The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Study: Standing desks could be harmful to your productivity . . . and your health


Thinking of getting standing desks for your employees … or even for yourself? You might want to think again.

Research has shown that sitting at a desk for too long can lead to long-term health problems. Which is why, over the past few years, standing desks — which can easily cost hundreds of dollars — have become more popular in offices around the world. A growing number of managers and owners believe that their use can help workers to lose weight, reduce back pain and be more alert.

But new research suggests that using standing desks may actually not be so good. A study recently published in the journal Ergonomics and reported by the Telegraph suggests that standing at a desk for a prolonged period of time will create “discomfort and deteriorating mental reactiveness.” The study, conducted by Curtin University in Australia, isn’t that comprehensive — only 20 people were part of it. But it adds to other, more extensive research that has shown the negative effects of standing too long causes back discomfort and the swelling of veins. Last fall, Newsweek reported on a 12-year study of more than 7,000 office workers in the American Journal of Epidemiology that found people who often stood at work were nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as opposed to those that sat more often.

“The bottom line is that this expansion [of standing desks] has been driven more by commercial reasons than scientific evidence,” said Alan Taylor, a physiotherapy expert at Nottingham University. “But the evidence is catching up, and it’s showing there are some drawbacks.”

Taylor thinks that office workers should rely less on standing desks for their well-being and instead take more walks at work.