Tablet Ergonomics

July 9, 2014

This article was originally emailed as our monthly eBulletin at 11:30 on 09/07/2014. You can view older eBulletins here and register to receive them monthly.


Brilliant as they may be for many reasons, tablets are generally appalling from an ergonomics viewpoint. Since the appearance of the first iPad, we have been searching constantly for good products that improve the posture of tablet users. We have tried many samples and have been disappointed most of the time. However, we shall soon be bringing true tablet ergonomics to the UK! TabletRiser is the latest product from Bakker Elkhuizen. Development is in the final stages and production will commence in the final quarter of 2014. See the video here or email us today to arrange an early viewing of the product.


Following last month’s eBulletin, we have had lots of interest in our webinars and we have therefore added further dates to the diary. I have also written a two-part blog which explores the history and research that has led to the current heightened interest, as well as outlining some of the options available and additional factors to consider. You can read the blogs here or check available webinar dates here.


The ageing workforce is another “hot topic” and numbers are growing for our forthcoming free seminars in London and Bristol. Attend for a whole day or just a morning or afternoon – but make sure you join us for a free lunch whichever you choose! Download the brochure here or check dates and register here.


In close collaboration with Cardinus Risk Management, we have created a very special offer for July only. At the risk of sounding like a double glazing salesman, it really is too good an offer to show all the details here!  However, we can tell you that it applies if you are looking to replace a paper-based assessment process or in-house system or if you already have a competitor’s software product that is not providing you with the functionality you need. For more details, please contact us.


As bandwidth increases and film production becomes cheaper, the value of video and animation on product websites becomes manifest. We are providing videos for as many of our products as possible. A moving picture paints very much more than a thousand words! See a few examples here: UltraStand | ClearSpan Desks | Varidesk | T-Blocks | DXT2 | Flo | Compact Keyboards.


EWhilst we see many business users on LinkedIn and a steadily growing number of Twitter followers, we appreciate that many people simply “can’t see the point” of Social Media! My counter to this view is that, in business, it can be an excellent source of research information. Like us, many organisations and individuals post announcements about interesting articles and publications. To see what I mean, take a quick look at our Twitter feed (it’s free and you don’t need an account).


Sit-Stand Desks: What are my choices? (Part 2 of 2)

July 8, 2014

(Part 1 of this blog can be found here).

Sit-stand or sit-sit, electronic, gas-lift or crank – what are the options?

Sit-Stand-Desk-FramesHeight adjustment for true sit-stand desks is usually electronic.

There are also a few models with gas-strut-supported adjustability rather than an electric motor. These models have the advantage of not requiring electricity so they can be ideal for touch-down areas or some hot-desking environments. However, the gas-lift mechanism will be weight-sensitive so it is important to ensure the proper configuration when specifying.

By contrast, the majority of electronic sit-stand desks will have a weight limit comfortably above normal requirements (as long as sitting on the desk whilst raising it is not considered a “normal requirement”!). Electronic adjustment is therefore the norm for sit-stand.

Manual adjustment by crank handle is another option to be aware of. Whilst some crank-adjustable desks may be marketed as sit-stand (and offer suitable height range), the length of time (and effort) required to make the manual adjustment will quickly deter users from actually doing so. Crank-adjustable models (typically around 650mm – 850mm height range) are normally regarded as “sit-sit” products for use in hot desk environments and areas where users of different heights need to share sitting workstations.

Sit-StandActuationThe EU standard height adjustability range to qualify as a sit-stand product is 650-1250mm. The (US) ANSI/BIFMA standard is 22 – 48 inches.

Whilst many employers will want to “go by the book” and only purchase products that meet the appropriate standard, these models require triple (or two stage) telescopic legs. Versions with only two element (single stage) legs are (inevitably) cheaper and will suit a high proportion of people. They are widely used in single installations for individuals with back problems, even though they do not meet a standard.

Adapting an existing sitting desk

Sit-Stand-AdaptorsA number of manufacturers have introduced products to convert a standard, sitting desk to something that can be used as a sit-stand workstation. These vary in complexity, usability and ugliness! Typically, they are either a device that sits on top of the desk or something that resembles a giant monitor arm. The choice of readily available models in the US is significantly wider than in Europe.

Where cost is the most compelling issue, many employers consider such adaptors instead of complete desks. However, our own experience is that some of these adaptors turn a perfectly-good sitting desk into a not-very-good sitting desk and a not-very-good standing desk! Some models provide good ergonomics in only one posture (sitting or standing) and a compromised setup in the other. Despite assessing many variants, the portfolio of such products that we actually sell is very small.

The monitor arm variant creates substantial leverage on the desk so a very sturdy work surface is essential. Another issue to consider is stability in the standing posture.  Finally, it is also important to remember that the US market uses keyboard trays extensively so users are better disposed to this type of arrangement than Europeans, who are used to operating their keyboard and mouse on the actual desk, rather than on an attachment.

One cost-effective solution without compromise is to use the top from an existing sitting desk and simply fit it to a height-adjustable frame. This not only saves money but also enables the replacement desk arrangement to blend better cosmetically with other furniture.

Treadmill & cycle desks

These are not actually sit-stand products but they have appeared in response to the health concerns already outlined in the first part of this blog. It is, therefore, probably appropriate to mention them in passing. However, I have already expressed my views on this topic so will not repeat myself.

What else should I be thinking about?

Saddle seats and perching stools

Sit-Stand-Stool-ExamplesA growing number of users are finding that saddle seats and perching stools can provide a good “half-way house” between traditional sitting and standing. However, this is a whole topic in itself and this blog series is probably already too long! If you wish to explore this concept, ensure you work with a supplier with a good understanding of sit-stand furniture and broad range of alternative seating products so that you can compare the different designs and features.

Product trials are essential since saddle seats, in particular, will elicit very different (and sometimes unpredictable) responses from your user population.

Beware of the doomsayers!

There is no doubt that we sit too much and we need to take action about it. Sit-stand desks are an excellent tool in our armoury of weapons to challenge bad behaviours. However, I have never believed in scaring people into making a purchase decision and, as I stated in Part 1 of this blog, a training and culture-change approach is as important as the equipment provided.

Rational debate, animated discussion and good ROI arguments are much better tactics. I have my doubts about whether this sort of infographic really helps the cause! Be careful also about sites that look like they represent a lobby group when you first see them but are in fact a marketing tool for a manufacturer. However valid and reliable the content, it is important to remember the context of the message.

Successful sit-stand workstation implementation & a healthier workplace

What does success look like?Finally, here is a selection of ideas for successful integration of your sit-stand desk implementation and a healthier workforce!

  • Train users to understand how to use the desk, when to make posture changes and what good posture feels like (sitting and standing)
  • Raise the desk up too high at the end of the day. It makes life easier for cleaners and forces you to reposition it in the morning.
  • Raise the desk when colleagues approach to talk to you and have your conversation standing up.
  • Stand for telephone conversations, especially those when you need to be assertive.
  • Stand to sort papers and files.
  • Install “poseur tables” for short standing meetings (gas-lift height-adjustable versions are available)
  • Have walking meetings.
  • Park as far away from the building as possible.
  • Wear a pedometer and track your steps. Compete with yourself to improve your average!
  • Use the stairs, not the lift (some organisations slow the lifts down to encourage stair use)
  • In established Hot Desking areas, install a pair of sit-stand desks at the end of each set of standard desks. This will work very well provided good policies and procedures are in place (and the Hot Desking facilities are properly implemented and managed).

Sit-Stand Desks: What’s all the fuss about? And why now? (Part 1 of 2)

July 7, 2014

(Part 2 of this blog is available here)

Are sit-stand desks new?

SitStandDeskEarly20thCenturyThere is evidence of implementations dating back over a century, but height-adjustable sit-stand desks as we now know them have been available from Scandinavian manufacturers for about 20 years. We have been using electronically-adjustable models throughout our office for over 10 years.

More recently, products manufactured in the Far East (but often marketed as Scandinavian or European designs) have brought the price down significantly. In 2000, a Danish-manufactured 1600mm x 800mm (63 x 31.5 inch) sit-stand desk retailed at £1200 + VAT. Today the UK retail price (before discounts) is less than £700 + VAT. There are also after-market adaptors for existing sitting desks (see Part 2 of this blog).

So is “getting up” a new thing?

Dynamic sitting, movement and changes of posture have been a mantra since before the birth of ergonomics as a discipline. However, the “sitting is bad for you” message is quite recent (but probably not as recent as people think).

The “Sitting Disease”

Type 2 DiabetesAs long ago as November 2007, the Daily Mail published this article in the UK headed “Sitting at a desk all day is as bad for health as smoking”. There were probably many similar articles at the time.

The basis of the research (from the University of Missouri-Columbia) was that prolonged sitting increased the likelihood of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. These outcomes drew the parallel with smoking (also a cause of these three disabling conditions) and this prompted the “sitting is the new smoking” catchphrase.

Recent publicity, in the UK especially, comes as a result of a Leicester study providing a meta-analysis of 18 studies and published in August 2012. This arrived at a similar conclusion.

Alongside this research, other evidence suggested that even regular exercise or gym workouts would be insufficient to counteract the damage being done by sedentary lifestyles amongst western office workers.

As a result of the publicity surrounding these findings, the catalogue of potential health woes apparently brought about by a sedentary lifestyle have been collectively dubbed the Sitting Disease.

Seeing the wood for the trees

There is no doubt that, properly implemented and used, sit-stand desks are healthy and beneficial to employees. They can increase calorie consumption, encourage movement, reduce sedentary postures and increase productivity.

But they may not!

Much of the recent purchase activity of sit-stand desks has been as a knee-jerk reaction to employee demand. In the US in particular, many retrofit sit-stand desk projects have proved harder to implement than expected. Blue chip employers are now installing successful sit-stand-only desking in new build projects but this is a very different situation from partial implementations in existing facilities.

Culture and training

In the same way that a well-designed chair will not help back problems unless the user is trained to set it up and adjust it, a sit-stand desk may just replace poor sitting postures with poor standing postures. It is also essential that users recognise the importance of mixing activities and remember not to stand or sit for too long at any one time. Taking the chair away and standing all day may solve some problems but will almost certainly create others.

It is therefore important to find a desk supplier who understands the cultural and psycho-social issues of using these products, rather than a retailer who can simply assemble it and plug it in.  It is also naïve to assume that the simple act of providing users with sit-stand desks will be the panacea for all posture issues, instantly eradicating the “Sitting Disease” and increasing productivity!

Users need to understand how to adjust the desk, why they should be doing so, how long they should use the different postures and what “a good set-up” looks and feels like. Otherwise there is a strong chance that the varied use will be abandoned and it will soon revert to an unnecessarily expensive sitting desk.

It is even possible to link the desk controls to the user’s computer and adopt a scientific approach to posture change. For example, SitStandCOACH is a software/hardware combination that prompts users to change posture at appropriate intervals (linked to activity and not just to time).

So what are my options?
What are my options?My next blog will explore product options and provide ideas for implementation, as well as offering some warnings about pitfalls. In the meantime, in no particular order, here are several research links relating to sit-stand workstations. I shall leave you to draw your own conclusions about the veracity of each item!

  • Useful blog article with several research links –
  • University of Leicester, 2012: Sitting for protracted periods increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and death –
  • Ebara et al, 2008: Effects of adjustable sit-stand VDT workstations on workers’ musculoskeletal discomfort, alertness and performance –
  • University of Sydney/National Heart Foundation of Australia Case Study, 2013: Do sit-stand workstations reduce employees’ sitting time –  (further references in the back of this publication)
  • Choi, 2010: Ergonomic Evaluation of Electrically Adjustable Table in VDU Work –
  • Grunseit et al, 2013: “Thinking on your feet”: A qualitative evaluation of sit-stand desks in an Australian workplace –
  • Hedge, 2004: Effects of an electrically height-adjustable work surface on self-assessed musculo-skeletal discomfort and productivity in computer workers –
  • American Institute for Cancer Research, 2011: Getting Up From Your Desk Can Put the “Breaks” on Cancer –
  • Extensive BBC Article, April 2014:

(Part 2 of this blog is available here)

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