Are Sit-Stand Desks Letting Employees Down?

Posted by: 
Kelly Anderson
Photo of a woman stretching at her desk

Sit-stand desks continue to be the accommodation “flavor of the day.” But current research shows it’s important for people to do more than just stand.1 Employees need to get up and move around.

Remember, standing is static, much like sitting. It’s not exercise. Think beyond the sit-stand desk. Work more activity into the workday — especially walking.

Perceptions vs. Reality — Sit-Stand Desks

The popularity of sit-stand desks can pose challenges for disability consultants and HR managers. These include:

  • Conflicts between what employees think they want vs. what they actually need.
  • Availability of a sit-stand desk doesn't mean the employee will use it.
  • Some conditions, like obesity, can make it difficult to stand for even a short period of time.

Think beyond the sit-stand desk. Work more activity into the workday — especially walking.

Even when sit-stand desks aren’t the best ergonomic option, employees’ expectations can make it challenging to say no to their requests. For example, we see a lot of requests from people with low back pain. Posture issues could be contributing to their pain. Having the employee stand regularly to stretch — or take a quick walk to the printer or water fountain — are often more effective ways to address the discomfort.

It isn’t all about the desk itself, but often about how things are set up on the desk. Monitor, keyboard and mouse placement on the desk surface, as well as other tweaks, can be a good place to start. Simple adjustments to the chair can make a big difference. There’s more information below about how a disability consultant can help.

Roadblocks to Movement

Productivity concerns and job requirements may limit some employees’ opportunities to be more active. For example, a call center/contact center environment may require people to stay at their desks. One potential solution: scheduling microbreaks that allow employees to walk around for a few minutes every hour.

Little Things — Plus Expertise — Can Make a Big Difference

Typically, employees aren’t familiar with how their desk and equipment should be set up. The perspective of an ergonomist, plus some simple adjustments, could make a huge difference. It’s important to check:

  • Position and height of keyboard
  • Monitor heights
  • Distance between monitor and eyes
  • Chair height

In some cases, all that our Workplace Possibilities consultant needs to do is move things around on an employee’s desk. But you need those expert eyes to recognize what needs to be adjusted.

Employers can also foster an atmosphere of healthy behaviors and encourage their employees to keep it moving — a disability consultant can offer more site-specific suggestions.


1 Are You Sitting Down? Standing Desks Are Overrated, New York Times, Nov. 19, 2018,