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Guidelines for the selection and use of sit to stand computer workstations

Adjustable sit to stand workstations allow you to change between sitting and standing when working at your desk.

Sitting less and moving more reduces the adverse effect of our sedentary life (at work and home) including our safety, health and well-being. Sedentary lifestyle has been linked to musculoskeletal discomfort and injury, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers.

To increase the likelihood of regularly using a sit to stand workstation, it must allow for quick and easy alternation between postures and be suitable for your work tasks.

Which workstation should I use?

When deciding on a workstation you should consider the:

  • work tasks that will be performed
  • design of the sit to stand workstation including ease of use, adjustability and dimensions
  • existing office layout.

Sit to stand workstations generally fall into two categories:

  • full desk style—the whole workstation can be raised or lowered to suit both sitting and standing positions
  • table top style—a separate unit is positioned on top of the non-adjustable desktop.

If possible, discuss with your occupational health and safety advisors and/or supplier to confirm that the intended product is appropriate for your needs. It is also recommended that you trial the workstation prior to purchase.

Comparison of sit to stand workstations
  Full Desk Table top
What is it
  • whole desk that can be adjusted to suit standing or sitting
  • can be relocated (sometimes limited by existing office layout configuration)
  • ideal for refurbishments
  • a platform that sits on an existing desk and supports hardware for computer workstation i.e. monitors, keyboard and mouse
  • fitted using a desk mount or leg attachments and may require adequate space behind the desk for mounting
  • usually a cheaper option and can be used on nearly all desks
  • easier to relocate to another desk however can be heavy
Work tasks
  • no limitation to work tasks
  • enables items such as phone, PC accessories, paperwork to be close at hand for your work at all times
  • able to support multiple screens
  • may have a limited work area i.e. only fit one monitor, keyboard and mouse
  • some are able to support two monitors with larger work surface or extra monitor supports
Posture
  • allows user to have their preferred posture in both sitting and standing positions
  • allows for forearm support to reduce strain on the neck and shoulders
  • check that the desk can be adjusted to suit shorter and taller workers when standing (it is recommended that the desktop be raised to at least 1200 mm from the floor to suit taller workers)
  • some models result in a compromise between preferred sitting and standing postures (due to the nature of the table top design)
  • taller workers may not be able to position the monitor at their preferred height or distance away due to the limited depth of table top equipment
  • check there is adequate space for keyboard and unrestricted use of mouse
  • some models do not offer enough space for forearm support and others do not tolerate pressure from resting forearms
  • check that the total height of the desk and unit suits shorter and taller workers
  • some table tops still require raising the height of existing desks in order for taller workers to comfortably use
  • adjusting unit height may require awkward posture
Ease of use
  • mechanical or electric operation to enable height adjustment available (manual wind-up height adjustable workstations are generally not recommended)
  • some models have programmable height settings
  • various methods including gripping/squeezing to adjust height of workstation(note some are stiffer and require notable force to adjust)
  • the workstation can become very heavy to adjust with more items stored on it and increases the risk of injury - the larger the model the greater the risk
  • use of a wireless keyboard and mouse avoids cords being caught in height adjustment mechanism
  • stability can vary, some cannot tolerate resting forearms on the keyboard area while in the standing position
  • some only allow computer based work in standing position
  • check there is enough work space and room for the storage of desk items
Installation
  • ability to fit an electric height adjusting mechanism to existing table top
  • requires trained installer
  • may require removal of old desk, packaging etc
  • may require technical support to ensure computer cables extend the full height range of the desk when lifted
  • electric models require power to operate
  • some models can be simply installed, others require a trained installer to assemble
  • some models are portable (please check weight as workstation can be heavy)
Costs (check warranty period)
  • costs vary, some electric models are cheaper than table top models
  • can reduce price if retaining existing desk surface and just installing the height adjustability mechanism
  • check installation and delivery costs
  • while a height adjustable desk model may be more expensive, the additional cost may be worth it given the functionality
  • generally cheaper
  • check installation and delivery costs

Training and awareness

Workers should be provided with instruction prior to the use of a sit to stand workstation. It is recommended that the training includes information about:

  • how to adjust the workstation up to suit the worker's individual needs (refer to Ergonomic set up of sit to stand workstations)
  • the health benefits of sitting less and moving more
  • how to use the workstation safely and getting the most out of a sit to stand workstation (refer to Tips to get the most out of your sit to stand workstation).

For more information refer to the Sedentary Work factsheet (PDF, 108.99 KB).

Ergonomic set up of sit to stand workstations

Setting up a sit to stand workstation is similar to setting up a seated computer workstation. Adjust the workstation so that when standing or sitting:

  • you are in a forward facing posture
  • the top of the desk surface (where keyboard and mouse are positioned) is at elbow height or just below
  • the keyboard is directly in front of you, push the keyboard back so that your forearms are supported on the front part of the desk when typing (touch typists may prefer to position the keyboard closer to them)
  • the keyboard and mouse can be comfortably used on the same level and close to each other
  • your arm is close to your side when using the mouse
  • the monitor is positioned so that you do not tilt/arch your head back or twist your neck
  • the monitor is generally positioned at approximately arm's length or further away from you
  • the top of the screen is at your eye height or lower
  • the monitor height is slightly adjusted when standing to be visually comfortable while maintaining the correct posture
  • multiple monitors are set up correctly.

In addition, use a document holder if you refer to documents when typing and check that it suits the workstation selected (keep all frequently used items within easy reach).

Further detailed information can be found in the Ergonomic guide to computer based workstations (PDF, 979.17 KB).

Tips to get the most out of your sit to stand workstation

To make the most out of your sit to stand workstation remember to:

  • the aim is to regularly change postures between sitting, standing and moving, to avoid prolonged sitting or standing at your workstation
  • listen to your body (especially if you experience discomfort or pain) and alternate between sitting, standing and moving
  • seek medical advice from your health provider regarding and precautions for standing if you are pregnant or have a pre-existing musculoskeletal problem.
  • start standing for short periods and gradually build up to longer standing periods over time
  • consider the type of footwear worn i.e. low heel and supportive is preferable (consider leaving a pair at work)
  • When standing, position your chair to avoid creating a trip hazard for yourself or others
  • set up the workstation so you are not directly overlooking your colleague when in the standing position, strategic use of dividers can assist in reducing the potential noise and visual changes that may occur when using the standing workstation.

Remember that:

  • current guidelines for predominately desk based work suggest initially building up to two hours of standing and movement over the workday with a view to standing and moving for a total of four hours spread over the day (pro rata for part time hours).1 Anti-fatigue mats are generally not needed as carpet and underlay usually provides sufficient support. Mats can be a trip hazard for yourself or your colleagues or may cause strains or sprains when moving it to use your chair. If you prefer using one to acclimatise yourself to longer standing periods, use a light weight and easy to move anti-fatigue mat for standing periods and check that it does not become a trip hazard or increase sprains or strains.
  • supporting the use of sit to stand workstations along with other changes to the office environment and systems that encourage more movement, for example, locate printers and rubbish bins away from your immediate work area so you need to walk to them, encourage use of stairs instead of lifts or standing during phone calls.

1 Buckley JP, et al. Br J Sports Med 2015;1-1-6 doi:10.1136/brjsports-2015-094618

Last updated
14 August 2017

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