Standing Desks May Not Be the Key to Productivity, New Research Suggests
Although standing at work may not positively impact your performance, it may help you improve your overall health.
If you've recently made the switch from an office chair to a standing desk, you're not alone: More than 44 percent of American companies are providing or subsidizing standing desks for their employees in 2019. That's a three-fold increase since 2013, according to surveys by the Society for Human Resource Management. But new research suggests that the health benefits of standing desks may not be as significant as we once thought. For some, there could even be health risks associated with standing on your feet all day.
Experts from the University of Pittsburgh and Tufts University collaborated on a new analysis of 53 sit-stand desk studies, recently published in Applied Ergonomics, to determine the benefits these desks bring to workplaces.
The good news for those who have adopted standing desks is that the change is making you less sedentary overall-researchers found that standing desks reduced total time spent sitting by 76 percent on average. Adopting a standing desk may also help you feel more comfortable at work, as many of the subjects in the studies reviewed reported experiencing less lower-back pain overall. Data shows that some participants were also able to lower their blood pressure.
The experts found an equal amount of drawbacks to standing desks, however. Data showed that those who adopted standing desks did not lose weight, as standing doesn't burn enough calories to produce results. One of the studies in the analysis noted that those who stood at their desks for an entire day only burned an average of 54 calories doing so. But actively walking, on the other hand, can produce more effective results on a daily basis.
How does a standing desk impact productivity? The review found that employees weren't experiencing any changes to their work performance, and notes that two studies actually reported findings that suggest sitting led to better productivity than standing at your desk all day.
Dr. April Chambers, a bioengineer and professor at the University of Pittsburgh and one of the lead authors on the review, told MarketWatch that there's more research to be done on standing desks before health experts can really tout them as truly beneficial across the board.
"While we didn't really see a detriment to mood or health or productivity, we didn't see much improvement, either. But we also didn't see any real consistency anywhere about how to use them, how long to use them, what position somebody should be in, and for how long," Chambers said. "More research is needed to figure out how better to use them, and to get other benefits out of them other than weight loss."