Why we work standing
Marcia van Kampen
Okay, you have to get used to it. It is really different and it’s a little less comfortable too. But my colleague Mark swears by it: he works all day while standing. He hasn’t had a chair in five years. And he is not the only one who stands all day at Decos. Many colleagues lift up their desk to work for a while standing. However, what’s so great about it?
Sitting is the new smoking
Working while standing up is the latest health trend among people who work. “Sitting is the new smoking,” the media announced. Journalist Katja de Bruin even wrote a book about it. They all reference scientific studies that show scary numbers. Sitting a lot can lead to diabetes and heart disease. It increases the risk of premature death by no less than 40 percent if you work at a desk eight hours a day. If you also watch TV for a couple of hours, that risk can increase to 60 percent. There are also economic disadvantages, such as reduced work productivity, more illness and higher healthcare costs.
I always thought those cursed numbers didn’t apply to me because I exercise a lot. However, research shows that even those who train and exercise regularly are not immune to the disadvantages of a sedentary lifestyle. Thus I must move around more during the day as well. When I received a Fitbit last year, I found it very interesting to find out my exercise patterns.
My daily goal is 10,000 steps, which I achieve easily on my days off (at home with the children). However, I was shocked at the low number of steps I took on a work day: generally, only around 4,000 steps, despite our large office, meetings, fetching drinks and making telephone calls while walking.
More creative when standing
Now we know that working while sitting is not healthy, but exactly how healthy is it to stand while working? The British expert in exercise physiology, Dr. John Buckley of Chester University, calculated that standing three hours a day is enough to compensate for all the sitting we do. If you work while standing, you will burn almost 50 calories per hour more than if you work while sitting.
Your heart also pumps ten times more blood through your body when you are standing than when you are sitting. This improved circulation throughout the body provides more oxygen to the brain, which not only leads to better concentration but also to heightened creativity. Of course it doesn’t mean that you have to stand all day long. It’s all about changing it up, which has a similar effect as taking a walk.
One thing we all do at Decos is hold stand-up meetings. Ever since we started agile working, each team begins the day with a brief meeting: the daily stand-up. This meeting lasts no longer than 15 minutes and the purpose is to discuss the key learnings from yesterday and the to do’s for today.
Since you know that this meeting will not take long, it is easier to hold it standing up. Stand-up meetings ensure that the meeting is short and to-the-point, and that participants are more active and involved. You can see that it is well received because there are more and more meetings in the two areas in our office where employees can work while standing.
I am certain that Mark – as well as many of our colleagues and I– don’t just work while standing because it would be dangerous to sit or because we would burn more calories. The main advantage for us is simple: if you work while standing, you are more active and have more energy. You move more, and you even speak differently because you use much more body language. People feel more productive and happier when they are working while standing. It’s simply a much happier way to work.
My colleague Mark has to be careful though, if I have to believe the Arbo health and safety portal. It cautions that standing for long periods of time can lead to back pain and varicose veins. That means we have to change it up. However, that also means Mark would have to buy a chair first.
Paperless working, working while standing, and we even have a ball pit. Would you like to be inspired by the New Way of Working? Feel free to visit us in Noordwijk! You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.