One of the most important changes you can make to improve your comfort at work is to move and change posture as much as possible throughout the day (see Risk Factors: Static Posture post) But does that mean you need a sit-stand workstation? Sit-stand workstations are height-adjustable desks that move up or down either manually with a crank or with a button if it’s electrically powered. When you are sitting you leave it at a lower height and raise it for when you want to change to standing. According to an recent article in the Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (Vol. 51, No. 3, 310-320 (2009); “musculoskeletal complaints were reduced by a sit-stand workstation paradigm”. Cornell University reports that general evidence seems to show a reduction of back discomfort with sit-stand workstations, but caution that adequate studies with proper comparison groups has not been done and there is little evidence to show cost-effectiveness.
My experience has shown that individuals with severe back pain can benefit from a sit-stand workstation. But on average, changing position throughout the day seems to be the most effective way to reduce discomfort. So for workers who stand all day, taking frequent breaks to sit and altering standing position (putting one foot up on a 6-8” high support, shifting from one leg to another) works well. And for workers who sit all day – getting up to talk to a colleague, using the restroom, going to the printer, getting a drink of water – all seem to help in reducing aches and pains.