Let Your Employees Stand

April 13, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

What do you do when you get to work every day? Most of us get to our jobs, hang up (or stash) our coats somewhere, grab some coffee or water and then sit down at our desks and start working through our to-do lists. Would it surprise you to learn that this might be the worst thing you could do? Moreover, if you are a business owner, it could be the worst thing for you to expect your employees to do?

Sitting all day, even if you try to maintain perfect posture, wreaks havoc on your health. Prolonged periods of sitting cause blood to pool in the knees, feet, and legs. It increases a person’s risk of developing blood clots, slipped discs and a variety of other muscular and cardiovascular diseases. This is why, according to Joann Pan of Mashable, it is recommended that people get up and move around at least once every hour and that they go no more than twenty minutes without shifting position.

As an employer, it is important to accommodate these health needs and to provide furniture and equipment that works with an employee’s body instead of against it. After all, as the healthydesks.com blog points out, “humans don’t function well when made to work in postures and positions our bodies weren’t designed to experience for longer than a few minutes. Sitting in a chair for hours – this is something the human body was never meant to undergo.” 

Chairs with proper lumbar support are one of the most common ways of doing this. Another is simply to allow your workforce to stand up.

Standing instead of sitting reduces an employee’s risk of obesity. Studies have proven that, with all other things being equal, employees who stand and move around are less likely to gain weight than those that stay seated and still at their desks. It also reduces a person’s chance of developing diabetes. People who sit all day have a higher fasting glucose rate, which makes it harder for their bodies to absorb insulin. Standing up and moving around even reduces a person’s chances of getting cancer. Scientists aren’t sure why, but their research has shown that people who spend most of their time sitting down have a higher level of C-reactive protein, which some think is linked to cancer. (Source: The Smithsonian)

So, seriously. Let, heck, encourage your employees to stand up. Standing desks are becoming more and more commonplace. At Opower, a software company in Virginia, about 70% of the employees work at standing desks, reports CBS news.  

It’s important, however, that you don’t simply make a unilateral switch to standing desks overnight. It take time to build up the stamina required to spend an entire workday at a standing desk. Supply employees with transitional desks or transitional equipment that they can use to shift laptops/computers up while they stand and then back down when they need to return to a seated position. Have employees start with just ten minutes a day. Then ten minutes per hour per day. And work up from there. Forcing an immediate switch will cause joint and muscle pain and possibly even damage.

It is also important that you accommodate any physical restraints or issues that your employees might be dealing with. A person who suffers from a muscular disorder, for example, may prevent an employee from adopting a standing desk. Make sure you follow OSHA’s rules and that you accommodate employees who need special accommodations.

The point is that you need to build a working environment that promotes the best possible health for your employees. You’ve likely already done this in many ways: placing plants around the space to help scrub the air, lots of exposure to natural light, a clean and tidy working space, clean and working facilities, etc. Failure to provide these basic necessities can, and often times does, result in a lawsuit. It probably won’t be long before requiring employees to spend all day seated and chained to their desks will be considered just as big a risk to an employee’s health as anything else. The last thing you want is to be sued because science proves that you contributed to an employee’s diabetes or cancer, right?

So, what are you waiting for? The science backs it up. Standing is the healthiest thing employees can do while they are at work.