally, ergonomic chairs are synonymous with excellent lumbar support. However, there is one extremely important thing about ergonomic chairs; they allow body movement. A good chair allows body movement that protects your spine’s curve and your posture. Granted, there are some cases where a chair that allows movement may not be appropriate such as those with pre-existing medical conditions. A comfortable, ergonomic office chair should be about preventing back issues not just offering relief, especially if your workday is mainly spent sitting still.
What is your posture when using the keyboard?
Seeing someone whose shoulders are hunched up to use the keyboard is a common sight in many offices today, regardless of the type of furniture in use. One of the common reasons why this happen is inappropriate seat height. Ergonomic office chairs should have a pneumatic adjustment lever that allows the worker to set the height they are comfortable with. It is important that the feet touch the floor or footrest when making the adjustment. Additionally, ensure that the pelvic angle is open and the shoulders are relaxed.
How does the back of your legs feel?
The office chair you choose must be deep and wide enough to support you comfortably. Since ergonomic chairs are known for lumbar support, the depth (distance between the back and front of the seat) should be enough to allow you to comfortably rest your back on the seat’s backrest. Additionally, while in this position, there should be about an inch or two between the edge of the seat and the back of your knees. It is also important that the chair can be tilted back and forth until a comfortable position is achieved.
Is there proper support for the lower back?
The lumbar spine has an inward curve. Prolonged sitting tends to make someone slouch, which flattens the body’s natural curve. This, in turn, strains the lower spine structure. A good ergonomic chair offers lumbar support that is firm and can be adjusted in both depth and height. These adjustable features make it easy for the user to set the chair to the proper fit. Additionally, the support should be adequately padded so that the spine is not resting on a hard surface. The type of back support will depend on your needs. There are people who prefer less pronounced lumbar support while others would like bigger backrest or just pelvic support. It is also common to see seats that do not offer any lumbar support such as the kneeling chair.
Are the armrests adjustable?
The need for adjustable armrests is dependent on an individual. Adjustable armrests allow someone to set the seat to a height that keeps their shoulders relaxed. An armrest should be set in a way that allows the lower arms and elbows to lightly rest. Note that the forearm is not supposed to be on the armrest when you are typing. One other important feature is that the armrests should not impede the desk’s edge. If you are one of those people who prefer their seats without armrests, you can also find some pretty good armless ergonomic sit-stand office chairs.
Can you swivel around easily?
This is especially important if you have to keep switching from one place to another to use one machine or the other. A swivel chair allows you to access everything you need to access by just turning the seat around as opposed to waking up and walking around to that particular machine every time you need to use it. Most conventional ergonomic seats allow you to easily turn around without causing strain to the body. Most swivel chairs have wheels that easily turn to any direction. The beauty of the market today is that you can get anything you want.
There are varying designs of ergonomic chairs; they may or may not have wheels, armrests or even headrests. You can pick the chair you feel best suits your purpose. If you are working in an office with pre-existing furniture, you only need to adjust the furniture to suit your needs. Be sure to give your body a break in between tasks; stand, stretch a little, walk a little then resume your duties. It keeps the blood flowing as it should be so that you stay healthy.
Common Alternatives to Sit-Stand chairs
The market today is focused on giving workers healthier alternatives to the traditional chairs where you sit still all day. One of the most common alternatives today is stools. Good stools are pretty strong and have a supportive base with a practical yet stylish design. Here are some variations that are perfect for the office environment.
• Standing assistant/leaning stool
• The saddle stool
• The bicycle seat
• The perch stool
The standing assistant stool gives you a resting surface in a near-standing posture. This is useful in giving relief when using a standing desk. The stool’s pivotal post allows you to move around. However, most people prefer their stools fixed especially when handling fixed tasks such as typing. It is also advisable to avoid too much movement while in a formal environment.
The saddle stool comes in handy when you are working on tasks that involve using both hands frequently. This stool is pretty comfortable, though some say that the saddle pressure may need some getting used to. Saddle stools feature wide stance, which may not be very comfortable with everyone from the get-go.
A bicycle seat is designed to look like a smaller version of the saddle stool. It is mostly cheaper than the saddle stool, and it comes with a cushion. If you are required to sit still for prolonged periods, the bicycle stool may not be your most comfortable option. However, if you are looking for a stool to lean on while in your sit-stand work station, this could be a good option for you.
The perch stool is sturdy yet affordable. It features an angled seat pan that can cause forward slips. For this reason, it may not be very comfortable for prolonged sitting periods. It can be a good addition for a casual meet up around a sit-stand work station.
Choosing Sit-Stand Desk Accessories
You probably already know that more than half of the injuries in the workplace are related to musculoskeletal issues. These issues are common in work environments where prolonged sitting in uncomfortable chairs and in poor body positions happens. These problems are common across the board – no industry is spared. This is the reason why there is a fervent revolution to transform the workspace with all manner of alternative, ergonomic furniture that helps prevent and alleviate the symptoms of musculoskeletal issues.
There have been numerous inventions designed to make the ergonomic workspace even more comfortable. These products are designed to accommodate the body’s curves and shapes so as to keep the body comfortable while at work. On that note, here are some of the most common accessories that work well with sit-stand work stations.
The Mouse and Keyboard Platform
Your keyboard’s position should be at the elbow height, and the arms should bend at around 90 degrees. If this balance is upset, the strain starts at the fingers and has a domino effect all the way up to the neck, with a good chance of causing carpal tunnel syndrome! This is where the platform comes in handy!
The keyboard and mouse platform is easily mounted under the desk and can be adjusted to suit your most comfortable working position. It allows you to keep your arms at a neutral position while working, whether you are seated or standing. You get the chance to maintain good posture regardless of the directions you need to turn to as the platform can swivel accordingly. There are varying options in the market today, and it is easy to find a platform where the mouse and keyboard areas can be adjusted separately to suit personal preferences.
This is commonly used when maintaining a standing position. Standing for a while is tiring, and can easily strain the feet, legs and even the back. One way to combat these occurrences is to use shoes with soft padding and to stand on a soft surface. This is where the anti-fatigue mat comes in handy. It is made of moulded foam with a contoured surface which encourages stretching and movement while standing. It gives excellent cushioning and allows you to stand comfortably at a wider stance. Additionally, the slopped sideways encourage calf stretching and elevate one or both feet for muscles movement.
The Balance Board
The balance boards are designed to give a range of movement options which enhance strength, balance and fitness while using a standing workstation. These boards are durable and are mostly recommended for older adults with weaker muscle strength who are currently undergoing rehabilitation. The board test leg strength and endurance, and allows for stability movements that are easily equitable to a mild gym work out. The most important aspect of keeping musculoskeletal issues at bay is breaking up the sitting/standing routine by body movement and stretches. This board allows you the much-needed exercise while keeping you comfortable enough to manage your office tasks.
We have seen that keyboard and mouse platforms are readily available in the market today. If you use a laptop instead, you can always get yourself a befitting stand. Most laptop stands are foldable and lightweight, which allows you to easily carry it from one place to another.
The laptop stand’s framework is adjustable, which makes it easy to use at varying heights depending on the needs of the situation. These stands can be used in an office or home settings. They are affordable, extremely versatile and can be used for a variety of other tasks other than holding the laptop. It is pretty common to see it being used to hold music sheets, books, eReaders and tablets.
It is common to see a lot of cables and cords in a typical shared workspace. If the sight of tangled, unruly cables irks you, cable management is the solution! Not only are these unmanaged cables unsightly, they can also be a nasty work area hazard. As such, they need to be covered up.
Cable management can be done via box management or vertical cable support. The management system may use supplies such as wire ducts, raceways and sleeve-wraps. The box cable system is suitable for workspaces that feature a lot of cables and wires. All the cables are simply collected into one box. This option is usually a tad expensive compared to the vertical cable support. With a sit-stand workstation where the computer is taken up and down a few times daily, it is important to plan out the appropriate cable management to help optimize the arrangement as well as keep the cables in perfect working condition for longer.
The sit-stand work station is designed to allow you to alternate between standing vs sitting so that you do not strain yourself. These workstations come in a variety of designs, sizes and shapes; you only need to choose what works for you and your budget. The best thing is that there is always a way to make the office an ergonomic space even while on a budget. When choosing a work station, try to pick pieces that have adjustable features, especially if you are shopping for a lot of people. These features help keep the furniture comfortable while working as a worker can easily adjust according to their preference.