Height Adjustable Tables – The Future of Office Health and Safety
We sit too much
- With the introduction of the computer, office workers are now sitting for the majority of the day. In 1970 only 2 out of 10 Americans were in jobs requiring office-based activity, but in 2003 6 out of 10 Americans used computers on the job.
- Further, sitting to watch television or driving averages 5 hours per day, the highest level ever.
- Many adults spend 70% of their waking hours sitting and little or no time exercising (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996155/)
Sitting is causing serious damage to our health
- Sedentary behaviour leads to slower metabolism, higher cholesterol and other health problems. Insulin levels drop, leading to obesity, diabetes and heart disease (Kent Burden, “Is Your Chair Killing You”).
- An Australian Study found that individuals 45 years and over who sit for more than 11 hours per day have 40% higher likelihood of death in the next 3 years than those who sit for less than 4 hours per day (http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertglatter/2013/02/09/why-sitting-increases-your-risk-of-dying-sooner/)
- Harvard Business Review found that after just 1 hour of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat in our bodies declines by as much as 90% (https://hbr.org/2013/01/sitting-is-the-smoking-of-our-generation/)
Exercise is not the solution
- A Mayo Clinic study found that the solution is not sitting in an ergonomic chair all day then going to the gym – the body reacts to the number of hours per day we are physically sedentary not to how much exercise we do. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996155/) This is just like when the research used to say that 30 minutes of exercise per day would the effects of smoking.
- Dr James Levine of the Mayo Clinic says: “Excessive sitting is a lethal activity."
Height adjustable tables are the solution to this epidemic
Height adjustable desks allow employees to turn office work into light exercise – leading to health benefits and also productivity gains
- Standing burns 50 more calories per hour than sitting
- A Cornell University study in 2007 comparing height adjustable desks to fixed desks found that office workers almost unanimously preferred height adjustable desks and employee productivity improved
- This needs to be engrained at schools. A Chicago Tribune report showed that when first-grade classrooms were introduced with standing desks, after 6 weeks 70% of students never sat down and students burned 32% more calories than when they were sitting.
Standing desks can also save hard costs to employers. There is a quick return on investment with height adjustable tables:
- Medical and insurance: the health and safety costs of sick workers are saved
- Churn: reduction in furniture moving costs as desks can be easily adjusted for new employees
- Real estate: no need for a keyboard tray with ANSI/BIFMA range tables (22"-48")
- Productivity: employee attention is boosted when working positions can be changed often
Electric Height Adjustable Desks are the Best Solution
Office workers need to alternate standing and sitting throughout the day
- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says office workers should stand at least once every hour to stretch in order to prevent back pain
- Dr Callaghan (Professor of Spine Biomechanics at University of Waterloo) suggests standing for 15 minutes and sitting for 45 minutes, alternating throughout the day. This can only be achieved with an electric desk.
Manual desks (counterbalance, crank and increment) are not used by the majority of employees
- In Scandinavia where the vast majority of desks are electric height adjustable. Studies showed that employees did not actually use counterbalance and crank desks.
- A Cornell University study found that crank desks are too difficult and take too long to adjust numerous time per day
- Counterbalance desks require the correct balance otherwise the employee risks injury from the desk moving too quickly. These desks fall out of alignment often and require every employee to be trained in their use.
Electric desks allow for innovation and integration of technology
- Employees can set memory buttons to favourite positions
- New technology will allow employees to track the amount of adjustment they do in a day and set goals and targets for movement
Key Studies and Articles
- American Journal of Epidemiology, Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults, July 2010
- ANSI/HFES 100-2007 Guidelines and Standards for Electric Height Adjustable Workstations
- BIFMA G1-2002 Ergonomic Guideline for Visual Display Terminal Furniture Used in Office Work Spaces
- BMJ Open, Sedentary Behaviour and Life Expectancy in the USA: a Cause-deleted Life Table Analysis, April 2012
- International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, Workstation layout and work postures at call centres in Sweden in relation to national law, EU-directives and ISO-standards, and to operators’ comfort and symptoms, April 2008
- Harvard Business Review, Sitting is the Smoking of our Generation, January 2013
Sitting Disease Infographic