OSH Answers Fact Sheets

Easy-to-read, question-and-answer fact sheets covering a wide range of workplace health and safety topics, from hazards to diseases to ergonomics to workplace promotion. MORE ABOUT >

Download the free OSH Answers app
Download on the App Store Get it on Google Play

Search all fact sheets:

Type a word, a phrase, or ask a question

Sit/Stand Desk

Why use a sit/stand desk?

A sit/stand desk is one that allows the user to alternate between sitting and standing by being able to lower or raise the work (desk) platform. Little research is currently available to determine the benefits of a sit/stand desk versus other interventions aimed at reducing the risks of sitting for long periods of time. In general, it is believed that by being able to alternate sitting and standing, users can vary their body position more often. Some disadvantages include the cost of the desk, and standing too long which may lead to foot, knee, hip, and back issues.

If you choose to use a sit/stand desk, remember that proper ergonomic set-up is very important. It is essential to make sure the desk meets the needs of the user when both standing and sitting.


How should a sit/stand desk be set up?

Maintain a neutral body position when both the sitting and standing:

  • Hands, wrists, and forearms are straight, in-line and roughly parallel to the floor.
  • Head is level or bent slightly forward, forward facing, and balanced. Generally speaking, the head is in-line with the torso.
  • Erect or upright spine.
  • Shoulders are relaxed and upper arms hang normally at the side of the body.
  • Elbows stay close to the body and are bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
  • No twisting of the upper torso.
  • The in-line sight is between the horizontal and 35 degrees below the horizontal (i.e., when viewing the monitor, the monitor is at eye level or slightly below eye level).

For information about ergonomics for sitting positions, please see the OSH Answers documents on Working in a Sitting Position and Office Ergonomics.

When the desk is in the standing position, be sure that:

  • The platform height is approximately at your standing elbow position (e.g., your arms are in the same position as they would be if you were sitting).
  • The keyboard and mouse are aligned as you would when you are sitting.
  • The height of the monitor should still be between horizontal and 35 degrees below.
  • Wear supportive footwear.
  • Consider the use of an anti-fatigue mat, where appropriate.
  • Use a footrest when standing to help shift your weight as needed, or shift your weight from leg to let occasionally.
  • Make sure that any cables, electrical access, storage of materials, and general layout do not make adjusting the desk difficult.
Standing at desk
Figure 1 - Standing at desk

Sitting at desk
Figure 2 - Sitting at desk

How long should a person sit or stand?

Recommendations vary from sitting for 1 hour and standing for 5 minutes, to switching between sitting and standing for 20, 30, 45, or 60 minutes. Your health professional may also make recommendations. The key factor is to alternate your position as needed. Allow time for your body to adjust to your new routine. Early studies have indicated that some users tend to return to sitting for the majority of the time after the initial trial period of time. To achieve the benefits of being able to alternate body positions, be sure to continue to do so.

Remember, it is also important to still take breaks away from the computer to help alleviate eye strain and to vary the position of head, upper body, arms, and hands.

Document last updated on September 1, 2016

Add a badge to your website or intranet so your workers can quickly find answers to their health and safety questions.

Disclaimer

Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.