Standing desks are the new norm in many home office spaces. Whilst the adage that ‘sitting is the new smoking’ has been disproven, research and anecdotal experience confirm that extended sitting does not support positive long-term health outcomes.
Today, I will show you the best way to stand at your standing desk, providing tips for reducing discomfort, increasing productivity and making the most of your workday.
(Related: What Are The Best Standing Desks In 2023?)
Is There A Correct Way To Stand At A Standing Desk?
A single correct way to stand doesn’t exist, but many incorrect ways do. Follow these guidelines to improve your well-being and prevent aches.
1. Pay Attention To Your Posture.
Correct posture for a standing position behind your desk looks like this:
- Your weight is equally balanced on both feet.
- Relaxed, rolled-back shoulders.
- Tailbone tucked under.
- Feet shoulder width apart.
Why is posture important?
Amy Cuddy’s famous TED talk uncovers incredible insights on how posture changes our hormone levels which, in turn, affect our mood and happiness.
Other studies, like this one from researchers at Columbia and Harvard Universities, show that posture can impact our relationships.
2. Adjust Your Desk To The Right Height.
If your desk is too tall, your arms/shoulders will be raised, causing pins and needles in your hands due to reduced blood flow. When it’s too low, you’ll unconsciously slouch to close the distance.
When working at a standing desk, ensure that:
- Your eyes are looking straight ahead.
- The desktop height creates a 90-degree bend in your elbows.
- Your keyboard is a forearm’s length away from your torso.
Above: The man is looking down at his laptop screen. This is a common issue when using laptops on standing desks. You can solve it by buying a laptop stand and a Bluetooth-enabled keyboard.
The right desktop height also reduces the chances of repetitive strain injuries to hands and wrists.
Up to 60% of office workers report experiencing wrist pain at work, often caused by incorrect desk height settings.
Be sure to position the computer monitor at the correct height while standing. The monitor screen should be at or slightly under eye level without forcing your head up or down to read.
3. Keep Your Wrists In A Neutral Position.
Resist the temptation to tilt your hands up or down while typing on a keyboard.
Studies like this found that computer workers who extended their wrists beyond 20° are at a greater risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
What is CTS?
- Symptoms include pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and arm.
- It is caused by pressure on the median nerve.
- The median nerve runs from the forearm through a passageway in the wrist (carpal tunnel) to the hand, providing sensation to the palm side of the thumb and fingers, except the little finger.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome often requires surgery to relieve and release the nerve.
This meta-analysis confirmed that non-neutral wrist postures could increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome twofold!
Studies like this one revealed that introducing ergonomic mice for desk workers reduced hand/wrist pain after six months.
4. Exercise While Standing.
Don’t stand all day without taking movement breaks.
Standing for 100% of your workday is far from ideal. Buy an office chair that’s within your budget and use it to alternate between sitting and standing intervals. Start with 10 minutes standing, 50 minutes sitting. Keep adding 10 minutes to your standing time each day until you reach a 60 min / 60 min split.
Standing all day has been linked to poor blood circulation, vein problems, aches and pains.
Consider buying an under-desk treadmill that will allow you to walk while you work.
Research has shown that accumulating physical activity throughout the day is just as effective for improving health as one workout! Master Nike Trainer Joe Holder calls these “exercise snacks”.
Take some of your meetings virtually while you walk. Bondi to Bronte is a great walk for meetings if you live around the Eastern suburbs of Sydney.
5. Use An Anti-Fatigue Mat.
Anti-fatigue mats combat the fatigue and pain that can develop from long periods spent standing on hard floors like concrete or tiles.
These mats reduce foot strain dramatically by forcing you to shift your position every few seconds. They’re available in a range of materials, including:
- PVC: A low-cost, less durable option. PVC mats are notorious for rippling, cracking, and curling at the edges. Not ideal!
- Rubber: Incredibly slip-resistant, durable and not prone to degradation.
- Polyurethane: Typically the most expensive. Offers excellent comfort and durability in commercial environments! This is our pick.
6. Switch To Ergonomic Peripherals.
Research shows that specialist mice and keyboards can prevent pain. I love:
- Ergonomic Keyboards: Sculpted to fit the natural position of your arms and hands, they improve comfort by reducing tension in the wrist, forearms, and hands.
- Vertical Mice: They place your hand in its natural position that mimics the shape of a fist.
(Related: What Are The Best Standing Desk Accessories?)
Why Is It Important To Stand Correctly?
Incorrect standing causes a number of issues:
1. Posture-Associated Injuries.
Incorrect posture will negatively impact muscles in your neck, back, arms, and legs and can eventually lead to chronic pain or injury.
This is likely attributed to incorrect posture and the need for awareness around the importance of spinal alignment, no leaning, arm angle, keyboard position, and monitor height.
2. Increased Exhaustion.
Poor posture or slouching can lead to exhaustion by creating discomfort, compromising blood flow and affecting work productivity.
In some cases, individuals can develop chronic fatigue, a condition characterised by severe fatigue and sleep issues.
3. Chronic Pain.
This Danish study confirmed that prolonged standing with no movement or breaks increases the risk of hospital treatment due to varicose veins.
You can exacerbate chronic injuries by standing without using anti-fatigue mats or making time to rest and move.
(Related: Standing Desk Cable Management Tips).
Final Words On How To Stand At A Standing Desk.
A height-adjustable standing desk is an excellent tool for nudging you towards a more active lifestyle. Remember not to treat it as a magic shortcut to better well-being and productivity.
Yes, learning the best way to stand at your standing desk will help alleviate minor discomforts, but it won’t offset problems caused by a sedentary lifestyle.