Employees who have to stand all day for their jobs would like the opportunity to sit. Now, employees who typicallysit 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 benefits.
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.
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