Injury Prevention Solutions

Sit-to-Stand Workstations: Effective Dynamic Workstations or Expensive Static Desks?

The concept of the sit-to-stand workstation is that workers can alternate between sitting and standing at any time by raising the work surface to a standing height and lowering it to a sitting height. By changing from a sedentary, seated position to a standing position, the authors claim that the worker changes posture, exerting large muscle groups in the legs and trunk that pump blood throughout the musculoskeletal system.

The actual energy expenditure change is minimal, but use of both sitting- and standing-height workstations enables the worker to continue to perform the job requirements without significant detriment to productivity (Davis & Kotowski, 2014).

The keys to proper use of the sit-to-stand workstation are as follows:

  1. (a) desktop height is adjusted properly when in both sitting and standing position, where the monitor is slightly below eye level (Hedge, Jagdeo, Argawal, & Rockey-Harris, 2005);
  2. (b) at seated height, the chair is properly adjusted;
  3. (c) keyboard and mouse are in a position where both maintain good working postures (e.g., no reaching with arms or twisting of trunk); and
  4. (d) a work culture is developed that encourages, through training, adjustment throughout the day (Robertson, Ciriello, & Garabet, 2013).

Overall, sit-to-stand workstations, when actively switched between seated and standing heights, routinely are effective in reducing discomfort in the upper and lower back (Davis & Kotowski, 2014Karakolis & Callaghan, 2014MacEwen et al., 2015). Davis and Kotowski (2014) found that switching every 30 min was sufficient to reduce discomfort without negatively affecting productivity (e.g., keystrokes, mouse clicks, and phone calls).

Sit-to-stand workstations can be effective in reducing musculoskeletal discomfort without any deficit in productivity (Davis & Kotowski, 2014Karakolis & Callaghan, 2014MacEwen et al., 2015), but success depends on the culture instituted in the workplace; workers must be diligent about changing heights throughout the day over the long term. However, companies must understand that the verdict is still out on whether these workstations can effectively reduce musculoskeletal disorders and not merely discomfort. Additionally, more research is needed to identify the optimal switching schedules to maximize postural change, productivity, and health.

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