The Rise of the Stand Up Desk

get-up-stand-up-imageThe rise of the stand up desk is a common refrain in the media these days. Perhaps you’ve heard the popular catchphrase “sitting is the new smoking”. Or perhaps you’ve read about a recent British study that recommends that office workers stand at least two hours a day, and eventually work up to four hours. The guidelines, from a group of international experts, aim to combat the health problems that can result from prolonged sitting.

As a result, stand up desks are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace.

What are some of the options to create a stand up workstation?

Stand Up Desk

Stand Up Desk with tall stool


Moving desk – stand or sit


Attachment to existing desk


Smart desk with reminders


Treadmill desk

Some of the benefits that experts tout as the value of stand up desks include:

  • Health benefits – Standing combats the health detriments of remaining sedentary for prolonged periods of time, such as obesity, diabetes and heart problems. Prolonged sitting is also detrimental for those with discs issues in their back. It reduces flexibility in your hamstrings, which puts additional pressure on the lower back.
  • Improved focus & productivity – Employees are less likely to have the mid-afternoon lull, which many people use caffeine or a high calorie snack to combat.
  • More engaged with co-workers – Standing allows for more chances to talk with co-workers as they pass by, which improves communication.

The most obvious downside is the required investment. Each furniture piece can cost in the hundreds to thousands of dollars per employee. One option that helps to reduce the cost is to purchase one stand up desk for each area of your organization. If an employee feels like standing up, then they can walk over to an open station and work there for an hour or so. This is a way to introduce the concept to see how it is received, while controlling costs. At the end of the day, you have to determine whether the benefits to your employees’ health and productivity outweigh the investment.

If you do think you’d like to proceed with investing in a stand up desk solution for your organization, consider the following tips:

  • Ergonomics – Getting an ergonomics assessment done will ensure your staff have a correctly set up stand up desk, and are not doing anything to create long-term arm, back, neck, shoulder, and/or joint problems.
  • Medical assessment – If necessary, have your staff check with their doctor before they start using a stand up desk to ensure any pre-existing medical conditions aren’t made worse.
  • Ease into it – Going from sitting to standing for an entire workday from the start could be exhausting. Have your staff ease into it – stand for 30 minutes, sit for an hour, repeat. Then work slowly up towards their goal (e.g. stand for 4 hours). The key is comfort and doing what is best for each individual’s body type, health conditions, and personal work scenario.
  • Comfort – By having an anti-fatigue mat or a stability board, this can help take the pressure off your feet and back. Ensure you have comfortable shoes for long periods of standing.

Regardless of whether you choose to invest in a standing desk or not, it’s important to keep moving throughout the day. Be sure to encourage your staff to get up and move around. Set regular reminders to stand up on a smartphone or computer. Go for a walk at lunch. Instead of picking up the phone or sending a message, get up and go talk to your colleague. Stand while you’re on the phone. Have walking meetings. All of these options are completely free.

If you’d like to discuss the human resources management implications of investing in stand up desks or how to improve your staff’s health and productivity in your Vancouver-based small business, please contact Clear HR Consulting.

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