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As much of the global tech workforce has made the switch to working remotely, a whole litany of issues has arisen. Remote workers find themselves more productive than working at the office but have also experienced mental health fatigue and the adverse effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Teleworkers have reported higher levels of mental health symptoms of stress, weight gain, and musculoskeletal pain than their office counterparts.
While many companies have transitioned to remote work processes and principles, many remote teams are expected to bear the weight of the changes independently. One solution to the issues remote employees have been experiencing for months is to provide or encourage the perfect ergonomic setup for their work at the home office. A standing desk for small spaces can be the critical piece to the puzzle of creating a healthy remote work environment.
Many people are now going on eight months of working from home, and with a second wave already hitting both the United States and Europe, it doesn't seem like we will be returning to office buildings anytime soon. Remote work has brought about productivity increases across the board, a more flexible workweek, the ability to work from anywhere, and more time to spend with family, among some of the many. What remote work advocates are forgetting are the adverse effects of a sedentary lifestyle. The World Health Organization warned in April that physical inactivity could be a top ten leading cause for disease and disability in both developed and developing countries.
The report states that those who do not exercise at least 30 minutes a day double their risk for cardiovascular diseases and are more prone to diabetes and slowed metabolism. The list goes on with increased risks to high blood pressure, colon cancer, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, and chronic back pain. Mental health also takes a hit as anxiety and depression are more common
in people with less-active lifestyles and are likely to smoke more cigarettes, drink more alcohol, and resist healthier food than people who exercise daily.
Remote workers are directly impacted because their jobs require them to sit for prolonged periods. The constant sitting leads to a more sedentary lifestyle as they move from their desk to the couch in a game of musical chairs where the only winner is lower back pain. Add working to home with kids, and there is no wonder many remote workers struggle to find the time for any physical activity and have spent more money on wine than on organic food.
In the office, you could take an hour-long break to grab lunch with your colleagues. You spent a significant amount of time walking for your daily commute. Even going out for happy-hour drinks required a bit of a hike around the block. Now start/stop times for work are blurred. Remote employees only need to grab a quick snack from the kitchen and then can get back to hammering away at their to-do-list. There isn't that same moment in the day to stretch the legs and spine, and working from home means being ruthless with your time.
Ergonomic home offices should be a requirement for employers who want to avoid remote work injury lawsuits and employees concerned about their health. Sit-stand desks or standing desks for small spaces should be a furniture priority for any remote worker.
In a study conducted in 2017 by the Association for Psychological Science, researchers found that participants who stood processed information quicker than those who sat when taking a cognitive test. The difference was just 20 milliseconds, but if you were to multiply that time by the number of minutes you spend working per day, the productivity gap between sitting and standing grows significantly. The researchers concluded that a combination of sitting and standing enhances selective attention and cognitive control.
The reason for this conclusion is more simple than it appears. If you think about standard work from home days, you can spend hours getting distracted by emails, social media posts, your housemates, or family, all while never leaving your seat. The time you do have to focus on just finishing a task is limited to only a couple of hours, and the desire to look at your phone is still there. This routine leads to further procrastination, burnout, and anxiety about your job security as you feel your performance slipping away.
By standing, you are forcing your brain to manage various variables such as posture, body weight, and muscle contractions. These mental gymnastics cause acute stress and makes your brain function at a higher cognitive level because it is required to work harder. It isn't a stress overload that generates a mental breakdown but just enough to not become complacent as many do when they are sitting down. A sit-stand desk that is small enough to fit any room of an employee's home could be a boost to their attention to detail, motivation to complete tasks, and reduce the anxiety of procrastination.
If remote workers were to measure how much time they spend sitting at a desk, many would have to include how much time they spend listening in virtual meetings, typing away on their keyboards, watching Netflix or Youtube videos, and keeping up with the blitzkrieg of current events in our modern news cycle. By using a standing desk during a number of these activities, you will burn more calories, maintain muscle tone, and improve your natural posture. All of
which reduce the risk of chronic back pain and stress to the neck and lumbar muscles.
If you invest in a sit-stand desk, you can adjust the height to the perfect level so that you aren't hunched over or leaning forward too much. The adjustment of a standing desk avoids a ton of strain on the spine and lower back muscles. Adjustable desks are sturdy enough to be adapted for any person's height levels while holding a multitude of office equipment.
The best part of these crucial ergonomic devices is that you can find standing desks for small spaces, take up a whole corner of a room, or tiny enough to hold a small monitor and keyboard. These flexible options are ideal for remote workers who could be sharing a common area in their home, have their own room for a home office, or prefer to use a standing desk in a co-working space. With a sit-stand desk, you can start getting the daily physical activity required for a healthy lifestyle while increasing your level of productivity.
Many companies thought the pandemic's effects were only temporary, but as time went on, they realized there is no rolling back the fundamental changes to the way we work. Business leaders who have adapted to the new normal have provided their workers with stipends for ergonomic equipment. They have included a standing desk option in the onboarding package offered to new remote employees. They have developed a remote work policy with their remote teams to expense new home-office equipment that creates a more productive workspace.
These investments will mitigate the adverse effects of a sedentary lifestyle where people spend their days sitting for prolonged periods in front of a standard desk. Standing desks are a vital step in creating a healthy home-office environment for remote workers. The gesture of a remote-work benefits plan that includes a sit-stand desk inspires trust between employees and their employers and reduces the risk of future remote work lawsuits.