Stand up to sitting down

The first purpose-built office in the UK was built in 1729 to house the East India Company. It marked a change in how we work, as orderly rows of desks and offices accommodated the birth of the corporate era. For many years, and in spite of significant societal shifts, the look and feel of the office has not changed much. Most people still sit at a desk to complete the vast majority of their tasks. However, questions have begun to emerge around the health and productivity implications around spending such a large portion of your life in a sedentary position. Such is the nature of office-bound work, that last year the University of Edinburgh published a report that found that middle aged Scots spend more hours per week sitting down than pensioners do. An experiment published in British Medical Journal last week sought to prove the effectiveness of implementing a ‘SMArT Work’ (‘Stand More at Work’) intervention. The study involved 146 NHS workers, 77 of which were given a height adjustable work station. Predictably, by the end of the experiment, those with standing desks were sedentary 83 minutes less per day than those with a desk. A significant proportion found that this created benefits, in that they were less tired, less anxious, felt more engaged throughout the day and there was a reduced incidence of musculoskeletal issues. With the evidence building in favour of standing work-stations, how long will we continue to fit out offices with traditional seated furniture as standard?