Workplaces take a stand on sitting down

Nick Sestanovich
Nick Sestanovich

When R.E.M. sang “stand in the place where you work” back in 1988, they probably didn’t think their idea would be taken literally in Chico 25 years later.

A number of local businesses including Auctiva and have begun to use standing workstations, according to the Chico Enterprise-Record. Rather than sitting down at a desk for several hours, which a Kansas State University study has linked to heart and kidney diseases, these stations are big enough for employees to stand up and work on their computers at eye level. Even a few faculty offices and on-campus centers like Enterprise Applications have begun using these new workstations.

So far, much of the talk I’ve read online about these new innovations has been positive, but its made me ask some questions. If this were to become the standard workstation model for all workplaces, would that be a good thing?

I agree with the basic idea that sitting in front of your computer screen for six hours can cause health problems, but I don’t think standing up for that same period of time is the best alternative. If I’m ever standing for long periods of time, the first thing I want to do is sit down. I feel restless and sore if I’m standing up for just an hour. I can’t imagine what six hours would do to me.

Illustration by Liz Coffee
Illustration by Liz Coffee

Besides, standing all day can also pose health problems. It can lead to circulatory and posture issues, according to Alan Hedge, the director of human factors and ergonomics at Cornell. Whether standing or sitting, there are going to be health consequences.

It’s also made me think about what it would be like if the idea was applied to Chico State classrooms. I don’t think it would work for students. It’s much easier for me to take notes while sitting down because I have a hard surface to write against as well as being able to look down at what I’m writing. Classes that run longer than 90 minutes should be required to give students a short break anyway.

Of course, it’s going to be different for everyone. Yvonne Bealer, a human resources administrative analyst and specialist at Chico State, told me that while her standing workstation took a while to get used to, she ultimately felt healthier and less tired after using it.

The best compromise would be to make sitting down optional rather than making standing up mandatory. Employees should be able to have a chair at their desk but feel free to stand up or move around if they feel they’ve been sitting too long. Conversely, they may choose to do their work standing up but have the option to sit down if they’re feeling sore. That way, they wouldn’t be doing too much sitting or standing, and they’ll be able to know what method works best for them.


Nick Sestanovich can be reached at [email protected] or @Nsestanovich on Twitter.