An ergonomic office workplace is a workplace that ensures all of your ergonomic needs are met. Ideally it consist of adjustable furniture that accommodates different bodies and adjusts to individual needs.
In regards to office furniture, absolute measurements were long seen as the ultimate solution to a correct posture. An adjustable desk, for example, had to be exactly x inches tall and underarm and upper arm had to be positioned in a 90 degree angle. We have seen countless illustrations of the “perfect ergonomic position”. However, is it realistic to expect office workers to remain in such a position for more than 8 hours every day? It’s time to reconsider these static standards and to become more flexible, both in regards to furniture and our minds.
What does an ergonomic workspace look like?
If we take a look at how people actually work, we observe that most people not only once but multiple times a day change their posture. They will lean forward and backwards, cross their legs or even rest them on the desk, regardless of whether these postures are ergonomic or not. It’s almost instinctively that we try to give our body what it so obviously needs in everyday office life: movement.
Fortunately, these are the observations that slowly but steadily lead to the rethinking of office environments. Modern office furniture is far from static measurements and incorporates movement, motion, and ergonomics. These modern solutions still lack in many office contexts throughout the world – with drastic consequences.
It shouldn’t be groundbreaking news to most of us that sitting for a long period of time is unhealthy. Even if we sit in an ergonomic chair and in an ergonomic posture, there is a lack of movement and we will soon experience sore muscles and back pain. A truly ergonomic (and therefore healthy) workplace has to offer possibilities for movement.
Adjustable desks and office chairs make up the base of an ergonomic office workplace. Adjustable desks allow for sitting as well as standing at work and can be adjusted to any desired ergonomic height. Ergonomic Office chairs usually help to achieve a spine-protecting posture while sitting and perfectly complement adjustable desks.
Additional movement in the office has incredible benefits. It helps with overall well-being and reduces pain. In further consequence this leads to an increase in performance and productivity.
Why do I need an adjustable workplace?
Walking, sprinting, hunting, climbing, building, digging, swimming… There is an abundance of movement in nature’s creation of the human body. Resting for hours at a time is not part of what we are made to be – it’s an undeniable fact.
Our bodies are not made to sit for more than 30 minutes at a time. If we do sit for hours and hours – and add to that a bad posture on top – our bodies will respond with pain, cramps, tension; even a disc prolapse could be the result. The simple solution? Standing up. Sitting less prevents its unnecessary consequences.
Adjustable desks reduce back pain
At this point, it’s an illness of civilization: back pain counts among the most common consequences of excessive sitting. The DAK health report (Germany) from 2019 mentions back pain as the most common reason for sick days in companies.
A large portion of this back pain falls in the category of stress-induced and pressure-induced pain. Remaining in a static position for a long time – as it is the case in everyday office life – burdens our body in an unnatural and unhealthy way. Switching between sitting and standing may reduce pain up to 54 %, as an American study by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention showed.
The cost of back pain
The economic damage caused by back pain is also significant. Der Schmerz (Organ of Deutsche Schmerzgesellschaft, Österreichische Schmerzgesellschaft und Schweizerische Schmerzgesellschaft zum Studium des Schmerzes, 2019, 33 (3), 183-184) talks about roughly 12.2 Billion Euros that are caused by chronic back pain each year in Germany. And this does not account for the decrease in quality of life for those affected! This goes to show severely back pain influences a society that works in offices, when the solution is so easy and right before our eyes: adjustable office furniture that will help reduce the pain easily and in no time.
Adjustable desks reduce neck pain
As you sit, your spine usually takes on a rounded shape, comparable to the letter “C”. Over time, this posture greatly impacts the neck – even if you try your best to sit in an ergonomic posture. Tension and pain are almost inevitable when you sit for many hours.
Adjustable desks, however, enable you to both sit and stand while working. Opposed to sitting, your spine can take on a different posture and relieve the neck while standing. A study by the U.S. National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine that looked into the connection between sitting and neck pain, showed people who worked while standing had 28% less neck pain.
But be careful: In order to relieve your neck, using an appropriate screen is also essential. If you are working on a laptop for several hours, your neck will become tense – regardless of whether you worked sitting or standing.
Adjustable desks reduce shoulder pain
Back pain, neck pain and shoulder pain usually occur together and are difficult to deal with separately. This is not surprising: imagine you are sitting for three hours straight and you will inevitably, at some point, slump a bit to be more relaxed. Not only does your spine by doing this take on the “C”-shape, your shoulders move forward and down as well. It may sound comfortable, but will actually result in bad pain and muscle tension in your shoulders.
If you stand, you automatically stand straighter to keep your balance. Your spine stretches, your shoulders move backwards. By doing this, you reduce the risk of shoulder tension.
Adjustable desks reduce leg pain
Due to hour-long sitting, arteries, veins and muscles in your legs are also heavily impacted. Blood circulation is constrained which can lead to numb and hurting legs. If you switch frequently between sitting and standing, you are relieving your arteries and veins and make better blood circulation possible – even after late nights in the office.
Is a height-adjustable desk healthy? Intervertebral discs and co.
Pain reduction is not the only benefit of adjustable desks. They can also help us reduce other risks in the long run and protect our well-being. Standing might not be a magical potion, but it sure is a lot healthier than sitting.
Height-adjustable desks may reduce the risk for diabetes
A healthy and balanced diet plus regular physical activity are the most effective ways to prevent diabetes. Sitting, quite obviously, is therefore not the ideal way to go. Apart from smoking, excess weight and too little physical activity, sitting is a significant risk factor for diabetes. A Dutch study was able to provide evidence: an hours of continuous sitting a day already increases the risk for diabetes by 22%!
What’s particularly interesting here is this: the duration of sitting is not the pivotal factor. It’s the action itself of sitting without standing up or walking in between that makes the risk go up. Accordingly, the American Diabetes Association recommends to take a break from sitting at least every 30 minutes.
So, maybe going to the gym is not the only solution to incorporate movement and activity into your everyday work life – you might be just fine if you buy an adjustable desk for your office.
Height-adjustable desks may reduce the risk for cancer
A variety of studies showed a causal relationship between long periods of sitting and cancer. The American Cancer Society warns that sitting for more than 6 hours a day increases the risk for cancer in women significantly. While the reason for this is still not entirely clear, the most plausible reason seems to be that pathological cell transformations happen easier when sitting excessively. By switching between sitting and standing you can avoid long periods without movement – even while at work.
Height-adjustable desks relieve your intervertebral discs
Your spinal discs are severely affected when sitting. Compared to while standing, there is 40% more pressure on them and your spine. When leaning forward on top, the pressure increases by 100%! Standing up not only relieves your intervertebral discs but also allows for sufficient circulation in them and will significantly reduce the risk of a disc prolapse.
Height-adjustable desks stimulate blood flow
Fatigue and numb legs: If your blood circulation is being restricted, both your body and mind will suffer in the long run, and sitting exerts high pressure on the blood vessels. The static posture makes your heart beat slower, blood flow and metabolism run low. The result? You’re feeling tired despite not having done any physical work.
Switching between sitting and standing, however, stimulates circulation and metabolism. In the long run, this helps your cells to be provided with more oxygen and your entire body profits. We feel more awake, fitter, healthier and can be more productive. In this regard, the right office setup is also essential.
Stay fit with adjustable desks
We have established that standing desks aid you in keeping yourself healthy and pain free. But are they also contributing to your fitness? We say: Yes! Height-adjustable desks show results from the first day.
Sit-stand-desks strengthen bones and muscles
During sitting, your body is on standby, almost as if it were sleeping. Metabolism is slowed down, so is blood circulation. A lack of long-term missing physical movement will result in weaker bones and muscles. Of course it will: if your body is basically “sleeping” for eight hours in the office, it just does not get in the exercise it needs to stay fit and healthy.
You’ll experience this especially when you work with an adjustable desk for the first time. After usually sitting eight hours a day, it will seem a bit exhausting in the beginning to stand up all the time and you might need more breaks. But don’t worry: You will get used to it in no time and soon you won’t be able to imagine how you’ve been sitting for hours straight! It’s exercise that you’re doing while working – and while it’s subtle, its effects are significant.
Sit-stand-desks help you stay in shape
Bye-bye, annoying diets. Bye-bye gym. Hello adjustable desk? Well, we have to be honest here. Physical exercise on a regular basis and a balanced diet are still the main factors for staying in shape. An adjustable desk, however, still makes sense as an addition to your healthy everyday.
Dr. John Buckley from the University of Chester was able to provide evidence that, on average, your heart beats 10 more times per minute when you stand. Per minute, that makes a difference of 0.7 calories. In an 8-hour work day, that’s 336 calories you burn on top! So, even if you only stand as much as two hours per day at work, you can burn 400 calories more in a week. We think this number is quite impressive.
Sit-stand-desks strengthen core, legs and glute muscles
Core and glute muscles are often in the center of fitness regimes. It is the essential factor that allows us to walk upright through our lives. Back and core muscles are therefore essential to protect in order to not have pain or walking problems later in life. For those who sit a lot, the risk to let these muscles relax too often is high. If you stand frequently, you train your core and back muscles frequently too. The same goes for glute and abs. In order to stand, all those muscles need to work together actively – a little training regime that’s subtle and effective!
Do ergonomics make you happier?
Less pain, better health, better fitness. Does that also mean you’re more content and happier? The obvious answer is: yes. A person that does not suffer from pain and is in great health may obviously feel overall happiness. Those who suffer from tense muscles and pain constantly might also have to fight mental health problems because of their pain. In that sense, adjustable desks can also influence you positively.
Adjustable desks may improve your mood.
Who isn’t familiar with this situation: You spend all day sitting in your office, and at the end of the work day, you feel so exhausted that you just want to lay down on the couch to relax. But your exhaustion is only partly due to the tasks you actually did in the office.
As we have established before, sitting for long periods of time almost makes our body go into sleep-mode. For our body, sitting down is a clear signal: It’s time to relax and to sleep. When we then stand up after 8 hours of sitting at a desk, it’s similar to what we feel like when waking up – dizzy, tired, like laying down again. If we stand up more frequently, our blood circulates, our body is awake, we are provided with more oxygen, we feel fit, fresh – and happier.
There is an actual link between sitting and depression from a study conducted by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. It said that women who sit more than 7 hours a day have a risk 47 % higher to suffer from depression, compared to women who sit less than 4 hours a day.
Adjustable desks stimulate brain activity.
Stimulated metabolism, faster blood circulation and blood flow: all these factors also have an impact on our brain. Thinking barriers are solved more easily when we stand up and walk for a bit. Sit-stand-desks make it easier to incorporate movement into our work life. By moving, our brain receives more oxygen – we feel more awake and more concentrated.
Adjustable desks may increase confidence and reduce stress.
In today’s everyday office work life we often cannot avoid high stress levels. What we can do, however, is deal with stress in the right way. There are many ways we can deal with challenging situations (we have a blogpost about stress management methods on our blog, but it is not available in English yet). A big part of how to deal with stress correctly is to get physical exercise and our posture. Standing upright has an impact on how confident we feel – an effect that has been thoroughly researched by social psychologists with abundant evidence.
In her TED talk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains the links between posture and the human psyche, and how posture impacts our hormonal balance. She also shows how we can actively and effectively use these links in our everyday lives. Only those that are at least to some degree confident are able to deal with pressure and stress over long periods of time. What is “stress” for us may have to do with things we cannot change – but we can learn how to react to those external things.
Is an ergonomic office chair necessary?
If you make the purchase of an adjustable desk but still find yourself wanting to sit a lot, you can still sit – with an adjustable and ergonomic office chair.
There is a reason why adjustable desks are also called sit-stand-desks. As too much sitting has become the current standard (as we extensively discussed above), standing while working is the main topic of interest in ergonomics. However, sitting still has its place in this discussion. No one can be expected to stand for hours on end. It’s the mix that makes the magic! The great thing about adjustable desks is that it can be adjusted to you both when sitting and standing. The right posture when you sit in a chair is just as important as standing frequently in order to avoid chronic pain.
Why you should also consider ergonomic office chairs
If you sit, you should sit the right way. We have mentioned time and time again how dangerous the wrong posture can be for your spine or intervertebral discs. In combination with an adjustable desk, ergonomic office chairs can do wonders for your body and back. The rule is simple: the more adjustable the chair, the better. Our Yaasa Chair can be adjusted in six different positions: backrest, arm rests, chair height, chair depth, lumbar support and backrest resistance.
How do I sit correctly and ergonomically?
Pay attention to your legs: they should be at a 90 degree angle with your feet on the floor. Your back should take on a slight “S” posture (no “C”s please!), which can be supported by a good office chair with lumbar support and proper back rest. A head/neck rest is not necessary to sit correctly if you are a person of average height. Your arms should be placed on the armrests in a 90 degree angle as well. Now you can bring your adjustable desk to the right height, which is the exact height of your armrests.
Is it really necessary to consider ergonomics at work?
Overall, we stand strong in our opinion that adjustable desks are not a trend or a hype. More and more evidence is showing how ergonomics improve people’s lives. People who have switched to ergonomic offices all say the same: it’s simply a smarter way of working.
Those who don’t want to sit any longer will experience a completely new sense of life and working. A study by the International Journal of Workplace Health depicted exactly the effects of adjustable desks: less pain in back and neck areas, more energy, better concentration and higher productivity, as well as an overall improvement in well-being and quality of life.
All we as Yaasa can do at this point is to appeal to you: switch to an adjustable sit-stand-desk with an ergonomic office chair. The benefits are undeniable and will convince you both in the short and in the long run. It is an investment into your health and well-being. An investment that’s worth it.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to stand up!
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