Standing Desk

With too much time sitting increasingly being seen as a major health risk, standing desks are becoming more and more popular. After all, the idea of still being able to put in a full work day without the health effects of prolonged sitting is obviously appealing.

“I see the point,” you say, “but standing desks aren’t for me. I don’t think I would be as productive if I worked while standing up.”

If that’s your take on standing desks, you’re far from alone. In fact, people tend to estimate that they’ll perform worse on work tasks while standing, according to a new study.

Interestingly, though, when the study measured people’s actual performance, this intuition didn’t hold up.

The researchers discovered this by asking the 96 study participants to complete a variety of tasks testing reading comprehension and creativity. They found that whether people worked while seated or standing didn’t influence people’s performance on any of the tasks. Nor did it influence people’s perception of how difficult tasks were – that is, people didn’t tend to find it any harder to work while standing up.

Although sitting vs. standing didn’t affect the quality of people’s work, there were a couple differences in how people experienced the different working positions.

First, people reported being less comfortable when they worked standing up. On the other hand, the also reported being more engaged with the tasks when they worked while standing – that is, they were more interested in the tasks they were doing and more alert.

So it appears that while standing desks likely don’t change people’s work performance in any meaningful way (at least on tasks involving reading and creativity), they do boost people’s enthusiasm for working.

The main downside appears to be that, yes, on average people find it less comfortable to work on their feet than to sink into a nice office chair. But apparently, being comfortable doesn’t always correlate with working more effectively!

Image: Flickr/Mack Male