Standing for long periods at work

What can be done to help?

Two wooden figures touching their head or back

It is well known that staying seated at a desk for long periods of time is bad for our health: Numerous articles in the media and warnings from experts help to keep the spotlight on this issue. However, many workers only sit down very occasionally – their jobs demand that they remain on their feet. So the question is: What happens to your body when you stand up in one position for 6 or more hours every day? How do extended periods of standing affect performance? We have the answers and tips to help employers design healthy standing workplaces. 

Extended periods of standing reduce ability to concentrate 

Employees in many trades and production professions as well as in large kitchens frequently stand in one position for long periods of time – often for 6 hours and more a day. And the consequences are serious: If you remain standing for a long time, you become tired and unfocused, since the body and brain are not supplied with sufficient oxygen and nutrients due to the lack of blood circulation. Further frequent complaints include

  • headaches,
  • perception disorders, 
  • impaired fine motor skills and 
  • delayed reaction times.

This can increase the risk of accidents, for example when staff have to operate machinery.

Woman standing on anti-fatigue-mat

Strains on the body when standing at work

Standing for long periods of time can also have a major detrimental impact on the body. The muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons and veins are subject to continuous stress and strain. The blood is unable to circulate properly and therefore cannot supply the body with nutrients. This can result in painful cramps, strains and induration of the muscles. Prolonged standing can also lead to foot and leg pain. Heal pain and spurs and the sensation of having heavy legs are all common. In the longer term, varicose veins and even thromboses are possible.

The back suffers, too

Extended periods of standing cause the intervertebral discs to suffer. They themselves are not supplied with sufficient amounts of blood, and consequently have to source important nutrients, e.g., oxygen and glucose, from the surrounding tissue. However, this is only possible if they are compressed and released, since they work like sponges which draw in and then release liquid. The more frequently we change our posture between standing, sitting, running and lying, the better this is for our intervertebral discs. Continuous standing on the other hand (just like prolonged sitting) means that the intervertebral discs are continuously under pressure and unable to absorb nutrients.

Wooden figure with hand on its back

Standing at work: A risk of slipped discs

The result: They lose their elasticity and become brittle and cracked. This compromises the mobility of the entire spine: It is no longer able to cushion shocks and impacts properly. Chronic changes to the intervertebral discs and vertebral bodies are commonplace and can cause nerve dysfunction, lumbago or a slipped disc. In this case, the viscous contents of the intervertebral disc are expelled through a tear in the sheath of connective tissue. The result: Severe pain or even paralysis. 

 

Making standing workplaces good for your health

Companies can employ simple measures to reduce the negative effects on health. Starting with the nature of the job profile

  • Ideally, an employee should perform the greatest possible variety of standing and sedentary tasks
  • If the job does not allow for this, job rotation or more varied tasks should be considered, for example. 
  • Standing aids can also reduce the strain on staff. However, it must be ensured that sufficient space is available for such aids. They look like ergonomically designed bar stools. Since they are primarily used at production counters, they should be height-adjustable so as to enable ergonomic working.
Anti-Fatigue mat by CWS-boco

Anti-fatigue mats – the solution for healthy standing

According to the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, elastic flooring is also extremely helpful. This works to reduce joint and spinal fatigue at standing workplaces. In addition, they act as heat insulators and prevent the feet from getting cold. What’s more, it is very easy to retrofit such flooring, for example with anti-fatigue mats from CWS-boco. These medically tested special mats respond to minimal physical movement and take the pressure off the back and leg muscles as well as joints. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) has tested and praised this health-promoting effect.

This reduction in strain serves to boost circulation and, in turn, reduce fatigue and a deterioration in performance. The non-slip mat made of 100% nitrile rubber is easy to clean and has an anti-static effect. The mats come in four sizes to ensure the ideal configuration for your workplaces.

Creating healthy standing workplaces

In many professions, extended periods of standing are unavoidable. However, it is possible to minimise the health and financial consequences. There are a multitude of ways for employers to ensure that employees stay on top of their game; these include alternating tasks, standing aids in workplaces and anti-fatigue mats.

Sources:
http://www.guss-net.de/gruendergruppen/einzelhandel/gesundheitsrisiken-vermeiden/langes-stehen/
German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: Knocked out upright? When you have to survive work on your feet. Download available at: www.baua.de/DE/Angebote/Publikationen/Praxis/A38.pdf?__blob=publicationFile
Product brochure: CWS dust control systems: The neat solution. Download available at https://www.cws-boco.com/en-US/solutions/dust-control-mats

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