Sit to Stand Workstations

According to Victoria Health (2012), “New research findings show time spent sitting is associated with being overweight or obese, unhealthy blood-glucose and blood-lipid profiles and with premature death from heart disease. Adverse relationships have been observed even among those who meet public health recommendations on participation in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity”.

Sit-to-stand work stations enable users to easily alternate between work in a sitting and standing position, which may be particularly useful for some individuals with back problems that are aggravated by prolonged sitting. The user should ensure that they build up their standing tolerance and change position frequently as prolonged standing can be hazardous. Anti-fatigue mats may also need to be considered for use when standing.

Benefits of sit-to-stand workstations:

  • Reduced fatigue
  • Less static and musculo-skeletal loading by varying postures from sitting to standing
  • Better bodily circulation by incorporating movement into computing routines

Who might be eligible for a sit-to-stand workstation?

  • Diagnosed condition and treatment by a relevant health care professional
  • Documented chronic/ permanent injury with treatment
  • Relevant congenital anomaly
  • Spinal compression with related neurological symptoms
  • Other circumstances, as agreed by the Health and Safety Coordinator (Manual Tasks/Ergonomics)

How do you obtain a sit to stand workstation?

Step 1 – ensure that you have completed the online ergonomics training, reviewed the workstation set up guideline: HS705 Guide to your Computer Workstation, completed the workstation self-assessment checklist: HS114 Workstation Checklist and are taking appropriate Rest Breaks and changing position periodically

Step 2 - Discuss with your supervisor whether a sit-to-stand work station may be appropriate, and whether you meet the eligibility criteria

Step 3 - If, after the above requirements have been met and the effects of any changes have been monitored for an appropriate period of time, a person or work group is still experiencing problems, related symptoms or needs further advice, please contact the H&S Coordinator (Hazardous Manual Tasks/Ergonomics) on 9385 2916 or to discuss and, if necessary, arrange a further assessment.

The individual/work area will need to provide evidence that they have completed the online Ergonomics training and provide their completed Workstation Self-assessment Checklist

Step 4 –The Health and Safety Coordinator (Hazardous Manual Tasks/Ergonomics) will request the completion of a Work Modification Clinical Recommendation Form by an appropriate treating health or medical professional, as nominated by the Health and Safety Coordinator (Hazardous Manual Tasks/Ergonomics), and will usually conduct, or arrange for an assessment to be completed by a competent individual. 

Step 5 - If the H&S Coordinator (Hazardous Manual Tasks/Ergonomics) recommends a sit-to stand workstation, the local department can fund this. Alternatively, if your department has not budgeted for this item, a funding application may be submitted through Job Access or UNSW's Reasonable Adjustment Fundor workers can purchase their own sit-to-stand workstation, with advice from UNSW Health and Safety. 


Sit-to-stand options

There are two types of sit-to-stand work stations. The first is a module that sits on top of the desk and is able to be raised and lowered, and the other is a complete desk of varying sizes and specifications, that can be raised and lowered.

Sit-to-stand modules are designed to be used with an existing desk. They may sit directly on, or are attached to an existing desk and provide a cost-efficient mechanism for alternating between sitting and standing. They are useful with workstations that are pre-configured with adjoining partitions. Prices range from around $500 to $1000.

Options include:

  • Varidesk: Preferred over Ergotron due to its ease of installation and removal.
  • Ergotron: There are a number of styles available, and the best one depends on the orientation and size of your desk. These require installation by the supplier (and dismantling if it must be moved at a later date). Available from Peacock Bros and Ergonomic Essentials

Sit-to-stand (height adjustable) desks allow everything on the desk to move up and down for use by the user in sitting or standing, and can be adjusted for use by multiple people of various heights. They should have a minimum of 100kg safe working load (which includes the weight of the desk top surface) and ideally be motor-operated with plug into the wall (not a battery pack which can be more prone to failure) to enable ease of adjustment. For mixed tasks (e.g. keyboard and clerical work), the work surface should have minimum dimensions of 1600 mm × 800 mm (AS/NZS 4442: 1997). Prices range from around $1000 for a single straight desk to $2000+ for a corner work station.

Options include:

Considerations when purchasing sit-to-stand workstations

  • Always check the dimensions prior to purchase to ensure compatibility with the existing office and work station fittings. In particular, check overhead shelving which may obstruct the monitor(s) when used at the appropriate height in a standing position.
  • Sit-stand workstations are designed to enable alternation between sitting and standing, not for prolonged standing, which can also be hazardous. Users will still need a chair for sitting.
  • When selecting a sit-to-stand desk:
    • Ensure that the safe working load for the unit’s support mechanism is sufficient for the equipment you will have on it in addition to the weight of the desk top surface.
    • It is recommended that potential purchasers of sit-stand desks contact the supplier to provide advice on suitability of a proposed desk, and if practicable, conduct a visit to recommend a particular option.
  • When using sit to stand modules such as the Varidesk or Ergotron, items that stay on your desk such as your phone, paperwork, stationary etc. will remain at a low level when users are standing at the unit. This could then require stretching and over-reaching to use these items while you are standing. If this is likely to be an issue, consider using a sit-stand desk instead.
  • Some users may benefit from use of an anti-fatigue mat when standing for longer periods.

Setting up your sit-to-stand workstation

Users should aim for the same monitor and keyboard set-up when moving between sitting and standing. That is, elbows should be at a 90 angle when hands are on the keyboard, monitor should be about an arm’s length away from the user and eyes should be level with the top of the monitor or top of the text being viewed. 

Other Benefits of Standing

  • Expend more energy
  • Increase overall energy for better mental focus
  • Relieve bodily stress caused by sitting

Other Ways to Stand More at Work

  • Walk more at work - park your car further away from your building; use stairs instead of elevators; take a long route to the bathroom or photocopier
  • Set a timer to remind you to stand up and stretch every 30 minutes, and use this time to clean your work area.
  • Stand up when using the phone.
  • Avoid sending emails if the recipient is near; walk over and talk to them.
  • Avoid long sitting commutes by standing on the bus or train.