Unlike the picture of Dick Turpin here electric raising desks are not a matter of legend, they're available now and being used increasingly in progressive-thinking offices. Also, like most tech, their price has reduced in recent years and the cost is no longer 'daylight robbery'. Here in the latest Lakeside blog I examine the many reasons to use them so saddle up Black Bess, ignore the awful puns, and let's get ready to 'Stand and Deliver'!!!
Although I deal with electric raising desks in my ergonomics work everyday, it never ceases to amaze me that some people remain unaware that it is in fact possible to alternate work posture between seated and standing positions. When you think about it from both anatomical and physiological perspectives it actually makes logical sense, so let's look at the basic fundamentals of the seated position and find out why.
Anatomical issues in sitting
More likely than not you're seated in a chair reading this blog article. Although you may take it for granted, pause for a moment and look at what's happened to your body compared to how you looked in standing. Although we all sit in different ways the basic givens are that your hip joints are flexed at a right angle in relation to your spine, and your knees are similarly flexed at ninety degrees. Also unless you've been to a Swiss Finishing School or have been Velcro'd to the backrest of your chair, then in my experience you're also sitting slouched from habit and/or your chair doesn't fit your thigh length.
Based on these premises if your work involves being seated 6-7 hours a day then your main hip flexor muscles and hamstrings are in a significantly shortened position, and the lower lumbar discs acquire additional load perhaps half of your waking life.
Physiological issues in sitting
Now think about what's happening to the underneath of your thighs and buttocks. They're taking the full weight of your upper body and, depending on how good the foam is (or rather was), the soft tissues are slowly being squished and the blood drained away. Now you know the main reason you cross your legs, to relieve the pressure on your backside and allow the blood to flow to that side again.
The fact that your knees are bent also kinks the main artery and vein passing behind them, potentially impeding blood flow. Again, if the seat pan you're sitting on is too long for your thigh length it may be pushing into your calf area and amplifying this effect. If the seat pan is too short and you're a tall individual then seat pan might cut into the rear of your thighs midway, potentially irritating the sciatic nerve that emerges from deep to surface close to the skin here.
Being seated for prolonged periods also entails the bones are not loaded frequently and diminish in density over time, similar to the muscles. Of course this is more marked in the older population but, due to The Equality Act and the fact employees cannot be forcibly retired any longer, this demographic is likely going to consist of a larger percentage of the workforce in the future for personal psychosocial-economic reasons.
Of course an even more topical issue in the media recently is that of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Being seated for long periods leads to decreased metabolism, fewer calories being burned, and therefore the energy being stored as fat. Being seated also means your intestines are pushed up toward your other abdominal organs and diaphragm, potentially leading to discomfort after eating and exacerbated if your posture is slouched and 'suboptimal'.
In my experience we are now also witnessing the advent of the 'paperless office' where post and documents arrives digitally, and there is simply NO reason to get up from your desk and go to the printer or deliver mail internally.
Sitting may not actually be 'the new smoking' or gene-induced premature ageing but if you've been paying attention so far then the advantages of standing up to work should be fairly evident. The hip flexor and hamstring muscles are less prone to problematic shortening, bones are loaded appropriately, neurovascular structures remain unimpeded or fouled at potential mechanical interfaces with media, spinal discs are subjected to less load, you burn slightly more calories, and your respiratory and digestive functions are facilitated.
The only issues I usually find with raising desk are resistance from employer and/or employee. Many companies flout DSE Regulations in other areas long before you arrive at the subject of an electric raising desk. Usually because of cost issues, but also because they realise that many employees aren't aware of 'reasonable adjustments' available to them if they have an issue, and also the employee doesn't want to raise their head above the parapet and cause an issue at work.
Conversely I often find that an employee's psychological profile can have a major bearing on issues. Increasingly companies ARE aware of their duty of care and would like to buy employees raising desks if it leads to greater presenteeism rather than sickness absence. However, the nature of standing up when other are seated in an open plan office requires an employee to have a strong personality, and the ability to literally stand out from the crowd if they're the 'first mover' to use such a piece of equipment in an office or company. Although the price of desks has reduced considerably in the past few years there is no point buying the item if it is simply used like a conventional desk once purchased.