By Kamron Kunce
The height-adjustable desk trend continues to gain momentum in both awareness and demand. According to Google’s own search data, Americans will search for information about stand-up desks more than 400,000 times this year—more than double the number of searches from three years ago. Not only are technology giants like Facebook and Google investing in height-adjustable desks for their employees, but smaller companies are rising to the occasion as well.
When facility managers (fms) consider consistent data from multiple studies, it’s no wonder why: sitting too much can be unhealthy. Most Americans sit on their way to work, sit at work, sit on the way home, and then sit when they get home. That’s a lot of sitting! For this reason, some doctors are hinting that sitting is reaching disease-worthy levels of concern. In fact, a study released by the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that over the course of 13 years, those in the study who sat for most of the day were at a much higher risk of a heart attack, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and a variety of cancers.
While a company with the best intentions might want to help get employees on their feet more often, switching to height-adjustable desks is a sizable investment for a team, department, or entire company. The initial expense, however, will be worth it when fms consider an additional upside: not only will employees be healthier, but they will also be more productive.
This may sound like an audacious claim, but it’s backed by independent research in addition to testimonials from those who have used stand-up desks. What hasn’t been easy to quantify is the amount of productivity a company can expect—and therein lies the challenge. If an fm could be guaranteed employee performance would increase by 20% with a stand-up desk, it would be an easier sell. While that is not a claim anyone is willing to make, there is substantial evidence that productivity increases with the regular use of a stand-up desk.
For some people it may be a slight boost in productivity while others will see a significant increase. What’s worth noting, however, is that even if no productivity were gained, the fact that a stand-up desk saves lost productivity is highly valuable. For instance, an employee who experiences a 50 minute dip in energy and productivity in the mid-afternoon may find she’s able to avoid it entirely if she’s standing up during that time. That’s 50 minutes her employer got back that it was losing previously. Even if her productivity dip was only 15 minutes every day, fms can begin to appreciate the cumulative gain if she and all her coworkers reclaimed that time.
Beyond the productivity benefits, employees can improve their overall health when they regularly use a stand-up desk. According to research published by James A. Levine, MD, PhD, director of the Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) Laboratory at the Mayo Clinic, employees will burn more calories while standing, which improves weight management, and will experience increased blood flow, which is good for heart health and preventing diabetes. Healthier employees should need fewer visits to the doctor, or more specifically chiropractors, to address back ailments caused from hunching over a desk all day, which will have a positive impact on a company’s health insurance premiums.
If fms are still not convinced about the benefits of standing up at work, try a 60-day stand-up challenge with employees. It can be handled a few different ways:
- Find a way to create “desk hacks” so your employees can try standing up without your company needing to make a financial investment right off the bat. Old computer boxes to aquariums on top of desks can serve as raised surfaces for employees to try standing up at work. Ask employees to commit to at least three hours of standing every day during the challenge period. Encourage them not to stand up for more than one hour at a time during their first week.
- Purchase a couple of height-adjustable desks to create stand-up stations throughout the office. If your employees have laptops and Wi-Fi, they can probably do much of their job from a desk away from their homebase. Encourage them to use the desk stations while standing for at least 10 hours over the course of an average week. They may find that calling stand up meetings around the desk will be an easy way to work the standing agenda into their routine.
In both cases the employees who have accepted the 60-day challenge will notice a positive change in the way they feel and work. Collect their feedback and consider the evidence for investing in height-adjustable desks for the team. Many fms will find that it won’t take long before the company has raised its standards in employee productivity and health.
Kunce is UpDesk’s director of community relations. He joined UpDesk in 2012, just before the brand’s launch, to manage all social and digital marketing strategies and initiatives, and to create and cultivate a community of standing desk enthusiasts. Kamron holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a marketing emphasis from Middle Tennessee State University.