Health information on sitting from the Heart Foundation
The arrival of the electronic age has fundamentally changed how much time we spend sitting (also called being sedentary) at home, during travel and at work. This change has been directly linked to an increase in health problems, such as poor nutrition, obesity and insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes. These health problems also increase your risk of developing coronary heart disease.
The Heart Foundation provides more information on sitting.
There are many ways in which adults can sit for long periods throughout the day. A typical day might include sitting:
- to eat breakfast
- to drive to work
- at your desk at work
- to drive home
- to eat dinner
- during the evening to do things such as watch television, use a computer and socialise.
It’s very easy to sit too much; adults spend more than half of their waking hours sitting. Therefore, to reduce your risk of health problems, it’s important to be aware of how much you sit and try to move more throughout the day.
Benefits of sitting less and moving more include:
- lower risk of musculoskeletal pain, discomfort and injury, particularly of the lower back and neck
- lower risk of developing coronary heart disease
- lower risk of developing diabetes
- lower risk of eye strain or fatigue
- healthy maintenance of the circulatory system and digestive tract.
There are many simple changes you can make to reduce the time you spend sitting at work. Introducing a height adjustable workstation (or sit-stand desk) is just one.
To minimise the health and safety risks from sedentary work, employers can:
- promote and support standing team meetings or add one or more standing agenda items
- stand and take a break from your computer every 30 minutes
- stand during phone calls (consider using a headset)
- eat your lunch away from your desk
- move your bin away from your desk
- conduct walking meetings where appropriate
- walk to a colleague’s desk instead of phoning or calling
- drink more water
- use the stairs
- stand to greet visitors
- go for a short walk at lunch time
- stand at the back of the room during long presentations
- have standing morning teas for social functions
- locate printers, photocopiers and water coolers away from the workstation to encourage all workers to stand and move around
- use a height adjustable desk to work sitting or standing
- supervisors alternate the tasks of workers between sitting, standing and walking.
Sit-stand workstations are just one of a variety of ways to reduce sedentariness. They should not be considered as the 'cure-all' for obtaining adequate physical activity over the course of the day and should be supplemented with a healthy lifestyle and other strategies for sitting less.
The cost of a sit-stand workstation, any office modifications required, and additional assistive equipment will need to be met by the work area.
Sit-stand workstations can in some cases aggravate existing injuries/medical conditions or present a risk for new injury. For example lower back, knee and ankle injuries as well as conditions such as arthritis or varicose veins can be aggravated by increased standing. It is important that the implementation of a sit-stand desk is in line with an employee's treating health practitioner's recommendations.
1. Schedule an ergonomic assessment with an Ergonomics advisor through USQSafe. The Ergonomics advisor will:
- Assess the employee’s current workstation set-up, job demands and impact of any medical conditions on their work capacity.
- Make recommendations in an assessment report which may include modification to work techniques, workstation set-up or ergonomic equipment.
- Outline in their recommendations whether a sit-stand desk is indicated. This recommendation is based around physical requirement and suitability rather than employee preference for a sit-stand workstation. Also included will be considerations for the Supervisor/Manager around current office configuration, space/storage requirements, electrical and IT requirements.
- Provide a Clinical Recommendation Form to be completed by the employee’s treating health practitioner outlining their opinion on the suitability of a sit-stand workstation, medical conditions that may be contraindicated and recommendations for implementation.
2. Complete and return the Clinical Recommendation Form to your immediate Supervisor or Human Resources (Staff Support and Rehabilitation) who will review the recommendations from the health practitioner. Note this is still recommended to be completed in the case of private purchase of sit-stand workstation.
3. Once reviewed, the Supervisor/Manager, depending on available funding, can approve the purchase. Considerations include:
- current office configuration
- space/storage requirements
- electrical ad IT requirements
- cost of purchasing and installation of the workstation if required.
4. Consider additional assistive equipment required for use in conjunction with the workstation e.g. anti-fatigue mat or footstool.
5. Review the model of workstation approved to ensure compatibility with existing office configuration and suitability for the user.
6. Schedule an ergonomic assessment once implemented to ensure correct use and positioning of the sit-stand workstation.
- Where a sit-stand workstation is being considered without recommendation from the USQSafe Ergonomics Advisor you should still encourage the staff member to have the Clinical Recommendation Form completed prior to implementation to ensure they are not at risk of injury or aggravation of existing injury.
- The cost of a sit-stand workstation, any office modifications required, and additional assistive equipment required will need to be met by the work area.
- Once a sit-stand workstation has been deemed suitable, the supervisor should:
- review the product information on the particular sit-stand model being recommended
- review recommendations for additional assistive equipment-cost and supplier information
- liaise with internal school/departmental financial team to order the sit-stand workstation
- liaise with IT if the work area or computer equipment requires modification
- organise the staff member to schedule an ergonomic assessment upon receipt of the equipment to review the setup and provide advice on correct use.
Once the sit-stand workstation has been received and installed an ergonomic assessment should be performed to provide guidance on:
- ergonomic positioning for both sitting and standing
- electronically pre-setting the sitting and standing heights if the function is available
- regular postural breaks, every 20-30 minutes when sitting or standing (or in accordance with professional medical advice)
- using a footstool to alternate weight bearing while standing
- wearing flat, supportive footwear and use of an anti-fatigue mat
- other safety considerations including cable management, electrical access, office layout-access and egress, safe storage of office items not in use and manual handling requirements involved in adjusting the workstation height.
There are a number of options for sit-stand desks, ranging in style and price. They can be grouped into three types: desktop attachments, sit-stand desks and stand-only desks.
Where the existing workstation is unable to be modified, a desk top type of sit-stand desk may be preferred.
Where the workstation is able to be modified or is part of a new office fitout, a powered sit-stand workstation may be utilised. Benefits include increased stability and a pre-set height function.
An example of a desk top attachment and a stand-alone powered desk are on display in S205, Human Resources, USQSafe. Please contact USQSafe for details.