Standing desks; it only seems like yesterday that these pieces of office furniture became the future of healthy working practices. No more back pain, no more obesity, no more stress and anxiety, you might even win a Pulitzer Prize, like Philip Roth.
It is true that ever more sedentary lifestyles are leading to increases in obesity levels in Australia. Obesity can certainly be combated by walking a little more around the office every day, or by standing rather than sitting, so standing desks seem a natural choice.
It is also true that increasingly pressurised working environments are putting significant strain on Australia’s workforce. Some have argued that by standing rather than sitting, we could alleviate some of the psychological and emotional issues we face in the workplace.
However, before you go throwing away your standard office chair and desk in favour of a trendy standing unit, there are a few things you should know. Here’s a list of everything you need to know about standing desks.
The Good Stuff
Standing desks are not all bad. There is significant evidence to show that they can have a positive effect on health, in a variety of ways.
Standing desks may;
- Lower weight gain and actively result in weight loss
- Reduce blood sugar spikes throughout the day
- Support a healthier heart
- Prevent serious back complaints
- Fight stress and anxiety
- Boost longevity
- Protect the body against breast and colon cancer
- Help to prevent metabolic conditions
All of this, it must be agreed, is very, very good indeed. Breast cancer, for example, is the fourth most common cause of death in Australia each year, and new cases will affect 18,087 females and 148 males in 2018. Surely anything which helps to turn these scary numbers around is a good thing.
More Good Stuff
Furthermore, 11.2 million Australians are overweight, which represented 63.4% of the population in 2017. This obesity epidemic leads to strain on the health service. It can be challenging to combat on an individual level, due to the pressure of the modern working lifestyle. If a standing desk can help to bring this down, surely it is a positive addition to the office.
It is not all bad news. Australia has one of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world, but if standing desks can help to bring this rate down even further, surely they should be viewed in a positive light?
The answer is, of course, yes. But let’s look a little closer at the reams upon reams of reports which have been written about standing desks, as many of them contain a common thread – alternation.
Most of these reports call for alternating sitting and standing, and for mixing around two hours a day of standing into the working routine. We are not suggesting doing away with sitting desks altogether.
Switching to a standing desk for longer than a couple of hours a day can bring with it health problems of its own.
The Not So Good
A study conducted by Curtin University in February 2018 showed that standing desks might not be all that they are cracked up to be. The study highlighted significant increases in pain and discomfort after long periods of using a standing desk.
This pain and discomfort were not limited to the back and neck – two areas traditionally associated with office work-related discomfort – but instead affected the whole of the body. This pain and discomfort were in addition to problems with mood and mental state, as well as reaction times, seemingly harming the theory that standing desks increase not only productivity but also positivity and psychological well-being.
Following the study, News.com.au published comments from the Australian Physiotherapy Association which underscored the ambiguity and uncertainty around standing desks;
“Standing desks aren’t the silver bullet; they’re not the solution to everything. However, they can be part of the solution for many people,” the Association’s occupational health chair, David Hall, said.
“[Instead] we advise people to mix [sitting and standing at work] in an intuitive, natural way, much like how we’d use our body on the weekend.” This theory is supported by StartStanding.Org who recently published an article claiming Standing at work is associated with less neck and back pain.
So, standing desks are not the direct route to healthy, happy, productive working practices, but neither are they to be discounted. Instead, it is vital for us to introduce a new, more dynamic, approach to office work. A procedure in which the well-documented dangers of sitting in a chair and in which standing desks do have their part to play.
The Beanbag Alternative
It is in this more varied office landscape that the beanbag can play a significant role. By combining beanbags with standing desks and other, more progressive, seating arrangements, we can take serious steps towards protecting the health of our workers.
The use of bean bags will also have a positive impact on the nation’s economy.
Beanbag chairs can:
Reduce instances of headaches and mental fatigue
By improving the position of the neck, beanbags can actively work to reduce instances of headaches and the mental fatigue that comes with this.
Improve posture and the structural function of the body
Poor posture can ravage the body, particularly over more extended periods. Poor posture can occur as a result of using a beanbag chair in the office.
Lessen pain in joints and muscles after long periods of working
As well as improving the health of the neck joints, beanbags chairs support the function of other joints and muscles. This additional support helps to reduce pain and to make workers more comfortable as they go about their day.
Be less harmful to the environment than other pieces of office furniture
Constructing office furniture in bulk is an incredibly resource-intensive exercise, and can exact a heavy toll on the environment. Beanbags, in contrast, can be made from recycled materials and are far more kind to our planet.
Support a more versatile office layout
If we are looking to move towards a more dynamic office, then beanbags are the way to achieve this. Easy to store, transport, and install, beanbags could provide the solution required for the effective workplaces of the future.