Discover how the height adjustable desk can transform your working day

As trends show that we spend increasing amounts of our day sitting still, there’s never been a better time to consider the benefits of the height adjustable desk. Take a closer look and discover what it can do for working efficiency, personal well-being and the health-economic profile of any business.

Among white-collar workers, research in EU countries clearly shows that we are an increasingly ‘sit still’ society. Among managers, 17% of those surveyed spent more than 8 hours and 30 minutes sitting still. This figure rises to 19% across other white-collar workers. Worryingly, amongst younger people the figures are even higher, with 51% of those aged 15-24 most likely to sit for more than 5 hours 30 minutes per day, compared with 38-41% in the older age groups. The health consequences of these statistics are unfortunately already well-established. Rising obesity, heart disease and Type-2 diabetes can all be linked to the sedentary lives we increasingly lead.

Developing a solution starts with understanding the problem. So, let’s take a look at the reasons why sitting still for too long can be bad for us.

What happens when we sit still for too long?

Human beings were designed for movement, not sitting still. The discs in our vertebrae, our muscles and our circulation system all require movement to thrive and remain healthy. Take our spine, for example. It connects our head and pelvic areas, supporting an upright posture. It protects the brain against shocks and prevents production of blood clots. Most importantly, it is shaped in such a way as to be moveable and flexible. In other words, it is not designed to spend long periods in a fixed position. Studies show that using a height adjustable desk can help to counteract these problems. So, the question is, why do we still not take full advantage of the benefits it offers?

“Studies show that standing significantly reduces pain and musculoskeletal discomfort in the lower back.”

Jenny Hörberg, Director Global Range & Design Kinnarps AB

How the body is affected by static sitting

  • 1. Headaches, difficulty concentrating
  • 2. Muscle tension in neck and shoulders
  • 3. Wear and tear of discs
  • 4. Restriction of breathing
  • 5. Cardiovascular complaints, indigestion, stomach pain
  • 6. Buttock pain
  • 7. Problems with legs and feet
  • 8. Circulatory disorders

An investment in well-being

In Scandinavia, the height adjustable desk has been a familiar part of the office furniture landscape for several decades. Kinnarps were one of the first in our branch to recognise the health benefits of combining standing and sitting still. Decades later, the height adjustable desk is still something of an unusual sight in other European countries. However, office managers, human resources departments and those in other roles responsible for employee welfare are discovering the value of investing in height adjustable desks as the health benefits are demonstrably clear - and often, this insight comes after the realisation that standing or sitting still can actually be transformed into something positive and physically beneficial. 

Turning passive into active

Stand still or get active - and at the same time, work effectively. This challenge and how we tackle it has long been an important part of product development at Kinnarps. The key behind this idea is ensuring our furniture and other solutions offer ‘in-built’ movement. By this we mean that they are designed in such a way that physical movement is encouraged by functionality. Our office chairs are a great example of this. And in the case of the height adjustable desk, this functionality simply yet effectively proves that you can move and enjoy the health benefits - without going anywhere.

“We design our interior solutions and furniture to encourage movement. We achieve this by designing them with features and functions that allow for and encouragement physical activity.”

Jenny Hörberg, Director Global Range & Design Kinnarps AB

The art of moving without going anywhere

There are some very obvious ways to encourage movement around the office - locate the printer room or coffee machine a distance away from workstations being one. However, this is not always logistically possible, and it doesn’t address the core problem - what can we do to ensure we don’t remain in the same posture for too long that doesn’t involve taking regular breaks and interrupting our concentration and efficiency? It’s here the height adjustable desk comes into its own.

The health benefits of the height adjustable desk lie in the fact it is a fantastically effective tool for encouraging and facilitating physical movement. Breaking up your working day with periods of sitting and standing offers proven health benefits. For example, try adjusting the height of the desk in the standing position so your arm position changes slightly. This ensures your neck, spine and shoulders don’t remain static in one position too long, helping to improve blood flow and prevent muscle stiffness, fatigue and even headaches. You can also compliment these movements in the height of your desk with changes in how you place your mouse and keyboard or the angle or position of your monitor. Every one of these subtle adjustments in posture encourages the type of physical movement research suggests we don’t do enough of.

Our top tips for height adjustable desk users

1.

Equip height adjustable desks with a digital display that shows the height from the floor. This makes it easy for the desk user or users to identify and set their perfect individual height.

2.

Equip the adjustable desk with a programmable hand control with pre-set heights. This facilitates easy and fast movement to the desired height. In addition, even with the standard hand control it’s possible to pre-set one maximum height (for standing) and one minimum height (for sitting). By doing so, the user can go from sitting to standing quickly without the need for fine-tuning.

3.

Develop some healthy workplace habits in terms of how you vary between standing and sitting. For example, just before lunchtime, why not raise your desk to the standing position so that it feels natural to stand when you come back after your break? Standing up to make or take telephone calls is another great way to encourage variation. However, we recommend that you stand for no longer than 20 minutes at a time although ideally, you should aim to do this more often.

4.

Take advantage of digital solutions. There are a lot of apps available that help you establish and maintain healthier workplace habits through simple prompts such as reminding you to change position or even take a short walk.

5.

If you can, walk at a comfortable pace on a treadmill as you work at your desk. You could even challenge co-workers to see who covers the most distance over a day or week.  

Healthy people are happy people

Identifying and establishing healthy workplace habits can have a profound effect on our well-being. The height adjustable desk should be seen as an enabler of these good habits. Whether you’re sitting or standing, the ability to move and adjust posture, even very subtly, activates our bodies and goes a long way to counteracting the health risks we face by remaining still for too long every day. These health benefits are fantastic as they are - however, the fact is that health benefits also generate economic benefits. This can only be positive for any individual, business or organisation that shares what we at Kinnarps believe - that sustainable people are just as valuable as sustainable products.

Adding movement and variation in working positions is just a part of a holistic approach to ergonomics. Read more about how Kinnarps’ view ergonomics from a holistic perspective and how this can benefit your business.

Sources

  • European Opinion Research Group. Special Eurobarometer 472 – Sport and physical activity. European Commission. 2018. https://europa.eu/eurobarometer/surveys/detail/2164
  • López-Valenciano, A., Mayo, X., Liguori, G. et al. Changes in sedentary behaviour in European Union adults between 2002 and 2017. BMC Public Health. Vol. 20, no.1206, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-09293-
  • Chambers, April & Robertson, Michelle & Baker, Nancy. (2019). The effect of sit-stand desks on office worker behavioral and health outcomes: A scoping review. Applied Ergonomics. No.78:37-53, 2019. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2019.01.015.