Can sit-stand desks boost your productivity?

You've probably heard the studies citing that standing desks could make us healthier and more productive at work. And it's true that after lunch, you feel yourself starting to lag at your desk. Like maybe you'd like to crawl under it and take a nap? Since you're probably working from home these days, you may be wondering if it's worth buying a sit/stand desk for your home office. It could help you stay energetic and focused, especially while you're cooped up inside, right?

Can sit-stand desks boost your productivity?
Uhuru Design Frame Sit-Stand Desk in Use

If you’ve just started working from a (hopefully) quiet house, you might find yourself losing focus and getting a little sleepier without colleagues and a busy work environment keeping you engaged. In recent years, standing desks have been all the rage in office setups. You’re wondering if you shouldn’t get one or, at least, a sit/stand desk for your work-from-home tenure. But can sit/stand desks really boost your productivity at work? Let’s find out.

Could standing at work help you burn calories?

When sit/stand desks first came out, they were marketed as a way to burn calories and stay alert throughout the day. It made sense. You wouldn’t feel sluggish if you forced yourself to be active. Likewise, standing could activate muscles in your core and legs as if you were exercising.  So perhaps standing at work could take the place of a workout? It was an idea that many people got behind. However, recent studies suggest that maybe these hopes were a little far-fetched.

“When they first came out, sit-stand desks were marketed as a way to lose weight, right? The next kind of cure to obesity,” said April Chambers, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, speaking to CNN. “And they just don’t do that.”

Uhuru Design Frame Sit-Stand Desk in a Home Office

Uhuru Design Frame Sit-Stand Desk in a Home Office

Studies debunk the claim

According to CNN, Chambers and colleagues from Tufts University and the Office Ergonomics Research Committee conducted a study of sit-stand desks and their effects on health and work benefits.

What sit/stand desks were most effective at was relieving discomfort, notably lower back pain. They also decreased general pain in both obese and healthy adults.

Chambers’ study also looked at whether the desks improved attentiveness. According to her CNN interview, “They don’t make you more alert, but they don’t make you less alert.” The researchers couldn’t find conclusive results regarding whether the desks improved employee mood. As for productivity, they didn’t see any adverse effects on work performance. So sit/stand desks won’t make you work any slower. That’s positive.

Uhuru Minim Rise Sit-Stand Workstation in Different Setups

Uhuru Minim Rise Sit-Stand Workstation in Different Setups

In terms of overall health, sitting doesn’t yield amazing results

The team found slight improvements in heart rate and no changes to blood pressure. The researchers believe that future studies where people know how to better use the desks could yield more benefits. In the end, people shouldn’t use a sit-stand desk solely for standing, because that’s not their purpose. Constant standing could cause muscle and skeletal disorders, vein problems, etc.

With a sit-stand desk, the user should switch positions. For the moment, however, we don’t know what the right balance is. Should it be 50/50 standing and sitting? Or a little more sitting and less standing? The researchers say that the answer is probably different depending on who you are and if you have any health issues.

The effects of prolonged sitting

Yet, sitting for prolonged periods is bad for your health. Healthline says that people who sit a lot every day have an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and early death.  CNN cites another study that too much sitting can also affect the brain. People who sat for extended periods had less thickness in the medial temporal lobe. Earlier studies have also linked sedentary behavior with Alzheimer’s.

However, some studies have demonstrated that those adverse effects can be mitigated by daily exercise. 
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults participate in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for two and a half hours every week. This could have profound benefits on health.

How should you use a sit/stand desk?

So while the effects on your overall health won’t be amazing, the use of a sit/stand desk won’t harm your productivity and may relieve some back pain. If you decide to spring for a sit/stand desk, what is the proper way to use it? The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety recommends these guidelines:

Maintain a neutral body position when both sitting and standing:

  • Hands, wrists, and forearms are straight, in-line, and roughly parallel to the floor.
  • Head is level or bent slightly forward, forward-facing, and balanced. Generally speaking, the head is in-line with the torso.
  • Upright spine.
  • Shoulders are relaxed, and upper arms hang normally at the side of the body.
  • Elbows stay close to the body and are bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
  • No twisting of the upper torso.
  • The in-line sight is between the horizontal and 35 degrees below the horizontal (i.e., when viewing the monitor, the monitor is at eye level or slightly below eye level).

For information about ergonomics for sitting positions, please see the OSH Answers documents on Working in a Sitting Position and Office Ergonomics.

When the desk is in the standing position, be sure that:

  • The platform height is approximately at your standing elbow position (e.g., your arms are in the same position as they would be if you were sitting).
  • The keyboard and mouse are aligned as you would when you are sitting.
  • The height of the monitor should still be between horizontal and 35 degrees below.
  • Wear supportive footwear.
  • Consider the use of an anti-fatigue mat, where appropriate.
  • Use a footrest when standing to help shift your weight as needed, or shift your weight from leg to leg occasionally.
  • Make sure that any cables, electrical access, storage of materials, and general layout do not make adjusting the desk difficult.

Here are some Gadget Flow-recommended adjustable desks

MOFT Z 4-in-1 Invisible Sit-Stand Desk

Get used to working comfortably no matter where you are with the MOFT Z 4-in-1 Invisible Sit-Stand Laptop Desk. Just as the name sounds, it’s a one-piece paper structure you can easily fold up when not in use. In fact, it can fold up to a thickness of just 0.5 inches and it fits in any storage space. Additionally, the origami-inspired Z structure makes the laptop desk even more versatile. You’ll enjoy one mode for standing and three-modes for sitting. This will help you develop a healthy sit-stand posture. On the other hand, the paper-thin design makes the desk easier to carry around. So, whether you’re at the office or home, can use this desk comfortably no matter where you work. 

Uhuru Design Frame Rise Sit-Stand Desk 

No matter where you work, you need to be comfortable at your desk for hours on end. The Uhuru Design Frame Rise Sit-Stand Desk is your solution to back pain and unhealthy hours of sitting. Great for a home office setup, this standing desk comes in a smaller size than other Uhuru Design workstations. Made with a steel base, which comes in either black or white, the Frame Rise desk makes sure that you can put as much pressure on it as you like. If you find yourself leaning on it throughout the day, that’s no problem. Additionally, you can choose light or dark wood. Best of all, this desk comes in either 47-inch or 59-inch lengths that work great in studios and small apartments.

Uhuru Minim Rise Sit/Stand Workstation

Have the option to sit or stand while you work with your team with theUhuru Minim Rise Sit/Stand Workstation. Featuring two desks in one, the Minim Rise features an electronic lift system that is part of a sturdy steel base, hidden beneath the work surface. The workstation is complete with power and data options for the desktop as well as a divider between the desks. Likewise, the electrical platform in the desktop offers power plugs, HDMI, data, and USB slots. Furthermore, the power and data are mounted on the surface of the desk. Plus, you can hide your cables using the flip-top for a minimalist appearance. Available in five surface options, including real wood, the Minim Rise is an ideal addition to any modern office, co-working space, or home.

Stand Desk 

Sitting is a necessity for urban professionals. But not anymore if you have the Stand Desk. The purpose of this affordable sit to stand desk is to help you come out from a sedentary posture while you’re at work. It uses only one-third the parts most traditional sit to stand desks use which is what reduced the cost but without losing out on any of the benefits. The steel frame and bamboo tops represent a sturdy, eco-friendly construction you can flaunt in your new workspace with unique add-ons such as an optional cable management tray. 

While current studies about the effects of sit/stand desks on productivity have not given us conclusive results, it’s true that switching positions throughout the day is probably best. And if you’re suddenly spending more at home and indoors, an adjustable desk might be an excellent way to achieve that.

Lauren has been writing and editing since 2008. She loves working with text and helping writers find their voice. When she's not typing away at her computer, she cooks and travels with her husband and two daughters.
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