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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

By Dan Kopf

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.

Rank Occupation % of workday sitting
1 Sales floor stock clerks 1.2%
2 Food prep. and serving workers 1.7%
3 Cooks, restaurant 2.6%
4 Cooks, fast food 2.7%
5 Counter attendants 2.9%
6 Dishwashers 2.9%
7 Meat and fish cutters 3.0%
8 Packers and packagers, hand 3.1%
9 Food preparation workers 3.2%
10 Maids and housekeeping cleaners 3.5%
11 Waiters and waitresses 3.7%
12 Dining room attendants and barhands 3.7%
13 Cooks, short order 4.0%
14 Restaurant hosts 4.2%
15 Janitors and cleaners 4.5%
16 Cashiers 5.0%
17 Carpenters 5.4%
18 Cooks, institution and cafeteria 6.0%
19 Laundry and dry 6.3%
20 Bakers 6.5%
21 Bartenders 6.8%
22 Construction carpenters 7.4%
23 Stock clerks and order fillers 7.9%
24 Helpers 8.7%
25 Team assemblers 9.0%
26 Food servers, nonrestaurant 9.5%
27 Construction laborers 9.8%
28 Welders, cutters, and welder fitters 10.0%
29 Building and grounds maintenance workers 10.4%
30 Pharmacy technicians 10.7%
31 Retail salespersons 10.8%
32 Packaging and filling machine operators 11.4%
33 Laborers and freight and material movers 11.5%
34 Electricians 11.8%
35 Cutting, punching, and press machine setters 14.0%
36 Automotive service technicians and mechanics 14.9%
37 Maintenance and repair workers, general 16.0%
38 Nursing assistants 16.2%
39 Production workers 16.8%
40 Construction and extraction workers 16.9%
41 Industrial machinery mechanics 18.0%
42 Multiple machine tool setters 18.1%
43 Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks 18.6%
44 Maintenance workers, machinery 20.5%
45 Installation and repair workers 21.1%
46 Stock clerks 21.6%
47 Pharmacists 21.9%
48 Secondary school teachers 23.7%
49 Home health aides 23.8%
50 Bus and truck mechanics 24.0%
51 Landscaping and groundskeeping workers 25.4%
52 Elementary school teachers 25.5%
53 Sales and related workers 26.0%
54 Physical therapists 26.4%
55 Healthcare support workers 26.6%
56 Personal care and service workers 27.0%
57 Middle school teachers 27.8%
58 Respiratory therapists 27.8%
59 Recreation workers 28.0%
60 Practical and vocational nurses 28.1%
61 First-line supervisors 30.2%
62 Childcare workers 32.0%
63 Parts salespersons 32.4%
64 Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks 34.2%
65 Education, training, and library workers 34.7%
66 Personal care aides 35.2%
67 Healthcare practitioners 35.3%
68 Inspectors, testers, and sorters 35.5%
69 Teacher assistants 36.1%
70 Kindergarten teachers 37.1%
71 Industrial truck and tractor operators 38.8%
72 Transportation and material moving workers 40.1%
73 Medical and clinical laboratory technicians 43.7%
74 Light truck or delivery services drivers 47.7%
75 Dental assistants 48.6%
76 Industrial production managers 49.1%
77 Driver/sales workers 49.2%
78 English language and literature teachers 51.8%
79 Social and community service managers 51.9%
80 Emergency medical technicians and paramedics 52.5%
81 Construction managers 53.1%
82 Librarians 53.3%
83 Sales reps. 58.0%
84 Arts, media and entertainment workers 59.5%
85 Social and human service assistants 59.9%
86 Community and social service workers 64.8%
87 Medical and health services managers 65.2%
88 Administrative support workers 65.3%
89 Educational counselors 65.4%
90 General and operations managers 66.0%
91 Receptionists and information clerks 67.4%
92 Management workers 67.5%
93 File clerks 68.8%
94 Architecture and engineering workers 69.2%
95 Production, planning, and expediting clerks 69.2%
96 Architectural and engineering managers 72.3%
97 Administrative services managers 72.5%
98 Sales managers 72.7%
99 Health information technicians 72.9%
100 Operating engineers 72.9%
101 Mechanical engineers 73.7%
102 Heavy and tractor 73.8%
103 Human resources managers 75.4%
104 Lawyers 75.9%
105 Order clerks 75.9%
106 Computer systems administrators 76.8%
107 Legal workers 77.5%
108 Sales representatives of scientific products 78.6%
109 Office clerks, general 78.6%
110 Computer and information systems managers 79.3%
111 Human resources specialists 79.5%
112 Loan officers 79.8%
113 Financial operations workers 79.8%
114 Executive secretaries 80.1%
115 Computer user support specialists 80.3%
116 Insurance sales agents 80.3%
117 Patient representatives 80.3%
118 Accountants 80.7%
119 Market research analysts 81.1%
120 Customer service representatives 82.0%
121 Bus drivers, school or special client 82.4%
122 Computer and mathematical workers 83.3%
123 Secretaries and administrative assistants 83.4%
124 Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks 83.7%
125 Data entry keyers 84.7%
126 Insurance claims and policy processing clerks 86.1%
127 Insurance adjusters 86.2%
128 Payroll and timekeeping clerks 86.8%
129 Insurance claims clerks 87.5%
130 Treasurers and controllers 88.0%
131 Billing, cost, and rate clerks 89.4%
132 Software developers, applications 90.0%
133 Dispatchers 90.0%
134 Accountants and auditors 90.1%
135 Bill and account collectors 91.5%