The Great Workplace Debate – Sitting vs Standing (Part 2)

Standing and sitting have become a great debate among workplace professionals and researchers. Earlier, we reviewed why sitting can be harmful to our health and today we will explore an alternative – standing.

Our bodies were made for standing and sitting might just be getting in the way of our natural inclinations.

The Great Debate – Standing

Standing is the new buzz word today. If you aren’t standing at least part of the time, you are bound to die sooner (or so the research says). Is this true?

In his ground-breaking book Get Up!, Dr. James Levine highlights the importance of standing versus sitting. He points to numerous studies he has conducted that have lead to obesity and inactivity. Inactivity leads to weight gain, body systems not functioning correctly and even cancer. The outlook appears to be extremely grim when viewed this way, but Dr. Levine says that when we stand our bodies use more calories and help fight inactivity.

We think that standing has to be for extended periods of time, but it can be for a few minutes or a few hours. Michael Hyatt shared that he felt sore after spending 12 hours writing his book in a seated position. This led him to research standing desks (and has been using one ever since in conjunction with a standard desk).

Standing for short periods of time can help increase your body's natural metabolic rate and help you cognitively reset your mind. Gretchen Reynolds, the author of The First 20 Minutes, shares that “standing even for a minute or two every 20 minutes reduces the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.”

In my day job, I have a sit-to-stand desk which I utilize almost every day. After reading Dr. Levine's book, I was more cognizant of the amount of time I spent sitting. Each night before I leave the office, I set my desk to the standing position (if it isn't there already) and then when I come in the next morning, I begin the day by standing which helps me get going.

Workplace Support

Today's workplace is striving to re-adjust our thinking to support standing workstations, but adoption rates may be slower than desired. Research by Herman Miller states that office workers sit on average three to eight hours in the workplace. Although, workers are highly encouraged to get up and move every twenty minutes this is not happening.

Standing workstations exist in the corporate workplaces but are they taking root. Some employees see them as a need and others a luxury. The workplaces of today need help in re-adjusting our mindsets to allow for standing in the workplace. If office workers are in higher paneled cubicles, they can stand without much interference, but what about low-rise workstations? Low rise workstations (i.e. benching applications) are very open this could be distracting for co-workers.

Herman Miller research states that there is no evidence to show that productivity decreases due to standing. In fact, they found that as “discomfort decreases, productivity increases.”

Recommendation: Pilot sit-to-stand workstations in several locations in the office or with willing participants and test their level of comfort, work output, and their general mood. This can be achieved through surveys or observational research.

Home Office Support

The home office is often the forgotten office. Just because you work from home full or part-time, does not mean you are exempt from these symptoms. You can DIY your solutions by using books to elevate your monitors or keyboard, move to a kitchen island to stand or build a standing desk.

If you cannot DIY your home office, use a reminder on your calendar program to remind you every 20-40 minutes to get up and walk around for five minutes or stretch. This simple act of getting up and standing will activate the same muscles standing does if you have a standing workstation.

The more you stand, the more your body adjust to the behavior and strengthens the muscles.

Recommendation: Set a calendar reminder to help you get up and move or stretch every 20-40 minutes throughout the day. Every few hours take a lap around the block to reset your mind and help you achieve maximum productivity.


Research is proving that standing is significantly better for our overall health, but it is difficult to change behavior overnight. Certainly there is a cost implication for implementing standing workstations and I would suggest consulting an ergonomics or facilities professional to help you implement a new workstation environment. The goal is the improvement of employee and personal health. Any change to your workplace environment should have a future focus mindset for your company and your employees.

Question: What is the biggest challenge you see in implementing a standing workstation environment? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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I help facilities manager and planner create spaces that are backed by research, engage employees of all generations, and drive business objectives. I am also the founder of Dave's Book Club – a once per month reading experience designed to help professionals grow their influence.

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