Office jobs typically require a lot of sitting, which can make it hard for employees to get away from a largely sedentary lifestyle. Some businesses have found a solution to this dilemma by moving to standing desks or even implementing treadmill desks. Should you consider making this change at your office?
Let’s run through the most important questions to consider:
- Do treadmill desks actually improve employee health? Well, we know that sitting all day can increase risk for all kinds of health issues, such as diabetes and cancer. It makes sense, then, that avoiding so much sitting can help reduce said risk. To take the idea further, movement is key, which is where treadmills particularly make a difference.
- Can these desks help productivity? A recent study showed steady improvement in productivity for employees who used treadmill desks over a period of time compared to workers at traditional sitting desks. Granted, it took some time for people to get used to the new desks, so the increase wasn’t immediate.
- Treadmill desks work, but what about just standing desks? Tech news purveyor ReadWrite found examples of several prominent companies, such as Google and Facebook, that offered standing desks, and the response was generally positive. FF Venture Capital even found that standing during meetings increased creativity.
- Are there any health drawbacks to standing all day? There are many professions in which people stay on their for long hours, with nurses, waitresses and retail workers among the most obvious examples. A study in the UK that looked closely at employees in these occupations showed that standing all day is linked to a different set of health problems, such as heart disease and circulatory disorders, than what sitting all day is known to cause.
- What’s optimal, then? No one is coming out and giving exact guidelines for exactly how long you should sit and how long you should stand or walk, but it’s clear that your employees need to be able to sit for at least part of the day. Many standing desks come with adjustable height mechanisms so employees can change the height as needed. Don’t think of installing standing and treadmill desks as a call for your workforce to stand for the whole day. Instead, think of it as a means of providing your employees the option to do either whenever they want.
- Is it cost-effective? If you have an existing office with traditional desks, buying a whole new fleet of standing or treadmill desks will cost you. Buying an individual desk here and there won’t break the bank. The Wirecutter recommends a standing desk that costs around $700, but prices vary widely across different models. Treadmill desks run higher.
As you weigh whether to take the purchasing plunge on treadmill or standing desks, think hard about how many of your employees will use them. Is it a case where you can purchase a certain amount of models for people to share, or would that be inconvenient? Gauge your workforce’s opinion before making the investment. If many employees think new desks will boost productivity and make a difference in their health, it might be the right option for your company.
Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she interviewed and hired employees, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. Her writings have appeared in Inc. Magazine, CBS MoneyWatch, US News, Readers Digest and other publications. She focuses on helping businesses nurture great employees and helping employees enjoy great careers.