Sitting vs Standing: What is the Best Ratio for Office Work?

Sitting vs Standing

What position do you prefer to be in when completing office work? Standing or sitting? Whether you’re working from home or in an office, the age-old question of “What is the best position to complete desk work?” remains largely unanswered. While many swear that standing is the best way to stay productive, with many individuals suffering from back pain, sitting or standing using an adjustable standing desk for 8 hours straight is unappealing to most Americans. However, in a recent study by Jack Callaghan at Waterloo University, an answer to this mysterious question may have finally come to fruition. Using advanced ergonomic calculations, Professor Callaghan has found that the answer to the best position for completing work lies in finding a balance between standing and sitting. 

In 2021, results from the first-ever controlled laboratory study between sit-stand workstations revealed that the answer to the best work style for office work is to utilize both sitting and standing periods while completing office work. This study has found that the ideal ratio of sitting to standing while working is between 1:1 and 1:3. The proper balance depends on your workstyle, completed work, and personal health. This ratio means standing for roughly half each hour for each full office work completed. 

Scientists recommend considering the following criteria when determining whether to sit or stand while completing office work.

When completing an assignment, it is recommended to stand if the task in question can be completed in 5 minutes or less or if the study can not be completed comfortably with arms kept at your side. If the job or project you are working on requires movement or transfer between multiple workstations, remaining standing while completing the task is recommended. 

Some advantages of standing while completing work include reduced strain on the lower back from prolonged sitting, increased muscle activity, and more calories burned per hour. Prolonged sitting can adversely affect your body, even if you use an ergonomic desk chair.

Some disadvantages of standing while working include potential increased stress on the cartilage in the feet’ knees, hips, and balls. Another disadvantage of standing while working is the potential for the development of carpal tunnel. While using a standing workstation, many people’s posture improves;. At the same time, this is an overall benefit, the adjustment does have the potential to affect wrist position, which can lead to carpal tunnel over a long period. 

Many experts recommend a slow transition from sitting to standing for most of the day to finding a balance between the two postures as standing is implemented to reduce the potential adverse effects of switching from sitting to standing while working. A slow change can help decrease the potential side effects by giving the body time to build and strengthen the muscles used in the alternate position.

It is recommended to sit when completing an assignment if that task is visually intensive, requires more than 5 minutes of concentration, and if all materials needed for the task are easily within reach. Some jobs, especially those that require fine motor skills, can be most accurately completed while sitting. This should be considered when determining which tasks require sitting for completion. 

Studies have consistently shown that sitting for long periods can hurt health. This is something that health professionals and scientists alike have cautioned the American workforce of. With this new information regarding the best ratio for standing vs sitting when working, American office workers now have scientific evidence to help them make the best and healthiest choice for which posture to use when completing office work. 

When choosing whether to sit or stand while completing office work, it is good to remember that by striking a balance between the two postures, you can increase your productivity while decreasing back pain. When less time is spent re-adjusting position to accommodate back pain, more time is available to focus on completing the task at hand. Both scientists and doctors recommend alternating between sitting and standing postures when completing long work periods to allow muscle rest intervals and encourage healthy cardiovascular systems.

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