Standing desks, also known as sit-stand desks or height-adjustable desks, allow users to switch between sitting and standing positions while at work. In recent years, the interest in standing desks has increased because of their anticipated health benefits, such as increased metabolism and reduced muscle/back pain, but do they also help to improve your mental focus and productivity? The science seems to suggest so.
Research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) (2018) found that NHS staff who swapped their regular desks for sit-stand workstation reported better engagement with their work, as well as a positive impact on their job performance, occupational fatigue, sickness presenteeism, and overall quality of life. In short, reductions in sitting time led to positive changes in work related and psychological health.
Another study from the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health (2015) reported that those with stand-capable workstations — in which the worker could raise or lower the desk to stand or sit as they wished — were 46% more productive than those with traditional, seated desks. These findings are consistent with one of the author’s past research on standing desks in high school classrooms, where they have been found to increase students' engagement and cognitive performance.
This is because of both the physical and psychological benefits of using a standing desk that have been linked to an increase in focus and productivity levels. Let’s look at these in more detail.
1. Increases Blood Flow
When standing, blood circulation improves, which delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the brain. The presence of increased oxygen stimulates brain activity and can improve alertness, clarity, concentration and focus, which can also improve cognitive performance. It’s natural fuel for your brain!
Prolonged periods of sitting, on the other hand, have been associated with poor executive function, memory, attention and visuospatial skills, which are important cognitive aspects of work performance. Thus, breaking up prolonged sitting with a standing desk can influence work productivity in office workers by reducing sedentary behaviours and mitigating its ill-effects.
2. Energy & Mood Boost
Sitting for long periods of time in the workplace is linked with low vigour (energy and enthusiasm) and job performance, whereas standing up has been linked to a boost in energy, mood and performance. In one study, standing for one hour during the workday increased productivity for 66% of workers, while 71% felt more focused and 87% reported feeling more energised. Upon returning to their old desks, overall moods reverted to their original levels, which confirms it was the desk that made the positive difference.
In a more recent study, subjects’ vitality in work engagement and self-assessment of their work performance improved after using a sit-stand desk for three months. Indeed, it is thought that just 10 minutes of movement is all it takes to increase mental focus, with 37% of employees reporting high levels of energy in the middle of the day when incorporating small and frequent movements.
In conclusion, the science shows that a standing desk can help to boost energy and mood, which can improve focus, in particular if you’re prone to experiencing fatigue and sluggishness at work.
3. Reduces Pain & Discomfort
Standing desks offer relief from muscle and back pain by promoting better posture. By reducing physical discomfort associated with sitting down for long periods of time, standing desks might help you to remain engaged and focused for even longer periods of time.
In one study by Start Standing, those who used a standing desk experienced 31% less back pain than sitters, and 27% less neck pain. A similar study found that participants’ subjective view of their health improved after using a sit-stand desk, and that pain in their neck and shoulders was reduced compared to before the intervention.
Standing also encourages employees to incorporate gentle movements, like shifting weight, stretching, pacing or taking short walks, which can prevent the physical stagnation, discomfort and fatigue associated with sitting for long periods of time.
It is clear that standing desks can improve productivity by promoting physical and physiological effects that improve focus, and benefit our overall health.
Keep in mind that using a standing desk can come with “side effects” that might decrease your focus, such as if you stand for too long and develop leg or foot pain. It is therefore important that you ease into using a standing desk — starting with just 30 to 60 minutes a day — and then increase over time until you find what works for you. You should also make sure you’re standing at your desk in the right position, with your elbows close to a 90 degree angle and your computer screen at eye level, to ensure you get the most out of your desk and the abovementioned benefits for your mental and physical health.
Looking for your perfect standing desk to boost productivity? Check out our collection of standing desks, available for next working day delivery if ordered by 3pm. All of our desks come with a 7 year warranty, 30 day risk free return, as well as access to a UK-based customer service team to answer any questions that you might have.