For The Small Business: Why You Don’t Need A Standing Desk

Standing OR sit-stand desks are all the rage today. Not only are they modern and cool, they curb the negative health outcomes related to prolonged sitting in the office. But SPOILER ALERT you don’t need to purchase expensive equipment to reap all of the associative positive benefits. Why? Well, the short answer is that they can cost a lot. The long answer is that operating a small business or start-up puts you into an unique position of wanting the best for your staff but lack the resources to spend tens of thousands of dollars to outfit your entire staff with sit-stand desks. It can literally cost THAT much. Cue bootstrapping ergonomics as a feasible solution to this challenge. In this article we share 5 reasons how bootstrapping ergonomics to fit your small business or start-up can be a viable alternative to purchasing expensive sit-stand desks. Scroll down to see our top 5 reasons…

5 Reasons Why Standing Desks Are Overrated

1. Health Benefits/Concerns

By now most have us have heard that prolonged sitting can have negative health consequences. Sitting for extended periods of time at a computer reduces blood flow to the legs that can contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease. In fact, research has found that sitting for more than three hours per day is responsible for 3.8 percent of all-cause mortality deaths! With this being said, targeting sitting time is the most effective way to reduce the negative health outcomes associated with prolonged sitting, according a comprehensive review of strategies and literature. There are more than one solution (for example, buying a sit-stand desk) to reduce prolonged sitting in the office. These strategies include informing staff of firstly the risks related to prolonged sitting and then offering solutions that are either in their control (more on this below) or finding no-cost or low cost alternatives (see the next section) to encourage less sitting in the workplace. It can be as simple as encouraging staff to get up and stand or walk once every hour or so, when feasible of course, but this simple suggestion can be the first step towards more pro-health behaviours that reduce sitting time. Incorporating standing or walking into daily tasks is a sure-fire method to improve staff buy-in; standing while chatting on the phone or instead of a stereotypical sitting meeting, encourage staff to try ‘a walking meeting‘ and these can be ‘built into’ schedules fairly easily. Even things like fidgeting while sitting, according to recent research, has been found to protect the arteries in the legs and potentially help prevent cardiovascular disease. Not enough time in the day? Last but not least, research has found that by walking for just 10 minutes after a prolonged period of sitting (up to 6 straight hours) can restore vascular health. These are all no or low-cost and effective alternatives to purchasing sit-stand desks and this frugal fact may really help with the management’s support (and more importantly set an example for staff to follow!) of bootstrapping ergonomics to fit your company’s budget.  

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2. Creativity Is King For Saving Cash

It’s much better to have the option to work with multiple heights than just a desk that has only one height, whether it be exclusively for sitting or standing. That’s why sit-stand desks are so appealing for so many. The thing with sit-stand desks is that they can be quite expensive, costing upwards of $800 to $1,200 for each unit. That cost alone can seem daunting for many small businesses. On top of this, there are hidden costs that many don’t foresee! Everything from monitor arms (most monitors need to be raised when we stand), anti-fatigue mats (can help with the reduction of back pain and improve lower leg circulation while standing), and perching stools can be required for some users and these, not surprisingly, can cost you even more cash! Fret not, there are some fairly simple options if you’d like the benefits of standing but simply don’t have the resources to do so. To save cash, but still offer staff items to assist with standing while working, creativity is truly king. It really seems like there has never been a better time in the marketplace to find cheap alternatives to sit-stand desks. Most of these items would be placed on top of desks for the keyboard, mouse, and monitor (or laptop) to be placed on. See our post here on how to ergonomically adjust your workstation for standing. Of course, many of these options are not as streamlined or visually appealing as a sit-stand desk, but at a much lower cost makes these very appealing cost-wise for many small business. It’s all about function anyway! At the low end, cost-wise, would be some sort of adjustable laptop stand like this one, a height adjustable keyboard tray, more height adjustability in the monitor (via a monitor arm or something similar), or something a little more expensive like this one. In a pinch, upside-down boxes and texts can be used to raise the working height of both the keyboard/mouse and monitor and offer a quick solution for prolonged sitting. 
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3. Productivity Boost

I’m sure most of us have felt much more productive after changing our posture (for example standing) or going for a quick walk over the lunch period. Well this productivity boost is a very appealing side-effect of incorporating less sitting into our workdays and it does not rely on an expensive sit-stand desk to do so! This productivity boost would instead be from changing and encouraging more pro-health choices in staffs’ personal behaviours. Research has found that by allowing people to sit or stand as they wish throughout the day can boost productivity up to 46% when compared to just a seated desk. We mentioned above that incorporating less sitting can be strategically scheduled into staffs’ workday via standing while on the phone or engaging in walking meetings. Think that it’s too much reliance on staff’s behaviour to achieve results? Well, the exact same behaviour would be required by staff to use their sit-stand desks; the old saying holds true here that ‘old habits die hard’ as research into using the stand function of sit-stand desks isn’t too promising in the longterm (more on this in our next section). No matter if you purchase expensive sit-stand desks or encourage pro-health behaviours, behaviour changes from staff will always be a requirement to achieve the full results. The key thing is that less seated postures will give staff a productivity boost. 

 4. Employee Compliance

Considering the hefty price tag for sit-stand desks, research is pointing to that they may not all be used that much after the initial ‘honeymoon period’ is over. Like we mentioned above, sit-stand desks do require a change in staff behaviour to get the full benefit out of them. Many staff will say that they like being able to stand while working. In fact, recent research found that more than 70% of people enjoy standing throughout their workday. Getting them to use the standing function can be an entirely different beast. Generally speaking, people show poor compliance in using the standing function of sit-stand desks in the long-term. There are many possibilities why this is. It could be that not all staff even wanted to have the option to stand in the first place, staffs’ chronic health concerns could limit standing, or simply that staff were never instructed how to use the desk and why it is important to reduce sitting durations in the first place. All in all compliance is low in the long run with sit-stand desks. Why take the risk? To see if staff would be interested in standing, there are alternative options that are a whole lot cheaper than buying an expensive sit-stand desk. 

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5. Employee Choice

Giving staff the choice to decide when and if they require activity breaks can be very beneficial to them instead of only giving the option to use the stand function in a sit-stand desk. Even a short 10 minute walk, used strategically in a day, can boost productivity or at least improve clarity and assist creative thinking in finding another approach to solve a work task. This strategy can be as simple as giving staff the freedom to take activity breaks whenever they are needed (within reason of course!) while at the same time promoting healthy break strategies that encourage not too much sitting or standing. Those who are already experiencing some discomfort will likely need less sitting time compared to other staff members. This article found that if a worker either constantly or intermittently experienced pain while working, that worker was more than twice as likely than a worker who experiences no pain to sit less throughout the day.

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Through the administration of countless assessments in both private and public sectors, Darcie has gained a wealth of knowledge and built a successful practice in the field of ergonomics. She has extensive expertise in conducting office ergonomics assessments in large scale workplaces for all different types of scenarios, from simple adjustments to incredibly complex cases. Darcie also has vast experience in delivering training presentations on the various aspects of ergonomics “best practices” in the workplace. Darcie is a Certified Professional Ergonomist through the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics, as recognized by the International Ergonomics Association. She also has a Masters of Science, specializing in ergonomics. A little known fact about Darcie is that she once scored from half, off a free kick, in a university varsity soccer (football) match!

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