Using a sit-stand station? Take precautions to avoid injury!

April 16, 2018

David Nickerson stands most of the day at his work station. He occasionally sits to do some paperwork.

It’s a necessity, said the funeral planning counsellor in Saint John. After a back issue a few years ago, he said, sitting for extended periods was out of the question. His doctor suggested a standing-only or adjustable sit-stand station.

Now, he can’t imagine using a regular desk.

“It allows me to work a seven-to-eight-hour day or more, and while I can’t go back to all the outdoor activities I once enjoyed, l have the mobility to do things like go for a walk with my family.”

David is one of a growing number of Canadians using an elevated desk or sit-stand station, which lets users alternate between sitting and standing quickly and easily by lowering or raising the work (desk) platform.

The benefits are numerous, said Jennifer Kenny, an ergonomist with WorkSafeNB.

“Before, you might have had a worker sitting in the same position for six hours a day – this can lead to poor circulation, constructed hip flexors and lower back pain.

“We have a saying among ergonomists – you’re best position is your next position,” Kenny said. “You always want to be moving your body, adjusting your position, to keep your joints loose and muscles mobile.”

Another benefit, especially in our increasingly mobile workplace, is you can move easily from desk to desk, she said.  If you go to a regional office, for example, which also has sit-stand stations, you can set your desk up properly for your body.

One caution though, Kenny said, is the user must be knowledgeable on best practices for positioning.

“With this power to control the height, you have the power to get it right, helping you increase mobility and circulation. But, if you get it wrong, you can possibly hurt yourself.  Proper ergonomic set-up is very important.”

WorkSafeNB offers positioning guidelines in its Office Ergonomics booklet, available free online and through email request.

Top tips:

  • Start slow. Start with 10 to 20 minutes at a time at your standing desk, then add time as you get used to the set-up.
  • Standing height: Determine the proper height by relaxing your shoulders and bending your elbows to 90 degrees. Adjust the desk height to just below the forearms.
  • To minimize leg fatigue, alternate or shift weight from leg to leg occasionally.
  • Use a gel mat and wear non-slip supportive shoes.
  • Sitting height: Thighs should run parallel to the ground with hips and knees at 90 to 100 degrees. Feet should be firmly placed on the floor or footrest. Forearms should be supported at or just above the desk height.

In addition to these tips, Kenny suggests taking movement and stretch breaks throughout the day.

“You can move more throughout the day by scheduling walking meetings.  Walk around the block or your office building if you have to meet with a co-worker for a quick project update.”

Kenny also recommends walking to a colleague’s desk rather than using email or the phone.

“While technology is great, it’s good to step away from your computer and take a mental break too.”

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