The dangers of spending too much time sitting down are well documented, with articles in publications like U.S. News and World Report pointing out the problem. Many office-based workers acknowledge these hazards. But, as an employee, what can you do about them?
Should you use alternative furniture to alleviate the problems of traditional seating. Should you not sit at all? Should you take midday breaks to get some exercise? Or maybe you can eschew the usual meeting process for something that requires more physical exertion. Let’s review the pros and cons of these strategies so you can more easily pick what's best for your office environment.
Standing desks: Help or hindrance?
Several studies have shown the considerable benefits of desks with adjustable platforms that allow users to stand or sit while working. One, published by the International Journal of Environment Research and Public Health, found workers decreased their sitting time at work by 21% and sedentary time by 4.8 minutes per work-hour, when using them. A 2015 piece by U.S. News & World Report stated that one manufacturer of stand-up desks doubled its sales in one year.
Stand-up desks aren't a cure-all. That same U.S. News piece noted that if workers stand all day, they could hurt their lower backs. Additionally, if users of standing desks don't move and stretch their bodies from time to time while standing, they’re still at risk.
According to Huffington Post, standing desks are best used if workers acclimate to them slowly. Placing a mat underneath one's feet and ensuring the computer screen remains 15 to 30 inches from the face is also beneficial.
What about ball chairs?
Rubber exercise balls are also being seen in offices throughout the world as alternatives to desk chairs. The idea is that sitting on the ball requires extra muscle usage and thus prevents the user from excessive sitting while improving one's overall posture.
However, The New York Times's wellness blog, Ask Well, questions that assertion. While employees certainly burn more calories than they would in a usual chair, the news outlet noted that exercise balls don't actually help posture and can actually lead to back pain.
Walking & talking
The "walk-and-talk" is best known in popular culture due to Aaron Sorkin's political TV drama "The West Wing." But according to Harvard Business Review, walking is more conducive to effective thinking and creativity than sitting. As such, walk-and-talk meetings could help your employees. The publication recommended that walking meetings be held outside, if possible, so productivity is maintained and potentially improved while leaving the office setting.