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Taking a stand for ergonomics: businesses offer alternative workstations

Taking a stand for ergonomics: businesses offer alternative workstations

by Ashley Gebb

Why sit if you can stand?

Some businesses are part of a rising trend to offer standing workstations for employees who don't want to spend their days seated. Pointing to studies that link health and longevity with how much time a person spends sitting, some people prefer to work on their feet.

"Eight hours a day staring at a screen, you really need to get up and move around," said Becky Williford, human resources generalist at Auctiva. "Otherwise, it's mentally exhausting."

She admits she hadn't heard of standing stations until a year ago, when a new employee said he had one at a previous job. He and a few coworkers created makeshift risers out of boxes and office parts and the software company soon realized interest merited investment.

After some research, Auctiva opted for a station where the monitor and keyboard rise along a vertical post. The model can be at eye level for standing, at desk level for sitting or anywhere in between.

It took some time — and pain — for senior quality assurance engineer Kent O'Shea to adjust to being on his feet but now he feels far better, he said. His legs are stronger and random pains seldom plague his back.

"The sitting gets hard on you after a while," he said. "Especially after lunch. Along with that tendency to slouch, you get sleepy."

Ergonomists have long recommended breaking lengthy periods of sitting with periodic standing and movement. It's shown to boost comfort, energy, performance and reduce injury risk.

More recent studies have concluded that excessive sitting can increase risks for coronary heart disease, kidney disease and other issues.

Investing in standing workstations was a preventive measure, Williford said.

"We always promote ergonomics," she said, adding that employees also have access to monitor risers, foot rests, wrist pads and other amenities to ease being cubicle-bound. "We want to make sure everyone is accommodated and they are comfortable."

As of now, about 30 percent of Auctiva's 80 employees have standing stations and half should have the feature by year's end.

At, about 250 of the online home improvement retailer's 370 employees have standing workstations. Their model is an elevated desktop with a taller chair that accommodates sitting and standing.

Inside sales representative Mallory Norton starts work at 5:30 a.m. and said she soon finds herself on her feet. A former waitress, she gets antsy if she's seated for too long and sometime uses tension exercise bands for a vertical workout as she talks on the phone to customers.

Her dream workstation, she confessed, would be a treadmill.

"I hate sitting," Norton said. "I'd much rather be able to move at my desk than be chained to my seat."

Print loyalty analyst Jenny Hildenbrand is known for doing a bit of yoga while she's standing and said the station streamlined her work flow since she no longer has to walk around to get her blood flowing.

"And it's great to get off work and not feel like, 'Ugh, I've been sitting all day,'" she said.

Email marketing manager Dan Reardon stands 6 foot, 3 inches tall, and said in 15 years, he's never found a comfortable desk. The standing station has relieved his back issues and improves communication.

"It makes it easier to go talk to people," he said. "I don't feel like I'm intruding on their space."

Those who stand agree cushioned mats are critical to ease the impact of being on one's feet. It's also important, they said, for the monitor to be at a height that doesn't strain the neck to look up or down.

When Yvonne Beale created her own standing station in her human resources office at Chico State University, she eliminated her option to sit so she has no excuses. Now she is excited to see standing stations popping up across campus.

"People should just be brave and try it," she said.

Despite positive press, being on one's feet all day has risks of its own. The same studies that highlight benefits also note that standing can be more exhausting and has been linked to higher risks for carotid artery damage and varicose veins.

Standing stations are not for everyone, Williford said. Some Auctiva employees requested them only to ask for removal shortly after installation.

In her office, the station doesn't work for meetings because it's awkward if she's standing and others are sitting, but it's great for data entry. Her goal is to do half and half.

"Every time I think about it, I should be standing more," she said.

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