Occupational Requirements Survey

Sitting and standing

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The Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS) publishes job-related information on physical demands; environmental conditions; education, training, and experience; as well as cognitive and mental requirements. The job requirements reflect those necessary for workers to perform critical tasks in support of the critical job functions, and not the capabilities of individual workers. Sitting and standing estimates are physical demands requirements.

Sitting and standing estimates have three separate components: sitting, standing, and sitting or standing at will. For the purposes of the ORS, workers are always considered to be either sitting or standing. These activities are presented as the percentage of the workday required to perform these activities, with the total amount of time sitting and standing summing to the full daily work schedule. This includes all time spent in the workplace, not just the time spent performing critical tasks in support of the critical job functions.

The percent of the workday is standardized according to the work schedule. Such that if the work schedule is 10 hours and sitting is required for 4 hours, the percent of the workday where sitting is required would be represented as 40 percent as opposed to standardizing the time to an eight hour workday which would correspond to 50 percent of the workday.

Sitting - is present when either condition exists:

  • Workers remain in a seated position. This includes active sitting. For example, a police officer riding a bicycle to patrol traffic or a landscaper mowing a residential lawn in a seated mower. Riding a bicycle includes pushing or pulling with feet and legs; while mowing may include gross manipulation or pulling and pulling with the hands and arms.
  • Workers are lying down. This includes active lying down. For example, a mechanic lying on a dolly working underneath a vehicle is sitting.

Chart A includes occupations where workers have a job requirement of sitting, which is common for many office environments. For example, accountants and auditors are required to sit (on average) for 88.9 percent of the workday, while food preparation and serving related occupations are required to sit for 2.6 percent of the workday.

Standing - workers may choose between sitting and standing for a given task.

For example, office workers can choose a standing desk. Standing is present whenever workers are not sitting or lying down. This includes time spent in “low postures” such as stooping, crawling, kneeling, crouching, or climbing. For example, pest control workers crawling in an attic to apply pesticides or workers who stand their entire shift except during paid breaks.

Chart A includes occupations where workers have a job requirement of standing. For example, nurse practitioners are required to stand (on average) for 65.3 percent of the workday, while accountants and auditors are required to stand for 11.1 percent of the workday.

Chart A. Percentage of the workday required to sit or stand   
  

 

Sitting or standing at will - workers can alternate between sitting and standing. Sitting or standing at will is present when the following conditions exist:

  • Workers typically have the flexibility to choose between sitting and standing throughout the workday. Riding a bicycle includes pushing or pulling with feet and legs; while mowing may include gross manipulation or pulling and pulling with the hands and arms.
  • There is no assigned time during the day to sit or stand.
  • No external factors determine whether an employee must sit or stand.

While there may be tasks that require workers to be sitting or standing, if workers can determine when to perform that specific critical tasks, then they may still have the ability to sit or stand at will. For example, 100.0 percent of web developers can choose between sitting or standing at will while 83.1 percent of workers in production occupations cannot choose between these physical demands.

Duration of sitting and standing

In addition to the average percent of the workday spent sitting or standing, the percentile distribution of percent of the workday and total hours spent performing these physical requirements are also published.

Chart B provides the distribution of the percent of the workday all civilian workers are required to sit or stand. On average civilian workers spend 42.2 percent of the workday sitting and 57.8 percent standing. The median estimate indicates that 50 percent of civilian workers spend less than 35 percent of the workday sitting and 50 percent spend more than 35 percent of it sitting. Similarly, 50 percent of workers spend less than 65 percent of the workday standing and 50 percent spend more than 65 percent of the workday standing.

Chart B. Percentage of the worday required to sit or stand  

 

Chart B data table
 Chart B. Percentage of the workday required to sit or stand for all civilian workers, 2019
Percentile Sitting Standing

10th percentile

- 5.0%

25th percentile

5.0% 20.0%

50th (median) percentile

35.0% 65.0%

75th percentile

80.0% 95.0%

90th percentile

95.0% 100.0%

Mean (average)

42.2% 57.8%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Requirements Survey

 

Chart C provides the corresponding number of hours spent standing throughout the workday. In 2019, civilian workers spent an average of 3.31 hours sitting and 4.25 hours standing. Hours ranged from 24 minutes of standing for the 10th percentile and 8 hours for the 90th percentile.

Chart C. Hours of the workday spent sitting or standing   

 

Chart C data table
 Chart C. Hours of the workday required to sit or stand for all civilian workers, 2019
Percentile Sitting Standing

10th percentile

- 0.4

25th percentile

- 1.6

50th (median) percentile

2.5 4.0

75th percentile

6.3 6.8

90th percentile

7.6 8.0

Mean (average)

3.31 4.25

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Requirements Survey

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For additional information on occupational requirements see the ORS homepage or download the ORS complete dataset to explore the latest estimates.