Standing desks are one of the biggest trends in office furniture in the past few years. Standing desk advocates argue that standing desks improve productivity and worker satisfaction by improving their health and fitness. But like any trend associated with health and fitness, believers in standing desks are prone to hyperbole and overhyping benefits that are often tough to tease out.
So, before you go whole hog and convert your entire office to standing desks and balance ball seats, we at Office Furniture Expo in Atlanta have compiled some of the costs and benefits of standing desks so you can make an informed decision.
The health risks of sitting all day
We have heard the warnings for years now: sitting is killing us, sitting is the new smoking, etc. These attention-grabbing, if somewhat hyperbolic, headlines are based on the research of James Levine, whose findings indicate that a sedentary lifestyle (spending most of your time sitting or lying down) raises risks for obesity, hypertension, muscle strains, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.
On one hand it’s hard to believe that so many health problems can emerge from one mere activity (or inactivity). But it makes sense if you think about it. Like most animals, human beings evolved to move. We are built to move in more ways than most animals, from running to climbing to swimming. The same way neglected machines rust and seize up, our bodies can break down if they are not working in the way they are built to.
Think about your own experience. After you’ve been siting all day, it hurts to get up. Your back aches, your legs are asleep, your neck is sore. Imagine the long-term effects that sitting for hours a day can cumulatively have over the years and decades of an office job career.
You might argue that going to the gym three times a week for vigorous physical exercise counteracts all of that sitting around. But just like strenuous exercises can’t undo the damage from an unhealthy diet, it also can’t undo the damage from sitting for long periods of time. In both cases, the best approach is to do less of the unhealthy thing and balance it out with moderate physical activity.
That’s where the standing desk supposedly comes in.
The benefits of standing desks
Standing desks are also called adjustable desks or sit-to-stand desks because they are designed to move up and down, allowing the user to stand when they can and sit when they feel like it.
When you’re standing, your leg, core, and back muscles are all working to keep you upright, your shoulders are working to keep your head erect, and your circulatory system is pumping all the harder to keep these muscles supplied with blood, which increases breathing rate and blood flow to other parts of the body such as your brain, keeping you more alert.
This increased activity keeps your muscles and blood vessels working at a steady, moderate rate, which studies indicate can reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease. Also, keeping those muscles supplied with a steady stream of energy keeps your insulin level steady, reducing the risk of developing diabetes.
There are other studies that find correlations between sedentary lifestyle and increased risk of cancer and early death. However, it’s not clear what connects the two, so it’s unclear how, or even if, the moderate physical activity associated with standing desks can positively affect those outcomes.
The costs of standing desks
So, standing desks seem like a good idea. But like any good idea, they come with costs.
The most obvious cost is the monetary one. Adjustable desks can cost hundreds (or thousands) of dollars apiece depending on how complex they are. Refitting your whole office with standing desks can take a good chunk out of your budget for a benefit that is, at the very least, difficult to measure.
There are a couple of good ways to reduce the cost of adopting the standing desk for your office. The first is to try standing desk retrofit setups. These devices attach to existing desks and move up and down like a standing desk. Buying a few of these units is a good way to test drive the standing desk idea if a few of your employees are interested. They also have the benefit of adding a little more real estate to the desktop itself.
Another way to reduce the costs of adopting standing desks is to buy your office furniture used. Standing desks have been on the market long enough now that used pieces are finding their way out of companies that have relocated or gone out of business and into resellers. Buying used office furniture is a great way to save money while also being environmentally friendly by reducing wasted manufacturing and landfill.
If you do end up buying new standing desks, do so from a retailer that also deals in used furniture. You might be able to offset some of the cost by selling off your existing furniture.
Are standing desks worth it?
It’s hard to argue with the idea that a sedentary life is unhealthy. Standing desks are not a silver bullet that is going to turn around the chronic health problems caused by inactivity, but they are a step in the right direction.
The important thing is to get your employees up and moving. Encourage them to move at least once an hour. Try holding meetings standing up or invite yoga or other exercise instructors to come by the office once in a while to hold a class during lunch or in the morning. Your employees will be happier and healthier, and your bottom line will be all the better for it.
And, if you are in need of affordable, quality standing desks for your home or office, rest assured that Office Furniture Expo in Atlanta is here to provide them for you.