The current trend in ergonomics has been to promote the health benefits of adjustable or sit-stand workstations. However, according to many of the latest ergonomic research, too much focus has been placed on standing more and sitting less. The more important focus should be balancing both postural positions throughout the day and working on maintaining good body posture.
This has not only been substantiated with many ergonomists, but also holds true in my many years of experience in the field of ergonomics.
Although sitting for too long can have detrimental effects on the body, many do not realize that standing for too long has its own set of detriments such as pooling of blood in the feet, increased back pain, varicose veins, etc. Current research supports the need for varying posture every 30-60 minutes (avoiding long durations of either sitting or standing). Therefore, having an adjustable height workstation is only valuable if you vary your positions on a regular basis! It is important to listen to your body and make adjustments through the day. Movement helps both the body and the mind – remember the best posture is the next posture!
On a side note, I should also mention that having an adjustable workstation does not mean you are free from all ergonomic risk. The correct height of the table, height and position of the keyboard and mouse, and the positon of other peripherals (such as your monitor and phone) are crucial. Often a height-adjustable table is adjusted too high when sitting, forcing elevated shoulders and other awkward postures, which increases the risk for discomfort, fatigue and injury.
When considering an adjustable workstation, ensure the workstation will allow for proper hand working height for both sitting and standing. Work should be at or slightly below elbow height with your shoulders relaxed, your upper arms naturally by your side and elbows in 90 to 110 degree angles. When sitting and working on the computer, sit back completely in the chair, and adjust the keyboard so that the elbow and shoulders maintain neutral working angles. Finally, your elbows should remain close to your body while working (sitting or standing), and avoid body lean to one side.
As mentioned before, movement is important but so is the ability to maintain proper spinal alignment and posture (whether sitting or standing) – a key component in workstation balance that is often neglected in ergonomic evaluations. Having proper spinal alignment, a balanced pelvis, and proper foot support are just some of the key postural foundations upon which a productive and efficient workstation should be built around.
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