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Workers in a kitchen.
Unsplash/Michael Browning
In the kitchen, it’s all about the footwork
TAKING A STAND

If you literally never want to sit down on the job, here are the careers for you

Dan Kopf
By Dan Kopf

Data editor

From our Obsession

The Office

How we shape, experience, and define the workplace.

The last thing many people want to do is sit at their desk all day. It can be boring and lonely and just bad for your health. But for those with particularly grueling jobs, the opportunity to take a seat would be most welcome.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average American worker spent 39% of the workday sitting and 61% standing in 2016. Yet very few workers actually spend three fifths of their time standing. As part of the Occupational Requirement Survey, BLS collects estimates of the sitting and standing percentages for more than one hundred different occupations. The data shows that for about half of all jobs, you’ll be doing one or the other more than 80% of the time.

The most standing-heavy jobs are in food service, cleaning and retail. Cooks (2.6% sitting) and housekeeping cleaners (3.5%) are on their feet just about all day. Bookkeeping and finance jobs are at the other end of the spectrum. Accountants (90.1% sitting) and insurance adjusters (86.2%) are prime targets for the standing desk industry.

The following table displays estimates of the average time spent sitting during the workday for 135 occupations. The estimates are based on samples, but are likely accurate to within 1-4%. This is the first year that the US government has collected this data.

RankOccupation% of workday sitting
1Sales floor stock clerks1.2%
2Food prep. and serving workers1.7%
3Cooks, restaurant2.6%
4Cooks, fast food2.7%
5Counter attendants2.9%
6Dishwashers2.9%
7Meat and fish cutters3.0%
8Packers and packagers, hand3.1%
9Food preparation workers3.2%
10Maids and housekeeping cleaners3.5%
11Waiters and waitresses3.7%
12Dining room attendants and barhands3.7%
13Cooks, short order4.0%
14Restaurant hosts4.2%
15Janitors and cleaners4.5%
16Cashiers5.0%
17Carpenters5.4%
18Cooks, institution and cafeteria6.0%
19Laundry and dry6.3%
20Bakers6.5%
21Bartenders6.8%
22Construction carpenters7.4%
23Stock clerks and order fillers7.9%
24Helpers8.7%
25Team assemblers9.0%
26Food servers, nonrestaurant9.5%
27Construction laborers9.8%
28Welders, cutters, and welder fitters10.0%
29Building and grounds maintenance workers10.4%
30Pharmacy technicians10.7%
31Retail salespersons10.8%
32Packaging and filling machine operators11.4%
33Laborers and freight and material movers11.5%
34Electricians11.8%
35Cutting, punching, and press machine setters14.0%
36Automotive service technicians and mechanics14.9%
37Maintenance and repair workers, general16.0%
38Nursing assistants16.2%
39Production workers16.8%
40Construction and extraction workers16.9%
41Industrial machinery mechanics18.0%
42Multiple machine tool setters18.1%
43Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks18.6%
44Maintenance workers, machinery20.5%
45Installation and repair workers21.1%
46Stock clerks21.6%
47Pharmacists21.9%
48Secondary school teachers23.7%
49Home health aides23.8%
50Bus and truck mechanics24.0%
51Landscaping and groundskeeping workers25.4%
52Elementary school teachers25.5%
53Sales and related workers26.0%
54Physical therapists26.4%
55Healthcare support workers26.6%
56Personal care and service workers27.0%
57Middle school teachers27.8%
58Respiratory therapists27.8%
59Recreation workers28.0%
60Practical and vocational nurses28.1%
61First-line supervisors30.2%
62Childcare workers32.0%
63Parts salespersons32.4%
64Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks34.2%
65Education, training, and library workers34.7%
66Personal care aides35.2%
67Healthcare practitioners35.3%
68Inspectors, testers, and sorters35.5%
69Teacher assistants36.1%
70Kindergarten teachers37.1%
71Industrial truck and tractor operators38.8%
72Transportation and material moving workers40.1%
73Medical and clinical laboratory technicians43.7%
74Light truck or delivery services drivers47.7%
75Dental assistants48.6%
76Industrial production managers49.1%
77Driver/sales workers49.2%
78English language and literature teachers51.8%
79Social and community service managers51.9%
80Emergency medical technicians and paramedics52.5%
81Construction managers53.1%
82Librarians53.3%
83Sales reps.58.0%
84Arts, media and entertainment workers59.5%
85Social and human service assistants59.9%
86Community and social service workers64.8%
87Medical and health services managers65.2%
88Administrative support workers65.3%
89Educational counselors65.4%
90General and operations managers66.0%
91Receptionists and information clerks67.4%
92Management workers67.5%
93File clerks68.8%
94Architecture and engineering workers69.2%
95Production, planning, and expediting clerks69.2%
96Architectural and engineering managers72.3%
97Administrative services managers72.5%
98Sales managers72.7%
99Health information technicians72.9%
100Operating engineers72.9%
101Mechanical engineers73.7%
102Heavy and tractor73.8%
103Human resources managers75.4%
104Lawyers75.9%
105Order clerks75.9%
106Computer systems administrators76.8%
107Legal workers77.5%
108Sales representatives of scientific products78.6%
109Office clerks, general78.6%
110Computer and information systems managers79.3%
111Human resources specialists79.5%
112Loan officers79.8%
113Financial operations workers79.8%
114Executive secretaries80.1%
115Computer user support specialists80.3%
116Insurance sales agents80.3%
117Patient representatives80.3%
118Accountants80.7%
119Market research analysts81.1%
120Customer service representatives82.0%
121Bus drivers, school or special client82.4%
122Computer and mathematical workers83.3%
123Secretaries and administrative assistants83.4%
124Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks83.7%
125Data entry keyers84.7%
126Insurance claims and policy processing clerks86.1%
127Insurance adjusters86.2%
128Payroll and timekeeping clerks86.8%
129Insurance claims clerks87.5%
130Treasurers and controllers88.0%
131Billing, cost, and rate clerks89.4%
132Software developers, applications90.0%
133Dispatchers90.0%
134Accountants and auditors90.1%
135Bill and account collectors91.5%
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