At CGJ our youngest member of staff recently turned 30, which made the rest of us feel positively decrepit! Thanks, Chris…..
As we get older, it’s important for all of us to look to ways of keeping fitter and healthier. There are very few of us who don’t feel the strain of it on a day to day basis, waking up aching, getting to work, surfing the net at lunchtime (if we even get a lunch break), leaving work late, collapsing at home with a beer and a take-away…..
We’re aware that there are dangers inherent in working at a computer all day. We know that our bodies are not engineered to be sat in a static position all day. I’m reminded of Harold Steptoe’s observation of his father during a Christmas episode “I sit there for three days every year……watching you……with walnut shells, tangerine skins, and fag ash piling up around your boots. I swear blind, if it wasn’t for the occasional calls of nature, you’d be buried alive by Boxing Day.”
Long periods of sitting have a major impact on our health and wellbeing. Symptoms can include backache, neck strains and pain, the possibilities of herniated discs, muscle degeneration, weakened bones, planning and taking regular breaks for five minutes once an hour to avoid eyestrain and headaches, and having to plan tasks around this.
Many of us spend 7 hours or more a day sitting, and as we get older this can increase 10 hours or more. Half an hour to get to work in the car, or on the train or tube, sitting at our desks, journey home again as in the morning, dinner, TV, box set, bed……. It’s an easy habit to fall into.
So, how can we fit a bit of additional exercise into the day? How healthy are we, really, and how honest are we being? None of us really want to eat or watch TV standing up at home, the sensible option, then, would be to stand at work.
As part of our health and safety policy at CGJ, we’re always looking for ways to improve the health of staff and wellbeing. As a small team, each with a number of defined, time-managed roles, we can ill afford to have members of staff off work with work-related injuries or conditions. We regularly make assessments of our workplace and workstations, to ensure that we’re utilising the space and facilities to their best effect, not to mention the risks inherent in using display screen equipment.
It’s medically understood that standing helps prevent a harmful build-up of blood sugar and fats, resulting in better energy levels and concentration. The use of a standing desk could, therefore, improve your concentration, increasing your productivity and stimulating creativity. Additionally, whilst you’re in a standing position, some of the body’s largest muscles are working, which results in an increased blood flow to the brain. Research has found that the ability to change your position by sitting and standing at your desk has the ability to increase productivity from up to 10-20%.
Even better, this increase in blood flow and muscle uses around 13 per cent more energy, burning more calories over the course of an eight-hour day. In rudimentary terms, four hours standing during a working day can equate, in calorie terms to a 45-minute walk.
It was with this consideration that we began to investigate the advantages of standing desks.
We found that there are two main types of standing desks. The first is a replacement of the whole desk unit, with a desk which is at a fixed standing height; a variation of which is a completely motorised desk unit which can be raised up and down.
The second is a miniature computer desk, not unlike those which many of us have at home. This is basically a mechanical, gas-lift platform designed to accommodate a computer monitor, with a keyboard, and mouse shelf.
In consideration for the work that we do, we studied the time we spent on the computer, and the time spent looking at drawings, and taking off data.
We found that an important part of the standing desk option is the ability to alternate between sitting and standing. Apparently, sit-stand desks are recommended by the London Spine Clinic, as they make working comfortable whether you’re sitting or standing. For this reason, we felt that the total desk replacement option might not be the best solution.
We felt that, after a lengthy period of analysis of the various staff activities, the main cause of sitting is computer use, and that the platform system would suit us best. The replacement of the entire desk would take away the flexibility of standing or sitting, and the motorised desk option would require a total re-organisation of our office layout. As our office is planned with our workflow in mind, we didn’t really want to do this, as it would require a considerable period of disruption, and, more importantly, it would affect staff interaction and would need to re-consider how we undertake our tasks.
Each member of staff assessed their role and the suitability of a standing desk for the way they worked. Based on our research, over 80% of the CGJ team chose to have a standing desk.
As we assembled and set each desk up, after a short period of use, we found that there were some minor issues:
• Keyboards and mice needed to be wireless types, as the desk mechanism was likely to tangle or damage cables
• The light build of modern, flat computer screens were not heavy enough to remain stable when the desk was raised - the cables tended to snag and tip the monitor, additionally the height of the monitor could not be adjusted, causing neck strain. Fixed monitor stands were easily clamped to the desktop, which eradicated this problem
• Long periods of standing on a hard floor led to aching feet, which was solved using anti-fatigue floor mats.
After 6 months of use, we have found that whilst there are certain jobs, such as those where constant referring between drawings and screen is required, which don’t lend themselves particularly well, to standing, for the majority of writing and e-mail based work, the ability to stand and work is advantageous.