Sit-Stand Workstation Recommendations From the Experts

Posted by Alison Heller-Ono on October 4, 2018

Sit-Stand Workstation Recommendations From the Experts

This past August, I presented my Chair Assessment Model at the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) Florence, Italy. Over 1700 ergonomists, most of whom were professors and academic researchers from more than 35 countries, were in attendance. This year’s theme was “Creativity in Practice”, the challenge of transforming the experimental, field research, and evaluation processes into the daily practices of the ever-changing working and living organizations. There was an over-abundance of lectures highlighting the latest research in ergonomics and human factors.

I’ve been presenting my theories, practices and research results to the IEA conferences for peer review for over 20 years.This year my Chair Assessment Model research was selected for an oral presentation. It was an honor to present to and be amongst some of the most respected ergonomics and human factors researchers in the world.

In addition to giving my presentation, I also listened in on the latest sit-stand research. Here are my key insights gleaned from nine of the world’s leading researchers on the impact of sit-stand workstations.

5 Key Considerations for Sit-Stand Workstations

After hearing these great researchers talk about their latest research, I’ve come to the following five conclusions:

  1. Employees need training on the pros and cons of sit-stand workstations and how to use them correctly to change work behaviors and practices.
  2. Employees should understand the risks associated with prolonged standing at work such as swelling and edema of the lower legs, fatigue, increased risk of back pain and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Many of these factors are indiscernible until its too late!
  3. Employees need to find their “Goldilocks Zone” for their best sit-stand routine but should keep in mind the recommended time frame of standing is suggested at 42 minutes consecutive and no more than 3 hours/day total. There are no consistent guidelines on the dose-response for sit-stand. Each person’s tolerance, desire to stand and motivation is unique.
  4. Sit-stand trends are influenced by company workplace culture.
  5. Simply getting up, moving about and walking may be more effective than standing at a sit-stand workstation.

What World Experts Say about Sit-Stand Workstations

Here are some of the highlights from nine internationally-renowned researchers as they pertain to sit-stand workstation use. It remains a very "hot" topic and continues to be controversial. Don't let the commercialization of sit-stand workstations mislead you!

1. David Caple and Associates: Australia

Factors that influence sit to stand at work include:

  • Cognitive distraction with standing
  • Postural variation
  • Psychosocial (social space needs)
  • Anthropometrics (stature)
  • Personal factors (presence of injury)
  • Engineering factors (difficult to adjust, crank or lift)
  • Culture will decide how to work

2. Stephen Bao: Washington State Labor and Industries

  • Sit-stand use and break time influence muscle fatigue in the shoulders and lower back. In studying 12 subjects, regardless of sit-stand time pattern (60:60; 80:40; 90:30 or 105:15), fatigue still results
  • Breaktime, allowing employees to move about, go outside and walk is more effective than changing from sit-stand.

3. Maria Gabriela Garcia: Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Quito, Ecuador

  • Muscle fatigue, vascular outcomes, and performance were affected by 5- hours of prolonged standing work regardless of the work-rest cycle or break type
  • Three hours of standing work showed a detrimental effect in terms of muscle fatigue but not performance
  • Alterations of the work-rest cycle may not be an efficient solution for mainly static standing work
  • Prolonged standing is likely to contribute to musculoskeletal and vascular symptoms
  • Standing work should be limited to no more than 2-3 hours
  • A work shift should combine periods of standing, sitting and walking

4. Leon Straker: Curtin University, Australia

  • There are no “dose-response” studies for sit-stand at work
  • There is no international policy on standing at work but many on sitting
  • Consider the “Goldilocks Principle: too much, too little, just right”. Combine sitting with walking interruption
  • Prolong standing of more than 20 minutes may cause back discomfort
  • The longer people stand, the more symptoms they experience
  • Recommend 42 minutes as exposure limit to continuous standing task

5. Renaud Lidewij: Amsterdam Public Health; Institute for Health and Care Research

  • Many forget to use sit to stand once provided with the capacity

6. David Rempel: University of San Francisco

  • Hazards for long-term standing are well known
  • Standing at work increases risk for cardiovascular disease
  • Over time, about 15% of users use their sit-stand only 1-2 hours/day

7. Benjamin Steinhilber: Institute of Occupational and Social Medicine and Health Services Research,Germany

  • Venous disorders with standing
  • Increased lower leg edema and swelling is obvious with standing
  • Duration, amount of standing and cycle time matter

8. Jack Dennerlein: Bouve College of Health Sciences, Boston, MA

  • Different users adapt different workstation set up and postures within and across sitting and standing configurations
  • Set-ups are different with sit-stand for keyboard/mouse placement. Typically, further away when seated and closer with standing
  • Shoulders are more relaxed with standing, but more tension occurs to the back resulting in increased pain

9. Michelle Robertson: Liberty Mutual Researcher; OERC

  • Increased musculoskeletal disorders for non-trained vs. trained groups
  • Knowledge helps to change work behaviors and practices giving employees more control

For more resources pertaining to establishing a sit-stand workstation program at your company, download the Sit-Stand Workstation Guidelines and Setup. A medical release form is included.

If you need help with your sit-stand workstation program at your office, give us a call at 831-648-8724. We can help you with training, product selection, and establishing an appropriate sit-stand policy that’s right for your organizational culture.

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