Ergonomics done right.®
August 11th, 2010

Q&A from Sit vs. Stand Webinar (8/10/10)

Hello everyone. 

Thank you again for attending yesterday’s webinar “Sit vs. Stand?  What is the Best Ergonomic Design?” 

The number of questions we received was overwhelming, and we simply did not have the time to answer them all during the session.  Therefore, we have grouped the unanswered questions by topic and posted answers/advice here on our blog.  If you require further clarification, please feel free to contact Kent or Blake at Humantech.

What is the best approach when we have dynamic work centers with high and low work heights in the same job?

When there are large variations in posture required, standing is recommended.

Can you clarify the 30% guidelines for prolonged standing?  Does that mean only 30% of the time before a break is given, and then it starts over?  Or is it a 30% of the total work day?

30% of the shift consecutively, not cumulatively.

How much time is recommended as a break from standing, following the 30% guideline for standing?

Apologies, but we were unable to find any scientific evidence or research to answer your question definitively.   However, we believe that 5 to 10 minutes seems reasonable.

What about a station where you are not put in a fully sitting or standing position?  How do you feel about standing stations where people ask for a high stool to sit down at?  Is it better to have a workstation that allows for standing and then sitting in a chair?

These are very common questions. Our recommendation is to eliminate the ambiguity as to whether or not a station is sitting or standing.  The work task variables (e.g. force requirements, reach distances) should clearly point to one or the other.  Once you have determined which one it is, refer to the appropriate design guidelines in your handout.

Is there a comparison between standing vs. sitting and productivity?   Is one position more efficient than the other?

Unfortunately, a simple head-to-head comparison is not possible, because the specific work task variables (e.g. reaches required, forces exerted, steps taken) will ultimately determine if the job is more efficient performed standing or sitting.  There does seem to be a common assumption that standing is generally more “productive”, because of the increased activity of the cardiovascular system and its resultant effect on mental focus.  However, research by Pashler (1994) details a “dual-task cost” and discusses how the competition for metabolic resources during standing may actually decrease cognitive performance, and thus decrease overall productivity.

When associates are working in a static standing position on an assembly line and no seated jobs available, what do you suggest?

We recommend setting up the standing workstation incorporating the guidelines detailed in your handout and promoting some movement to parts bins, dunnage, printers, etc.

What are your thoughts on sitting on an exercise ball at a computer work station?

Exercise balls are not an appropriate replacement for properly-designed task chairs because of the lack of back support and the requirement of sustained low level muscle tension.

Do you ever come across the problem with cumulative loading on the lumbar and sacral portions of the back with recommended seated tasks e.g. visual inspection etc.?

I’m afraid we don’t completely understand the question.  Please contact Kent or Blake at Humantech so we can get more info and properly address your question.

What are your thoughts on anti-fatigue matting?

Anti-fatigue matting has not been shown to reduce the incidence or work-related musculo-skeletal disorders (e.g. tendonitis).  However, the elastic surface of anti-fatigue matting does create a slightly unstable standing surface, which requires small amounts of muscle activity to maintain balance.  The muscle activity promotes blood flow, and prevents leg discomfort and fatigue.  The following anti-fatigue matting design features are recommended:

  • At least 0.5" thick
  • Optimal compressibility: 3% – 4%
  • Interlocking edges to securely join adjacent sheets
  • Beveled outside edges to eliminate trip hazards, prevent curling, and provide easy cart access to matted areas
  • Place mats at least 8" under a workstation or conveyor to prevent uneven standing surfaces

The slide shows a sloped surface is beneficial for a standing work station as it relates to low back pain.  Which way is the floor sloped? 

The floor can slope either upwards or downwards to achieve the reduction in perceived low back discomfort.

Where can you purchase the desks as shown in the slides?

The photos are from the Humantech headquarters in Ann Arbor, MI.  Jim (L) uses a WorkRite Sierra Sit to Stand work station with electric motor control. Kevin (R) was shown at a Herman Miller Ethospace office system


How does cost compare between an office made to be sit/stand and the typical sit type?

In our experience, converting a fixed seated office workstation to a sit/stand station will range in cost between approximately $300 and $1,000 USD.

What additional resources/references are recommended on this subject?

Feel free to contact us and we can point you to some useful reference material for your specific application.