Sit stand desks are the normal across northern Europe particularly in the Scandinavian countries. In Denmark they are legally mandated three for all employers to supply them the evidence is now strong that sits down working and active working strategies are important tools in combating the increase in obesity in the UK and the dramatic increase in the incidence of preventable diseases such as diabetes and cardiac events that have occurred over the last 30 years.(1) (2)
So why have they not caught on in the UK and what is preventing their adoption? I believe the answer to this is actually quite simple, it is in our culture to sit down. Post-war Britain saw a generation of people who aspired to leave the blue collar shop floors of our industrial heartlands and become white-collar professionals. We worked hard to earn the right to sit down at work, and now to be told that we have to stand up at work is not going down well. We have also become most sedentary in our lifestyles, with very few of us walking or cycling to work. A key subject at the active working summit in London this year was the debate on whether technology has made is lazy? The answer came back as it has. This lack of fitness an increase in weight has ironically made us less able to withstand the stress of standing and walking around all day.
Other objections include not wanting to stand out in an office by standing up on their own, and been an early adopter of the working practice. Until a tipping point is reached where it is considered normal to stand employees who use the sit stand facility often feel out of place. This is easily solved by games and activities within a workplace such as sit stand bingo and heads and tails which make the change process fun and people soon realise the benefits of having flexibility in how they work.
People often cite arthritis of the knees and back has a reason not to stand. There is strong evidence now that suggest that the stronger the muscles around the knee and back the less pain somebody will feel so it is only by standing more and moving for short periods and building it up to longer periods that patients can reduce pain. It certainly is not a reason not to do it.
Sit stand desks are now becoming very affordable and the price argument is no longer applicable.
Finally there is the argument that it will decrease productivity with people sitting and standing all day and moving around. This is clearly shown to be not the case with some research demonstrating up to a 60% improvement in productivity with the adoption of active working strategies. More normally in the research a 15 – 20% improvement is quoted.
If you wish to know more about sit stand working or active working strategies please do not hesitate to contact
- Wilmot,E (2012) Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis Diabetologia Volume 55, Issue 11, pp 2895-2905