A lot of people will tell you that standing desks are good for productivity. In fact, a lot of people like to quote a supposed study saying it can improve things by 50%. If you’re running a business, you know that anything too good to be true is exactly that.
Anything that can improve productivity by 50% with just one simple change? That’s textbook “too good to be true” right there, isn’t it? The truth is that from kinesiology Perth to any other branch of science, there is a startling lack of proper evidence to suggest this is even remotely true.
First, let’s look at the primary flaws of the study that gave us the number in the first place.
The study didn’t randomise workers, nor did it establish data for a baseline on performance. The study was also conducted using newer employees, the ones who only had a few weeks of experience. As such, the gain in productivity cannot be attributed strictly to the new desks.
The call centre employees that were part of the test were also different. The sitting group was more experienced and took on very different types of calls. In contrast, the new people who used the standing desks were hooked up to a much more manageable queue of customers.
There is no scientific consensus on the idea of desk height and productivity. Some studies suggest that is the case. Some suggest the opposite. A majority are neutral or note that the increase may be tied to other factors.
Now, there are health benefits to standing up to take a break from long periods of sitting down. Standing increases caloric expenditure by about 30%. It also reduces discomfort and fatigue, while improving blood circulation.
Taking regular breaks is also good mentally. Human minds are built around a cycle of exertion and restoration. Standing up after hours of sitting is a minor refreshing action, not unlike taking a vacation.
However, standing up for an extended period has its problems.
There’s stress on the joints, which can increase pain there. Restriction of blood flow is also a risk, along with swelling and fatigue. The muscles may also become stuff due to prolonged standing. They might even become a distraction, negatively affecting productivity.
In other words, sitting for too long is bad. Standing for too long is the same. It’s probably better to give people sitting desks, but encourage them to get up and on their feet every so often.