6 top tips for sit stand users from an ergonomist

As an ergonomist I get the opportunity to visit many organisations. An increasing trend in the UK over the last 3 or 4 years is the installation of sit-stand desking systems or desk top accessories either as a complete installation or a part of the furniture offering provided by the organisation.

I have yet to visit a sit-stand installation where the majority of users have a good understanding of how they can gain the maximum benefit. Usually you have the really enthusiastic users who will stand up for hours at a time for fitness and calorie burning benefits and at the other end of the spectrum you’ll have the apathetic ‘I can’t be bothered with this fad’ users.

This has worried me somewhat and has led me to write this short summary of how to gain the maximum benefit from sit-stand desking as I think a sit-stand desk used properly is an ergonomist’s dream come true. This is because a sit-stand desk used properly can contribute to healthy postural variation throughout the working day if used properly, it can also help improve wellbeing and productivity.

Variation in posture would encourage movement and activity which in turn will improve blood circulation and help pool away lactic acids within the muscles and reduce fatigue. The discs in our spine do not have a direct blood supply, one of the ways discs get nutrients is through convection caused by movement. Our bodies thrive on movement and activity. The key factor to be aware of when using a sit-stand desk is that any posture adopted for prolonged periods is problematic for the human body.

Here are my six top tips to get the most of your sit – stand desk:

1) Aim for two postural changes per hour, sit for 40 minutes and stand for 20 minutes. This will allow you to get the benefit of both postures without the negatives setting in

2) When sitting or standing ensure that the desk is at the correct height, supporting the underside of your forearms when your elbows are at right angles without elevating your shoulders

3) When sitting set your chair up to support your lower back and unlock the chair to allow healthy movement

4) Keep the top of your screen in line with your eyes, this will allow the screen to be viewed comfortably without excessive flexion or extension of your neck

5) Keep your keyboard and mouse within easy reach. You should not have to move your upper arms away from your body to use them.

6) Remember a sit stand desk doesn’t replace the benefits of walking. Stand up and walk for at least 2-3 minutes every hour. This will allow healthy blood circulation and promote nutrient transfer to the discs in your spine.

Zaheer Osman (Chartered Fellow of the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors)


Publications by Senior Ergonomics Consultant

The file below provides a short summary outlining some of the published papers for our senior chartered ergonomics consultant.

Personal Publications Record v3

DSE and Office Ergonomics Research Summary

The white paper below was written in 2005 by Zaheer Osman but still contains a lot of relevant information about ergonomics in the office, Display Screen equipment and seating. The document summarises the following:

1) Relevant guidance, standards and legislation

2) Statistics

3) Information on different seating concepts and their effectiveness

4) Other chairs on the market

5) The human body

6) The future of the workplace

DSE Office Ergonomics – Brief Summary of Research

Train the Trainer Manual Handling and Ergonomics

We have conducted many train the trainer projects in manual handling and ergonomics.  These are usually tailored to the actual tasks with both theory and practical elements.

The document below summarises the approach we take when developing manual handling and ergonomics train the trainer programmes:

Manual Handling and Ergonomics Training – Train the Trainer

Case Study – DSE Assessment Process Review

A complete review of the DSE assessment process was conducted.  This included implementing a policy, DSE champions, video development, literature development as well as posture and ergonomics training.  The document below provides a summary of the project:

Display Screen Equipment Assessments

Case Study – Ergonomic Assessment of Lead Manufacturing

A comprehensive ergonomics assessment was conducted for a lead manufacturing plant which is summarised in the document below:

Ergonomics Assessment of Lead Manufacturing


Many improvements were identified which reduced the risk to the operatives.  A human factors review was conducted as a separate activity.

Case Study – Ergonomic survey of production line

A detailed review was conducted of a food manufacturing production line which consisted of repetitive tasks.  The summary of this case study is available in the document below:

Food production line ergonomics survey

Risk reduction was achieved through an effective rotation plan as well as postural training.

Case Study – Ergonomics Review of Refuse Workers

An ergonomics review of refuse workers was conducted.  The refuse workers conducted their collections manually without wheeled bins or bin lifts.  Their collections were largely bag based from the pavement.  The case study is summarised in the document below:

Ergonomics Survey of Refuse Workers

A 95% reduction in manual handling injuries and absences related to the same was achieved through an effective ergonomic change programme being designed and delivered to the refuse workers.

How to conduct a Display Screen Equipment Assessment – Ergonomic Workstation Checklist

The attached PDF titled ‘DSE Assessment steps and tips’ will allow you to understand some of the steps involved when conducting a Display Screen Equipment Assessment.  We provide DSE training which will allow your organisation to become self sufficient in conducting DSE assessments and to become compliant with the DSE regulations.


Tips for DSE assessment available below:

DSE steps and tips

Our ergonomists have developed checklists that can be utilised when conducting DSE assessments.  There is a part 1 which is a checklist that can be filled in by the user or assessor and a part 2 which allows the assessor to note down the actions.  Part 1 covers all aspects of the workstation including the chair, desk, display screen, keyboard, mouse and environment.

These have been provided below for you:

1 User Checklist

2 Action sheet

Hope you find the above useful.

How to choose a good Ergonomics Expert

Why use a Chartered Ergonomist?

Chartered ergonomists are usually labelled chartered ergonomics consultants by their employers. To be chartered with the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human factors (CIEHF) demonstrates that the ergonomist has the following:

  • A degree in ergonomics and human factors from an approved course (3 to 4 years of education)
  • Has demonstrated proficiency in ergonomics and human factors through various projects
  • Has been validated by peers through references
  • Has an adequate number of years of experience
  • They will have the post nominal letters of C.Erg.HF
  • Fellowship is only granted to highly experienced chartered ergonomists who can then display the post nominals FIEHF (Fellow of the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors)

Having said the above it is always important to select an ergonomist according to the relevancy of their work.  This is easily demonstrated through previous work and references.

There are many professionals from other disciplines such as physiotherapy, facilities, psychology who claim expertise in ergonomics however they usually will have not gone through the years of study focussing solely on ergonomics and their experience may not be as significant, of course there may be a few exceptions.

Why use a Chartered Ergonomics Consultancy?

A chartered ergonomics consultancy is an organisation that has undertaken significant work in the ergonomics field.  The chartered ergonomics consultancy will have gone through a rigorous vetting process by the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors.  They will have provided examples of projects in the various areas of expertise.  They will have had to provide references from clients which will have been verified by the CIEHF.  They will also need to have professional indemnity insurance.

Using a Chartered Consultancy will ensure the following:

  • Good quality ergonomics work
  • Employment of chartered ergonomists
  • A valid track record
  • Valid professional and public liability insurance

It is important to note the date when a consultancy was first registered as this is indicative of how many years of experience the chartered ergonomics consultancy may have.

IS being Chartered with IOSH important?

Becoming Chartered with IOSH takes a lot of effort and hard work.  You usually have to undergo a separate degree in health and safety to achieve this.  Only a few ergonomists can claim that they are also Chartered with the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. CMIOSH are the post nominals that can be used and this would ensure that the ergonomist understands the context of health and safety that ergonomics sits in.

Is OSHCR registration important?

OSHCR is the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register.  This is another accreditation that ensures that the individual you are working with is vetted and has the relevant insurances in place.


Visit the CIEHF website to help in the selection of ergonomics consultants and consultancies.  Look at their date of registration to help evaluate the number of years of experience. Ask for previous examples of work and copies of their insurance certificates.

Using a chartered fellow of the CIEHF will allow you to work with the most experienced and respected ergonomists in their field.  Working with a chartered ergonomist / fellow who is also CMIOSH (Chartered Member of the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors) will be a great reassurance of working with an ergonomist with a rounded experience in the context of health and safety.

This will ensure you get the Chartered Ergonomist suitable for your project and enable you to achieve the best results in implementing ergonomics and human factors.