Take a stand: are desks killing your staff?

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About 10% of staff at Google, Facebook and AOL use standing desks. They’ve been around for a while – one furniture maker started producing standing desks in 1994 – but the trend has taken off recently, partly due to some scary cancer stats from the USA.

A 2010 study by the American Cancer Society found that women who sat more than six hours a day were 37% more likely to die prematurely than women who sat for less than three hours, while the early-death rate for men was 18% higher. Even worse, these figures were corrected for exercise, so running for an hour in the morning won’t reduce the risks of sitting all day at work.

An American College of Cardiology study also recently  found increased mortality among people who sat longer at home.

One emerging solution to this health risk is the standing desk.

The standing desk has some pretty famous fans, including novelist Philip Roth and former US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld – and Ernest Hemingway reportedly refused to work sitting down.

“The first week was rough on my feet and legs, which ached constantly, but after that first week things improved rapidly,” says website developer James Angus, who changed to a standing desk two years ago. “I noticed an immediate increase in my ability to focus on a problem for longer, and with greater clarity. When I was blocked by some problem, I was able to just walk away from the desk, whereas before the effort of getting up from my chair often made me prefer to just sit and stew in my frustration.”

Other users report feeling more alert, losing weight and experiencing less back pain.

The cost difference can be anything from the $100 range for a desktop work station, to $3,000 for a fully height-adjustable desk. There are plenty of mid-range choices, too, and as the practice becomes more common a wider range of products and prices will become available. If you invest in the more expensive adjustable desks, replacement staff can adapt them for their own preferences.

And if you think standing all day isn’t enough of a challenge, a growing community of people like to walk and work – just wait until your first employee asks for a treadmill desk!


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