Employees who have to stand all day for their jobs would
like the opportunity to sit. Now, employees who typically
sit all day want the option to stand.
Sit-Stand or standing desks are becoming all the rage with
various articles extolling the health benefits.
The current logic is, “sitting is the new smoking, and if
I stand, it has to be better than sitting.”
But are there proven health benefits to a standing desk?
According to an NPR report, while too much sitting
increases the risk for heart failure and may even shorten
life expectancy, 20 studies have found that “…there’s
little evidence that workplace interventions like the
sit-stand desk, or even the flashier pedaling or treadmill
desks, will help you burn lots more calories or prevent or
reverse the harm of sitting for hours on end.”
The NPR article references a study from the Cochrane
Database of Systemic Reviews entitled, “Workplace
Interventions for Reducing Sitting Time at Work.” In the
study, Dr. Jos Verbeek of the Finnish Institute of
Occupational Health concludes: “What we actually found is
that most of it is, very much, just fashionable, and not
proven good for your health.”
You need to note that Verbeek is not saying that there are
NO health benefits of a standing desk, but rather that
there is inadequate proof of many of the claimed health
The question now is, “How should companies address
requests for a sit-stand desk?”
If the request is fashion related or even a personal
preference, a company needs to consider the ripple effect
of all employees requesting the item.
If the request is part of a reasonable accommodation under
the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) for back or
other problems, then a company may be obligated to
purchase the desk.
At this point in time, the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA), which deals with ergonomic issues,
has not taken a position as to whether or not sit-stand
desks present or prevent ergonomic hazards. In some
situations when the desk is in the sit position, it may
create an ergonomic issue due to the height of the item or
placement of the item on a work surface.
As with any newfangled contraptions whether its balance
balls or sit-stand desks, companies would be well advised
to move slowing in purchasing such items.