By Jayden Mark
As anyone who’s worked a retail or service job likely knows, standing all day at work can be really rough on your feet after a while. Many jobs involve standing for most or all of the day. Unfortunately, muscle soreness is not the extent of the problems you might face when you frequently have to stand all day for work. In this article, we’ll explore some of the jobs that require standing all day, the health issues that might arise from these jobs, and some of the remedies.
Types of Jobs
Many jobs require laborers to stand for the entire shift. Perhaps you already know of jobs like these, or you have one yourself. Let’s break this down into categories and consider jobs which require standing, and some jobs that require less.
In the United States, it is common for retail workers to have to stand as they work—even clerks at the check-out counter. Retail jobs involve responsibilities like helping customers, restocking shelves, taking inventory, checking customers out, and cleaning. Most of these responsibilities involve standing. It is rare to find a retail job that will not involve long periods of standing.
The service industry is a broad category which includes many jobs from food service to healthcare to housekeeping. Many of these jobs require all-day standing, but not all of them. Consider customer service, which can often be done remotely through a call center.
Waiters and servers are on their feet pretty much any time they’re working. In the United States especially, waiters tend to be very active, because they have to frequently check on all the tables in their section. Not only are they standing all day, but they walk a lot as well. This can contribute to the same problems we’ll look at later, including foot, leg, and back pain, fatigue, soreness, and stiffness.
These are not the only jobs in the food service industry that require standing. Cooks must stand as well in order to have the best mobility in the kitchen. And fast-food workers, while they are spared the majority of the bussing duties of waiters, must stand behind the counter all day, just like retail workers.
Nursing is another job that can easily cause fatigue. Not only is there the physical strain of standing and walking for most of the day, but there is also the mental strain that can come from patient care. The same is true for other positions in the medical industry. For example, surgeons frequently have to stand for hours at a time while in surgery, and EMTs have to stand, walk, and run to triage patients in the field.
However, there are jobs in the healthcare industry that involve a greater variety of sitting and standing time. Consider certain medical fields that allow for the healthcare provider to sit with the patient: Dentistry, optometry, or psychiatry, just to name a few.
Housekeeping and Cleaning
Janitorial jobs are also jobs that allow for very little down-time. Whether it is working as a housekeeper or cleaning person in someone’s home, or working as a custodian for a school or office building, these workers have to stand and walk around a lot. Of all the options in this field, working as a private cleaning person may allow for the most flexibility and more frequent breaks, so it is something to consider when looking at jobs in this industry.
Blue Collar Jobs
Many trades involve standing as well. Auto mechanics, construction workers, and factory workers often must do heavy lifting in addition to standing all day, and heavy lifting can exacerbate some of the problems we’ll discuss in the next section. However, not all “blue collar” work requires standing. If you’re looking for such a job that doesn’t involve standing, consider working as a bus or truck driver, for one example. Just keep in mind that health issues can also arise from sitting all day. It’s best to have a balance.
Types of Health Issues
What health issues can arise from standing all day? The obvious answers are pain in the feet, legs, back, and knees. You might also think of muscle soreness, joint stiffness, or fatigue. It is certainly true that these are all hazards from certain kinds of jobs. However, there are also long-term occupational health issues that can cause serious damage if left untreated.
Musculoskeletal disorders are issues which affect your muscles and joints at the same time, as evident in the name. Some common disorders include tendinitis, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis. These issues can occur in the knees, ankles, or lower back, as well as in other parts of the body.
According to the World Health Organization, about 1.71 billion people in the world have at least one musculoskeletal disorder. Many of them are treatable, especially when caught early, but it is best to try and prevent them from occurring in the first place. The risk of getting one of these disorders increases with age, which is why it is important to consider your health and occupational safety early.
Plantar fasciitis commonly occurs when one has no proper arch support. About ten percent of people eventually get plantar fasciitis. It is inflammation in the sole of the foot. Proper footwear can greatly reduce the risk of getting plantar fasciitis. Proper shoes should provide quality arch support and be designed with ergonomics in mind. Quality footwear can prevent or reduce the risk of many of these problems, as we’ll look at later.
Other work-related health issues that may come up from standing all day include poor circulation, posture problems, varicose veins, and swollen feet. Poor circulation and posture issues can cause chronic fatigue as well.
One study showed that participants had long-term fatigue after standing for a five-hour period. Fatigue was measured through electrical stimulation and through surveys of the participants themselves, and symptoms were measured even after the participants stopped reporting feeling fatigue, which shows that long-term fatigue can sometimes go unnoticed, despite still having a negative impact.
The good news is that even if fatigue and these other issues arise, they can be rectified before long-term damage occurs. Swollen feet, too, can be treated and do not have to last long. Make sure you are getting plenty of down-time outside of work to allow your feet to relax.
To remedy the issues mentioned here, or even prevent them entirely, there are many options. Some are meant to attack the root cause, and some are meant to treat symptoms as they arise.
To prevent health complications from arising, there are two important things you can do. First, you can talk to a podiatrist and get some advice on the best kind of footwear to support your feet. See if your doctor has recommendations, not only for specific shoe models, but for other products as well, like arch-supporting insoles or other foam inserts.
The other “big picture” solution is to examine the job that is causing these health issues and see what you can do to change it. Can you switch to a different position in the same field or company that requires less standing? If this is not possible, see what you can do to make your job easier and increase occupational safety.
If your job involves standing in one place all day, such as a store clerk, consider asking your employer to install anti-fatigue mats by the register. Standing on a softer surface will be more comfortable and allow you to work without tiring so easily. Consider asking for more frequent breaks, or more tasks which allow for sitting.
Treating the Symptoms
If you are already feeling the effects of some of the health issues mentioned here, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor. They can recommend a treatment plan for you. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to alleviate your discomfort.
As mentioned before, proper footwear is very important. You should wear work shoes, as they are usually designed for people who stand and walk all day. Consider, too, the occupational safety that your job requires. There are many jobs where non-slip shoes can prevent workplace accidents or injury. If buying new shoes is not currently in your budget, you can also buy foam insoles to increase comfort as a short-term solution.
Another helpful thing to do is stretching exercises. Try to stretch your feet and legs before work, and during your breaks. After work, try massaging your feet gently. This will help increase circulation again and may reduce swelling.
Remember, too, that you are more than just a pair of feet. The way you treat your body can affect more than just your feet, just as foot health can affect the rest of your body. Make sure you are getting regular exercise and eating healthy. Consider cutting back on drugs or avoiding them completely, including alcohol and cigarettes. Keeping your body healthy will reduce your risk of musculoskeletal disorders and give you more energy.
For many people, standing all day for work is unavoidable. If this is the case for you, you must take extra care to look after yourself. Take steps now to prevent work-related health issues as much as you can, and your body will thank you later in life. Try to stretch or work out regularly, and if you can afford a good pair of non-slip, ergonomic work shoes, it is a very wise investment that will serve you later on. After all, if you don’t look after your feet, who will?
For further reading, check out this scientific article on standing all day, as well as the sources linked for this article below.