Strange Bedfellows

How often do you pondered the benefits of ergonomics?

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

We are all familiar with ergonomics. It’s the science of designing and arranging things people use so that the interaction between the users and things are natural and efficient. There have also been calls to concern regarding the general health of a population that’s increasingly stationary, staring into a screen, with bad posture. So, I decided to try the standing desk trend – for science and health.

The benefits of standing at the desk haven’t been backed conclusively by scientific evidence. However, the change in position from sitting to standing, and vice versa, acts to prevent the user from remaining in either position for too long. At the same time, health experts do recommend moving about regularly during the day so that the user isn’t stuck at his desk.

In my typical workday, I’m usually on my feet for approximately five hours. Let me clarify; I’m not in a profession that requires me to be on my feet. It’s a personal choice to stand at my desk for work that primarily involves sitting prone and creating content in front of a PC.

As most office desk jobs go, I don’t have the luxury to opt for a fancy electronic desk with all the bells and whistles of height adjustment such as the Omnidesk from Singaporebased Aftershock, or going extreme health-nut mode with a treadmill desk from NordicTrack (I would never have gotten the budget approved for that anyway). Instead, I have a fixed desktop, so I opted for a middle-ofthe-road compromise and got myself a standing desk converter.

For the uninitiated, a standing desk converter is basically a heightadjustable stand that sits atop any flat surface. It’s strong enough to hold either your laptop or a combination of a monitor, keyboard and mouse. This gives me the flexibility of standing if I wanted to, and the whole setup is modular enough that I can pack it up easily and move to another desk.

Since the beginning of the year, I have used this device and haven’t look back. However, when I first started standing at work, my overzealous efforts resulted in a sore back and strained calf muscles. Was I doing it wrong? Is standing worse than sitting? Since then, I’ve settled into habit of alternating between standing and sitting—which underscores the earlier-mentioned point of not staying in any position for too long—to great effect.

With sitting back into the picture, maintaining a good posture became more important. But, let’s face it, when we’re sitting down, we all want to be as comfortable as we can. It is next to impossible to keep reminding yourself to sit with good posture. You could go the ergonomics route, and there are plenty of options from Singapore’s own NeueChair to the Herman Miller Aeron, often regarded as the gold standard in office ergonomics. If you are more adventurous, you could also try the technology route. There’s this little device called the Upright Go posture trainer that attaches to your back and sends vibrations to “remind” you to keep a good posture when it detects you’re slouching. It’s essentially behavioral conditioning, and over time, you should subconsciously maintain better posture.

My advice to anyone who wants to start implementing ergonomics in your life, is to do some initial research. Listen to your body to determine its responses to the new ergonomic setup., and adjust the solution to suit your own personal needs.

Ergonomics is like exercise, the basic principles and health benefits are there, but you’ll need a tailored solution and be able to keep at it to see the benefits in the long term. Your body will eventually adjust and your new setup will feel natural to you, hopefully for the better.

My Reading Room

"The ideal standing desk is an adjustable unit, and being able to alternate between standing and sitting at regular intervals."

"Health experts do recommend moving about regularly during the day so that the user isn’t stuck at his desk."

By Wong Chung Wee