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3 Reasons to Avoid Standing Mats in Your Office Design

Posted on Jul 19, 2016, by Mike Brown

Sit-to-stand offices are growing in popularity, and with good reason: they offer a myriad of health and productivity benefits to employees and organizations alike.

However, the wide-spread adoption of this new working practice often has an unintended side-effect, with many employees starting to struggle with muscular fatigue as a result of increased standing. Many organizations turn to standing mats to alleviate discomfort and improve wellbeing, but actually, standing mats can sometimes cause more problems than they solve. Today, I’m looking at 3 reasons to avoid standing mats.

1)     They’re a Hindrance to Mobility

Standing mats are great for standing working. With a comfortable, supportive structure, they can be a big help to employees who spend most of their working day up-and-about. This makes them hugely popular in standing-dominant environments, like restaurants, checkout counters and even manufacturing spaces.

But the trouble is, they do little to accommodate seated working. Even in a sit-to-stand office, seated working is still an important part of the day – something which standing mats can interfere with. Most mats have raised edges, making it difficult to wheel chairs on and off, and the soft material used in their construction can make movement even harder. This usually means that the transition from seated to standing working requires employees to stand up and carry their chair away – repeating the process when they want to sit down.

When employees have to do this multiple times a day, standing mats have an unintended side-effect: limiting the adoption of sit-to-stand working, instead of encouraging it.

2)     They Can Send the Wrong Message

When you specify standing mats, there’s an implicit message broadcast to the people destined to use your office design: it’s good to be standing, and even standing for long periods of time. Given the many benefits of sit-to-stand working (from improved focus through to a lower risk of diabetes and heart diseases), this message might not seem problematic – until you consider where the benefits of sit-to-stand come from.

The health benefits of sit-to-stand working come largely from movement and regularly changing your working position, not from standing alone. Standing all day is no better than sitting all day; it’s the regular transition between the two that helps improve health and wellness. As Alan Hedge, from Cornell University’s Department of Design and Education, says: “If what you’re doing is replacing sitting with standing, you’re not actually doing your body any favors. In fact, you’re introducing a whole variety of new risk factors.”

One recommended best practice is to divide each hour into 50 minutes of seated working, and 10 minutes standing – so it’s important to make sure that standing mats aren’t weighting the balance of standing-to-sitting in an uneven way.

3)     They’re an Added Expense

Standing mats are great for providing support to tired feet and ankles, but actually, your choice of carpet can offer many of the same benefits.

Some carpet tiles have a special type of cushioning known as open cell cushion backing, which provides superior underfoot support using the same kind of technology found in high-performance sports shoes. This can have a huge impact on the comfort and wellbeing of standing workers, reducing muscle fatigue by as much as 24%, and heel impact loads by up to 30%.

Over the course of the working day, this means fewer aches and pains, without the added expense of standing mats. Instead of buying additional equipment to facilitate sit-to-stand working, you can ensure the comfort and wellbeing of standing employees through smart flooring choices.

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Topics: Health & Wellness

Mike Brown

Written by Mike Brown