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Can standing desks increase productivity?

standing deskA recent survey has highlighted the benefits of standing workstations.

Last week it was reported that standing desks, which allow employees to alter their position throughout the day, may boost performance and wellbeing at work.

What can the research tell us?

The research, carried out by Loughborough and Leicester University, found that staff said they were less tired and more engaged while using standing desks.

The Stand More AT Work (SMArT Work) study involved 146 office workers from the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS trust, who were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One set of people received the SMArT Work programme, with the other continuing as normal.

Judy Queally took part in the study. She said: “Before I started the study I suffered from a back problem. Even having been to my GP and being sent for a couple of x-rays, I still couldn’t get to the bottom of it. Since being part of the SMArT Work study I have the flexibility to stand whenever I want and I can honestly say I have no back problems at all.”

Are standing desks commonly used?

Standing desks are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace, with high-profile companies, such as Apple, now offering this option to all of their employees.

The desks are designed to allow workers the ability to conduct their daily duties while standing upright for some or all of the working day. The aim is to avoid the health issues that are associated with consistently being sat down, alongside improving employee engagement.

Although most employers traditionally provide seated workspaces, recent studies have highlighted that standing desks can be highly beneficial to a company, and may help to increase the overall productivity of employees.

The health benefits of standing desks

Being able to stand up while working can assist the human body in a number of areas, improving blood pressure, circulation and insulin levels.

It can also help to reduce musculoskeletal problems, which can cause long-term issues for employees, such as back pain, which may result in prolonged periods away from work.

In the UK, around nine million working days are lost per year as a result of musculoskeletal problems that can be brought on, or exacerbated, by being continuously sat at a desk.

Maintaining a healthy workforce is crucial for employers if they're to prevent issues that can have serious effects on the capabilities and productivity of employees, such as continued absences, presenteeism and absenteeism.

Standing desks have also been shown to benefit the general mental health of employees, leaving workers feeling less stressed and fatigued and, as a result, increasing daily productivity and performance levels. The study found that 52 per cent of those who used standing desks felt more engaged at work after a year due to a significant improvement in their mood and energy.

Although employers may be concerned that standing desks can hinder the daily tasks of an employee, statistics have highlighted that there is no significant impact, depending upon the demands of their role.

Despite the cost, it's advisable for employers to consider if standing desks could feasibly be introduced to their place of work.

About the author

David Price is group director of Health Assured, a provider of health and wellbeing solutions.

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