Sit/stand workstations have been growing in popularity over the last five years. Employers frequently provide these workstations to office employees to reduce sedentary computer work and promote a healthier, more active workplace. While standing workstations can promote blood flow, increase metabolism and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, it does come with its own set of health hazards. Lower back pain, increased risk for varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis are just a few of the many concerns health professionals have related to standing for extended periods of time. Additionally, research shows that tasks requiring fine motor skills or a deep concentration are performed more effectively in the seated position.
How should sit/stand workstations be used?
Research on the benefits and drawbacks of sit/stand workstations is still in the early stages and often contains contradictory information, depending on the source. It is unlikely that one position is better than the other. More likely, alternating between sitting and standing throughout the day will maximize the benefits and minimize the hazards associated with each position. Ideally, users should aim to work in the standing position for two hours a day, eventually progressing to approximately four hours a day as they acclimatize to the workstation. Users should strive to change positions twice per hour, beginning with standing for ten minutes every hour and increasing to a maximum of twenty-five minutes per hour. Shoes with proper arch support must always be worn while in the standing position. Employees should consider keeping a pair of comfortable shoes at their desk to be used when standing.
When must employers accommodate an employee’s request?
Employers will need to consider several factors when one of their employees request a sit/stand workstation. Depending on the type of request, an employer may be required to accommodate the employee’s needs under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. However, the ADA will only apply if the employee’s health care provider believes a sit/stand workstation is needed to address a specific health problem. Other considerations employers will have to make include:
- Have similar requests been granted in the past?
- How will this affect the morale of other employees?
- Will a standing desk affect the privacy of other employees in the area (e.g. in a cubicle environment)?
- What is the cost of modifying the employee’s workstation?
- Will the request require additional accommodations such as anti-fatigue mats?
- Will the essential job functions suffer as a result of the accommodation?
Sit/stand workstations have both benefits and drawbacks related to employee health and productivity. With their continued rise in popularity in the modern workplace and increased focus on employee wellness, it is unlikely that these active workstations will phase out in the near future.
If you would like to discuss sit/stand desks and other ergonomic solutions for your office, please contact me directly. You may also register to attend our Risk Control webinar on Computer Workstation Setup on November 1, 2018.
EHS Today, “Standing Desks: Bane or Benefit”
Wellnomics, “Recommendations for sit-stand workstations”