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5 Tips to Ditch Chairs and Get Occupants on Their Feet

PHOTO CREDIT: Stand-Up Desk Shop

If you’re not encouraging occupants to stand during the day, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

A study from the University of Chester found that standing raised participants’ heart rates by 10 beats per minute, enough to add up to an extra 30,000 calories annually – or the equivalent of multiple marathons. “Standing up for three hours extra a day would burn off eight pounds (3.6 kg) of fat each year,” says researcher John Buckley. A similar study from Arizona State University found even more dramatic numbers: they observed participants burning 80-to-100 calories per hour standing.

There are a few drawbacks, however. For one, standing desks typically are not cheap – easily reaching into four figures per desk. Second, many FMs and occupants are reticent to plunge feet first into the standing desk experience as complex motorized desks can be difficult to use and set up. Additionally, even the most expensive model will do no good unless the user can correctly accommodate postural and alignment needs.

Instead, standing desk newbies – and aficionados working within a budget – might try the “Minimum Effective Dose” (MED) approach to standing desks. The concept of MED, defined by author Tim Ferris in his book The Four-Hour Body, refers to the smallest possible dose that still achieves the desired outcome. When it comes to desks, it means looking for the least expensive and easiest-to-use solution that still achieves the health, weight and productivity benefits offered by standing desks.

Use these five strategies to encourage the use of standing desks and hopefully yield the productivity and health benefits in your organization:

1) Find Desks that Fit Your Occupants’ Forms (Not the Other Way Around)

This is the number one failure of poor standing desks: they don’t meet the user where they stand. Remember, body alignment needs to be perfect to receive the health benefits without paying a price in the form of new pains and postural problems. That means any desk that can’t be modified should be immediately suspect, however customized desks or desk kits can make it a snap to get into the right form.

Look for a kit or desk that can adjust in height incrementally by at least several inches and/or can be individually customized. Note that the adjustment mechanism should allow for easy DIY adjustment but stand sturdy enough to avoid slipping during use.

2) Stand Tall

It sounds simple, but it can be crucial to teach occupants or demonstrate the correct way to stand. Correct posture trumps any specific desk model, and finding a customizable desk or kit does no good if occupants still stand in a way that puts painful pressure on the wrong joints and nerves.

For example, simply hyperextending, or locking knees can put too much pressure on the fibular nerve which runs down the leg. That can cause numbness and pain in calves and feet. So teaching users to stand correctly is crucial. Even simple desk kits or modifications – the definition of MED – will work wonders. Specifically:

  • Put the monitor at eye-level, ideally about 24” away at a 20 degree tilt.
  • Handle the keyboard at elbow-level, with arms bent at a 90 degree angle.
  • Stand straight, with feet flat on the floor, and keep legs loose

3) Select a Model with the Right Features

There are several specific criteria to look for when selecting a standing desk: namely, the solution should be adjustable, affordable and attractive. It also needs to be as safe as it is functional, able to shoulder potentially significant weights without collapsing onto the desk…or the user!

Look for kits designed with safety leg interlocks that make the desk stronger as more weight is placed on it. Also make sure the solution can work with the proper accessories.

4) Get Off on the Right Foot with an Adjustable Keyboard Stand

Here’s a great way to get the same or similar functionality as a top-of-the-line desk at a “minimum dose” kind of price: accessorize. Another postural problem – that familiar shoulder hunching forward-fold – can strike even standing workers if their monitor and keyboard are on the same level (as with a laptop). That requires the upper body to “scrunch” to look down and reach up at the same time.

The solution is easy: use an adjustable keyboard attachment to divorce the monitor from the keyboard.

5) Get a Leg Up with an Anti-Fatigue Mat – and Other Foot-Friendly Helpers

Even if you’ve put your back into buying or building a solution that to keep occupants upright and aligned, there’s one body part that won’t be happy without a little assistance. So put your foot down and insist on getting anti-fatigue mats that provide better support. Investing in stools or foot stands can give each foot a break every so often can be a good choice for some users as well.

Standing can also help raise baseline metabolism, which means people burn more calories at rest than they otherwise would – adding up to even more health benefits!

Pace McCulloch has been free of sitting at work since 2011 as the inventor of the Stand-Up Desk Kit.

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