November 08, 2018
Offices throughout the country have been using a new kind of furniture: standing desks. Although the name sounds like an oxymoron, proponents feel that these new desks provide health benefits for employees. Average American office workers spend a lot of their workdays sitting at desks, often for four hours at a time. This is in addition to other daily sedentary activities, like sitting in a car or watching television. Spending time sitting is thought to lead to high blood pressure, weight problems, and other diseases, including cancer.
Unlike seated desks, standing ones have elevated surfaces that make it possible for people to stand while working. They can range from a simple platform that raises to a work station to state-of-the-art desks with different levels and other options, like electronic controls.
Standing vs. Sitting at Work
The American Medical Association advocated standing desks and workstations to combat inactive work environments. Their report claimed that using these desks would keep employees healthier by getting them out of their chairs.
Since then, there has been a debate as to whether these health benefits are real. There is no concrete link between long-term sitting or standing and physical ailments. Certain studies even state that employees that stand all day can experience foot pain, heart disease, lower back pain, and deep vein thrombosis or varicose veins.
Employee Requests for Standing Desks
As standing desks become more common in workplaces, employees are starting to request them. Some workers want them for wellness or preventative reasons, like to lose weight or alleviate nagging back pain. In these situations, providing a standing desk would be at the company’s discretion.
An employee that has a valid mental or physical condition defined by law may require accommodations like a standing desk to function at work. There may be other options, like a different type of chair, frequent breaks, or a cushion. If accommodations are required, the employer is held accountable for working with the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide them.
If the worker feels they need an accommodation, like a standing desk for a health problem, they should contact their health provider first. Once the request has been formally made, the provider and employee will outline the accommodation, detail why it is needed, and explain how it will help the employee perform their job.
Oftentimes, the decision can be tricky because one employee’s needs can affect the company environment and other workers. For example, if one employee receives the desk, others may start asking for one. The item’s cost must be considered, along with the amount of space available in the office. There is also the chance that using the desk could affect the employee’s ability to perform their job, or even make their symptoms worse.
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