When my friend was training for an ironman, she focused a fair amount on shortening the time it took her to transition between swimming, biking, and running. Your transition time can make a major difference is your overall race time, and shorter transition times during your work day can have a major impact on productivity. In particular, when we talk about sit-stand workstations and transitioning between sitting and standing throughout the day, your transition time may not only impact your focus, concentration, and productivity, but it may also impact your willingness to take advantage of the benefits of your workstation.
Let’s face it, if your transition time takes so long that you do not feel you can easily fit it in frequently throughout the day, you are not likely to bother transitioning. To reap the health benefits of a sit-stand workstation, you must be willing to transition between the two frequently, and the best way to ensure your willingness to do so is to make the transition as easy and fast as possible. I started alternating between sitting and standing during the work day and have found that it had a tremendously positive impact to my health in terms of pain reduction.
I have been using three simple tools to transition quickly between a seated position and standing position:
Motorized desk – I have only worked with desks that have motorized controls which allow me to raise or lower the desk with a push of a button. If others have worked with manually adjustable desks, please share your thoughts on the speed, ease, and noise associated with their adjustment by leaving a comment. Motorized desks vary in terms of the noise of the motor, how high or low they can adjust to, and whether they allow you to save height settings or not, among other features. In terms of shortening transition times, the pre-set adjustment can be faster because you simply push the button to adjust and while the desk is moving to the set height, you can be moving your chair into place or out of the way. The self adjustment is nearly as fast, and I have found it easy to determine a correct height based on a 90 degree angle of my arms and comfort.
Rolling chair and space to move quickly out of and back into position – Rolling a chair around is the easiest and fastest part of the process unless you have nowhere to put it, or you put it in a location that regularly interferes with access to your files, trash can, etc. Having a designated, close, and out of the way location to place your chair while you stand at your desk is a time-saver every time you transition and removes the frustration of having a chair in your way while you are working in a standing position.
A light-weight floor pad – I have tried a few different ergonomic standing pads and had challenges with each until I tried one suggested to me by my physical therapist. The first was heavy, large, and had numerous bumps along the surface. The pad was too heavy and large to easily move around, and the bumpy surface was not at all compatible with an office chair for when I was not standing. The second was not bumpy but again was heavy, large, and did not work well with an office chair. I now use a lightweight and much thicker pad that is quick and easy to move out of the way and prop against the leg of my desk, or I can use it as a foot rest in front of my office chair. The pad I use is called a balance pad, and there are numerous manufacturers that produce them. I will caution that the pad that I use has a much smaller footprint than most of the ergonomic pads that are used in workplaces for positions that stand most of the day. I remain stationary while I type and work on the computer so I do not need a lot of room to move on the pad. If balance is a concern, however, a larger footprint and a thinner pad that is not designed to help improve balance would be more ideal.
One of the challenges with a sit-stand workstation is that it can be distracting, time consuming, or difficult to transition between sitting and standing. The longer it takes to transition, the more your focus is removed from the work at hand, and it may be more challenging to reengage in your task. I have found that incorporating a motorized desk, having a designated location for a rolling chair, and using a lightweight easily moved and stored floor pad has resulted in rapid transitions that enable me to maintain focus and productivity and I change positions throughout the day. I have also found that transitions based on how my body feels has been a very effective means of selecting timing. This is because as soon as I feel tired or notice discomfort, my concentration is already impacted. The sooner I can transition to a more comfortable position, the faster I can refocus and regain productivity, while addressing the issue that broke concentration in the first place.