Those who change positions throughout the work day are at lower risk of developing lower back pain and cardiovascular disease than their sedentary peers. The height-adjustable table is a workplace desk that facilitates this type of movement by providing the individual user with the option to sit or stand as they desire throughout the work day.
Developing the right strategy to include movement in the workspace is critical to supporting alert, engaged and healthy workers. Sit/stand desks are designed to fit most people, tasks or spaces. However, developing the best strategy requires answering some project-defining questions about users, goals and more.
Defining the program
Before rolling out a sit/stand program, consider: Why, and with what goal? Goals could be to increase employee movement, or to encourage employees to change their work postures throughout the day. Perhaps the program is part of a new change management strategy. If, in response to ever-rising real estate costs, employees will be moving to smaller workstations, a sit/stand program can help employees make the transition. Or is it part of an overall corporate wellness initiative with the goal of making people feel better and happier at work?
Define the target user group. A large organization will probably have to accommodate the needs of a variety of workers with different styles of work and different tasks to complete. Group people together based on common characteristics such as tasks, locations and technology. One example would be call centres, where the users are tied to their similar technology/workstation.
Define the application by answering where the program will be deployed — open plan, semi-enclosed, enclosed, private office, touchdown and/or collaborative spaces? The application should support both the goals and user groups.
Obviously, budget size is directly proportionate to the size of the intended sit/stand program. It’s critical to relate the cost to achieving goals to get buy-in.
Evaluating the solutions
It’s important to evaluate the speed, sound, stability and style of products, as well as their ability to support technology.
How fast does the work surface move up and down? Speed depends on the type of mechanism found in the sit/stand unit. Counterbalance mechanisms are faster and typically quieter than electric units with their motors.
Does the sit/stand unit pass the shake or push test? Keyboarding or writing on an unstable sit/stand unit will negatively impact worker productivity. Conversely, users develop a positive first impression when they discover the unit is stable.
People are also drawn to objects with good design style and aesthetics and will therefore be more inclined to use them. Integrating sit/stand products from different manufacturers into an existing workplace can be challenging. Sit/stand products from manufacturers with well-designed, comprehensive product portfolios can overcome this challenge.
Understanding the applications
Can the same product be used throughout the application, or are multiple models required? In a hoteling application, for example, where the salesforce depends on working at multiple places, electric sit/stand units with display settings would be ideal. The display quickly allows each user to select their ideal desk height each time they return to any sit/stand desk.
The technology and tools the sit/stand work surface will have to support influences the most suitable mechanism. Not only do electric sit/stand units not require any physical effort, but they are capable of supporting and lifting more weight. They are therefore accessible to most and ideal for technology-intensive users. In fact, the electric model is the only practical option for employees with 200 pounds of technology on their desk. And don’t forget to consider the length of each power cord required.
It’s vital to have a strategy for accommodating outliers, too. The standard range of sit/stand products is designed to accommodate most, not all, users. However, there will likely be some that fall outside this range — the tallest or shortest, as examples. Extended range products address the needs of almost everyone. The level of adjustment/accommodation is usually proportional to cost, which will have an impact on the implementation strategy.
After investing in height-adjustable products for the workplace, it’s important to ensure that people use them. Remember that ROI! Proactively promote their adoption and use. Some sit/stand providers offer assistance and guidelines.
The body is built to move. The choice to include movement is a choice to support employees’ bodies, state of mind, overall health and well-being in the workplace. By properly defining program goals and addressing details early on, it’s possible to select the right solution and successfully roll out an effective sit/stand strategy.
Dannion Smith is a Board Certified Professional Ergonomist, Canadian Certified Professional Ergonomist and Director, Ergonomic Initiatives at Teknion. He has an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology from McMaster University and a Masters of Human Kinetics from the University of Windsor.
This article has been excerpted from a presentation originally delivered at the Sit to Stand Job Rotation for Wellness and MSD Prevention conference sponsored by CRE-MSD (Centre of Research for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders) and held recently in Mississauga, Ontario.
Photo courtesy of Teknion.