The Impact of Height Adjustable Desks on Mood and Productivity
Medical research has proven time and time again that a sedentary lifestyle is disastrous for your health. Hours spent sitting in front of a computer screen is just as bad for your health as smoking or a bad diet, even if you’re active when you clock off at the end of the day.
For office workers and those who sit down for work five days a week, the risks from a sedentary lifestyle are huge. But one of the unexpected downsides of sitting for too long, beyond the physical health implications, is that it can have a detrimental impact on our mood and productivity levels.
One of the standing desk benefits that workers can enjoy is a boost to productivity and increased energy levels. But how do standing desks help with lifting our mood and what does the research say on the health benefits of standing desks?
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The research on standing desks and productivity
Research published in the British Medical Journal, focused on NHS workers, found that those who shifted from relatively sedentary work habits to standing more regularly found they not only had fewer musculoskeletal problems, but they also felt more engaged with their work and productive as a result.
The Stand More AT Work study also provided positive results in favour of standing more at work. It showed that workers had more flexibility with how they worked, as a result of sit-stand desks, and felt less tired when working. Height adjustable desks allow workers to carry out their daily tasks seated or standing, rather than sitting all day, which alleviates many of the health problems that come with sitting for too long, reduces tiredness and fatigue, and increases employee engagement.
Sitting has been linked to an increased risk of depression and anxiety, while standing has been connected with the exact opposite, increasing positive mood levels and resulting in higher energy. A study back in 2011 found that people who use sit-stand desks reported an improved mood compared to those who sat for long periods, and when standing participants returned to sitting at their traditional desks, their moods reverted to original levels. This shows that a standing desk can make all the difference to our mood and energy levels.
Standing desk health benefits
There are several standing desk benefits, but many are connected to an improvement to your health. Being able to stand while still getting your work done helps to improve circulation and blood pressure, while also reducing musculoskeletal problems which are common in office or sedentary workers who have to sit for prolonged periods.
In fact, in the UK alone, around 9 million workdays are lost every year as a result of musculoskeletal problems. From joint pain in the wrists to back and neck pain, sedentary workers face a higher risk of these physical complaints which standing more often throughout the day can help to reduce.
Employers have a responsibility to keep their workers safe and healthy, and that includes providing the right environment for work. Sit-stand desks can help to keep staff healthy, which reduces absenteeism and prolonged absences due to health problems, which is both a benefit for the employee and the business.
Standing more regularly when working can help to combat obesity, as it burns more calories to stand rather than sit, and the improvement to circulation and blood pressure reduces the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
How does a sit-stand desk affect mood and productivity?
The effects of using a standing desk aren’t just physical. Standing can also have a positive effect on your mental health too. In fact, standing desks have been shown to reduce stress and fatigue in workers and improve engagement, which has a positive impact on performance levels.
Studies show that the more we sit, the quicker we kill our brain power. This is due to the thickness of the temporal lobe which impacts spatial cognition and memories. Researchers have found that those who stand more often and for longer periods of time throughout the day have a thicker, more intact temporal lobe which affects how these individuals learn and retain knowledge.
With office workers spending such a large amount of time each week sitting down, this can have a negative impact on the blood and oxygen sent to the brain, affecting brain health and performance. The more we stand, the better our circulation, and the easier it is for nutrients and oxygen to be sent to the brain to enhance activity.
With increased brainpower comes enhanced focus. In fact, many people don’t realise that just 10 minutes is all it takes to increase or decrease circulation and blood flow positively or negatively, based on whether you’re standing or sitting. If you’re someone who sits for long periods for work, you could be harming your focus simply by preventing healthy circulation which results in you feeling lethargic and fatigued by the end of the working day.
One of the many standing desk benefits is the positive effect it has on your focus. Over 70% of employees who swapped one hour of sitting for standing noted improved mental focus, enabling them to carry out tasks more efficiently and effectively. Studies from the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and Texas A&M University found that regularly using standing desks resulted in significant improvements to focus, memory and executive function.
Because of the improvements standing desks offer to circulation and reduced physical discomfort, they can also help improve your energy levels too. A two-month study found that 87% of participants noted an increase in energy and enthusiasm in their workplace, with less stress, fatigue and apathy in those using standing desks compared to their seated colleagues.
Sitting for long periods has been linked to fatigue, depression and anxiety, so making the change to standing more often can help to improve your mood and provide you with more energy than you would experience by sitting. It results in a clearer mind, more motivation and an improved sense of wellbeing, which is the perfect combination for increased productivity.
In the study, results showed that 88% of participants using adjustable workstations found them to be convenient to use, and 65% reported increased productivity levels and felt that using a standing desk had a positive impact on their health outside of the workplace too. A side effect of the boost in productivity was that participants using adjustable desks noted that they enjoyed improved concentration.
Reduced pain and discomfort
Sitting for long periods of time can lead to chronic health problems and discomfort, from back pain and joint stiffness to neck pain and carpal tunnel syndrome, which in addition to being painful can result in low mood. The physical stress that this pain can place on the body has an impact on our mood, and can leave us feeling distracted and unmotivated which inhibits productivity.
By standing more, you can prevent back pain and chronic conditions from developing, which alleviates pain and stress on the body and prevents damaged nerves. With less pain distracting you from doing your work, staff can enjoy more motivation and stay focused on each task on your to-do list.
What’s the impact for office workers?
As we’ve seen, standing more throughout the day can offer numerous benefits for your physical health but also your mental health, your mood and energy levels, and as a result, your productivity. There’s mounting evidence to support the benefits that standing desks offer, and the number of employers adopting this way of working has significantly increased in recent years. Given the advantages that a versatile sit-stand desk provides, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect static desks to be a thing of the past in the future.
Standing desks offer so much more flexibility, giving workers the chance to stretch whenever and wherever they want to, which adds a dynamic element to the workspace and helps staff feel more energised and alert.
There are also so many accessories that can be added to a sit-stand work set-up, from treadmills so you can walk while in meetings, to stools and chairs that work in tandem with a standing desk to support posture and adapt to standing easily. These accessories help to keep your posture straight and your joints protected against hard floors so you can work comfortably, whatever seating or standing position you’re in.
Standing desks benefit from more freedom to work how you want, and it’s something that more people find appealing. The days of struggling with poor posture and neck or back pain, and low mood as a result of sitting for 8 hours a day, are gone because we can now work more flexibly and in a way that supports our health and promotes movement.
A study by the members of the Exercise and Health Psychology Lab at Western University examined the effects of alternative workstations on productivity and performance in the workplace. The study revolved around performance-related outcomes, such as memory, presenteeism and executive function, and productivity outcomes like typing, work-related tasks and absenteeism. Dynamic workstations were found to improve workplace performance, promoting cognition and also impacting fine motor skills such as typing.
Switching to a standing desk
Taking a stand with the way you work is so much more than just a fad, as we’ve explored already in this article. But once you’ve made the decision to change your desk set-up, how do you transition to standing more throughout the day without it causing its own set of problems? Working and standing at the same time is different to just standing in the queue at the supermarket or while you wait for the bus. You need to make the swap slowly to give your body a chance to adapt so as not to cause any stress to your muscles or joints.
Choosing a desk with memory presets, for example, makes it easier to switch between standing and sitting at heights that work for your body. It also helps to stretch throughout the day rather than just standing in the same position and use a soft memory foam mat beneath your feet to prevent discomfort to your knees and ankle joints.
With the right type of sit-stand desk, you can strike the perfect balance between sitting and standing throughout your working day. Sitting for too long can be detrimental to your health and productivity, but standing for long hours can be just as tough on your joints and back. A desk that enables you to move between the two positions is ideal, giving your body a break when it needs it and boosting energy when your brain is getting fatigued.
A standing desk gives you the option to choose the working position that best suits you in the moment. When you feel your mood or energy levels dipping, you can stand up and enjoy the benefits that standing can offer for your productivity levels; and when you feel like you could do with a break, the option to sit is still there. An ergonomic workstation ensures that whichever position you choose to work in, your body is supported.
From burning more calories to improving posture, there are plenty of physical benefits that a sit-stand desk offers, but the mental benefits can help make employees more engaged, productive and energised in the workplace. Regular movement improves metabolic, endocrine and vascular functions in the body, which in turn increases cognitive function and can boost work performance over time. If you’re struggling to stay motivated at work or finding your productivity dipping, switching to a sit-stand desk could be the answer.