Sitting vs Standing: What is the Best Ratio for Office Work?

sitting vs standing

What position do you prefer to be in when completing office work? standing or sitting? Whether you’re working from home or in an office, the age-old question of “ what is the best position to complete desk work?” remains largely unanswered. While many swear that standing is the best way to stay productive, with many individuals suffering from back pain, sitting or standing using an adjustable standing desk for 8 hours straight is unappealing to a majority of Americans. However, in a recent study by Jack Callaghan at Waterloo University, an answer to this mysterious question may have finally come to fruition. Using advanced ergonomic calculations, Professor Callaghan has found that the answer to the best position for completing work, lies in finding a balance between standing and sitting. 

In 2021, results from the first-ever controlled laboratory study between sit-stand workstations revealed that the answer to the best work style for office work is to utilize both sitting and standing periods while completing office work. This study has found that the ideal ratio of sitting to standing while working lies somewhere between 1:1 and 1:3. The right ratio depends on your workstyle, completed work, and personal health. This ratio means standing for roughly half of each hour for each full hour of office work completed. 

Scientists recommend considering the following criteria when determining whether to sit or stand while completing office work.

It is recommended to stand when completing an assignment if the task in question can be completed in 5 minutes or less or if the task can not be completed comfortably with arms kept at your side. If the task or project you are working on requires movement or transfer between multiple workstations, it is recommended to remain standing while completing the task. 

Some advantages of standing while completing work include reduced strain on the lower back from prolonged sitting, increased muscle activity, and more calories burned per hour. Prolonged sitting can have negative effects on your body, even if you use an ergonomic desk chair.

Some disadvantages of standing while working include potential increased stress on the cartilage in the feet’ knees, hips, and balls. Another disadvantage that could come with standing while working is the potential for the development of carpal tunnel. While using a standing workstation, many people’s posture improves, while this is an overall benefit, the adjustment does have the potential to affect wrist position, which can lead to carpal tunnel over a long period of time. 

To reduce the potential negative effects of switching from sitting to standing while working, many experts recommend a slow transition from sitting for the majority of the day to finding a balance between the two postures as standing is implemented. A slow transition can help decrease the potential side effects by giving the body time to build and strengthen the muscles used in the alternate position.

It is recommended to sit when completing an assignment if that task is visually intensive, requires more than 5 minutes of concentration, and if all materials needed for the task are easily within reach. Some tasks, especially those that require the use of fine motor skills, can be most accurately completed while sitting. This should be taken into account when determining which tasks require sitting for completion. 

Studies have consistently shown that sitting for long periods of time can have a negative effect on health. This is something that health professionals and scientists alike have cautioned the American workforce of. With this new information regarding the best ratio for standing vs sitting when working, American office workers now have scientific evidence to help them make the best and healthiest choice for which posture to use when completing office work. 

When choosing whether to sit or stand while completing office work, it is good to keep in mind that by striking a balance between the two postures you can increase your productivity while decreasing back pain. When less time is spent re-adjusting position to accommodate back pain, more time is available to be spent focused on completing the task at hand. Both scientists and doctors recommend alternating between sitting and standing postures when completing long work periods to allow for muscle rest intervals and encourage healthy cardiovascular systems.