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Squatting @ Your Desk?

September 25, 2014

Recently, a Bitehype blogger, Feyyaz Alingan, pitched employers on an over-looked posture that may be beneficial in the office – the squat. Not sitting or standing but squatting. A posture most Westerners have lost, with tight hips and achilles due to spending days in desk chairs, squatting is a regular occurrence throughout Asia.

The squat is highly beneficial for a  for a number of reasons:

  • if you’re an advanced squatter (i.e., your heels can stay flat on the ground), it’s a way to rest while staying on your own feet.
  • Our bodies adapt to the postures we put them in, so sitting in chairs causes a loss of hip mobility, which is super harmful for our bodies and health.
  • The squat opens up your hips, which helps prevent lower back pain and aids in maintaining knee health.

As researchers from the Harvard Business School discovered, our postures affect our behaviour. In a series of experiments, psychologists had subjects work from different devices: an iPod touch, a laptop, or a desktop. In a curious ergonomic turn, desktop users were bolder than the folks hunkered over petite devices.

The reason? Postures trigger different chemical reactions in human brains. A famous example is that putting a smile on your face actually helps you to feel happier, even if you don’t have a good “reason” to feel that way.

See: The Variable Work Week 

Similarly, the more open the shoulders, arms and the rest of your body, the more you’ll feel confident and capable. Hiding your hands is a sign of feebleness, while having your arms high and open is a positive posture that comes naturally to chimpanzees, cobras and humans.

The inference that can be made about squatting is that it allows people to rest, unlike standing,  while maintaining openness. This is as opposed to sitting, which closes an individual off and weakens them. In essence, squatting is the postural equivalent of a cup of green tea, creating both calmness and alertnes.

Squatting for five hours might be excessive, especially for the hips. But squatting for 5-10 minutes might be suitable and possible. Staff could put their laptops on a bench and work from there, perched upon their chair (if stable) or work from the ground.

Office furniture designers Steelcase have explained that maintaining a palette of postures throughout the workday leads to being alert and productive self, preserving health and optimising psychological and physiological responses. So adding a squat to that posture palette might be entirely justified.

Disclosure: This article was written while squatting.

Credit: Baer, D. (2014). Should You Be Squatting At Your Desk? Fast Company.

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