Sit Down, Stand Up: Tips from Ergonomics Expert Alan Hedge

  • 3 min read

Sure, your office may look cool, but is it ergonomically correct? Ergonomics often get the short shrift when you’re planning out your workspace but they are extremely important for your health and productivity. We interviewed world-renown ergonomics expert Alan Hedge, a Cornell University professor who’s frequently asked to weigh in on the whole sitting vs. standing at the workplace debate. Hedge gave us some great tips about how to make the daily grind more comfortable, plus the scoop on some very cool gadgets.

1. Standing while working has become trendy, but of course that's just going from one extreme to the other. What do you think is the ideal ratio between sitting and standing while working?

The "ideal" ratio is something that might vary from person to person but in general we suggest that people follow the 20/20/20 rule, which means that every 20 minutes they stand up and move for at least 20 seconds and look at least 20 feet to the distance to rest the eyes. We then also suggest that they take two or three minutes every hour to move around. Research shows that interspersing periods of sitting with short periods of standing addresses many of the longer-term adverse effects of sitting.

2. What is your own workspace like? How have you made it ergonomically correct?

As an academic, I am fortunate to have a private office. However, I am seldom sitting in the office for long periods of time because I am teaching classes, working with students on research in the laboratory's, and at meetings, so I am not the "normal" office worker.

In my office I do use ergonomic equipment. I have a laptop that is on a Logitech alto laptop holder and this elevates the screen to a comfortable viewing height; I have an electronic height adjustable workstation made by work right, although I must admit that I seldom use the adjustment and I never do computer work in a standing posture because I spend a reasonable amount of time each day moving around. Attached to the height adjustable worksurface, I have a Humanscale negative tilt adjustable keyboard tray and mouse platform that allows me to position my wireless keyboard and wireless mouse optimally. I sit in a high-back Freedom chair made by Humanscale.


3. We love good workplace design -- it's why we started Heartwork! What are some of the coolest, ergonomically designed office furniture and/or accessories that you have seen?

 The most cost-effective thing that you can do to make a workspace more ergonomic is to use a keyboard and mouse on a height-adjustable negative-tilt keyboard/mouse tray. This is followed by the ability to adjust the screen, and there are a number of adjustable arms that allow users to easily adjust the height, angle, and distance of the screen. The ability to change posture from sitting to standing and vice versa is becoming more popular and some retrofit products have been developed such as the Ergotron Work-fit sit to stand product, and the Humanscale Float table “Sit to Stand” product. In addition, there’s a range of innovative keyboard and mouse designs, especially from Microsoft and Logitech.

4. When you walk into an office, what's usually the biggest ergonomic offender you see?


Usually the biggest problem is that people are leaning forwards, hunched over their computer with the keyboard on a flat surface that is at an incorrect height which results in their hands being in sustained wrist extension (increasing the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome), and with the screen either too high or too low or in a twisted position relative to the person.

5. We can certainly be guilty of leaning forward and hunching over especially when we're engrossed in our work! Do you have any tricks for good posture while working?

For health, you should change posture fairly frequently and try and keep moving with your body in a neutral, non-deviated position. There are some products that have recently entered the marketplace that will provide you with a reminder about how long you have been static or whether you are in a poor position. For example, the Hoverstop mouse vibrates if you have been holding it in one position for too long to remind you to move your hand. You can wear a LUMOback that senses your posture and measures how often you change position throughout the day, and it vibrates to alert you to poor posture.


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