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Sit/Stand Desks – are they here to stay, or an expensive fad?

As commercial fitout specialists, we see a lot of work- style fashions come and go. Recently, we’ve seen a rash of studies that appear to show that those of us who spend long periods seated are likelier to die earlier than those who don’t. These have seen the birth of the sit- stand desk, and we’re seeing them everywhere. The thinking goes that if sitting still for long periods is bad for you, standing still for equally long periods must be good for you. But before you join the standing army, here are a few things to think about:

  • Sitting still for long periods may be bad. And standing may seem like the “opposite” of sitting. But nature doesn’t necessarily see it that way. The possibility exists that it’s the “still” bit that’s bad for you, not the “sitting”.
  • Cost – manufacturers haven’t been slow to see the opportunity offered by the standing desk trend, and their offerings tend to be an order of magnitude more costly than traditional desk designs. Fine if they are delivering the benefits you expect, but an expensive error if it turns out to be a short-lived fad.
  • One of the reasons office workers sat down in the first place was because standing still for long periods made their feet sore and gave them swollen ankles and back pain. Oddly enough, back pain is one of the reasons seated workers give for embracing the standing desk concept. But while standing up might provide temporary relief from back pain for a sedentary worker, they will soon find that it doesn’t last, and provides no lasting solution.
  • Sore feet – one of the most frequent complaints of people who try out the standing posture is that they suffer from sore feet the next day. Careful choice of footwear can alleviate the problem to some extent, but you can’t get away from the fact that the burden of supporting your weight has not gone away, but just been transferred from your bottom to your feet.
  • Privacy – sitting down at a desk affords a modicum of privacy, even in the busiest office. Different people react in different ways to the loss of this privacy – it’s one of those things you don’t tend to notice till it’s gone.

It’s too early to tell whether standing workstations are here to stay. We tend to think it’s unlikely that they will displace the traditional desk completely, and we definitely think that before you commit yourself to introducing them on a large scale you should conduct a small-scale trial involving a variety of designs. Many desk- chair designs allow rapid transition from seated to standing, which seems to offer the best of both worlds. Try these, but be aware that these are complex pieces of machinery, and good ones which can stand the insults and accidents of everyday office use are likely to be extremely expensive.

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