Recently, I was asked about what employers are doing with sit-stand workstations and this prompted an overview of how I see the UK market at the moment. Whilst subjective, I hope it provides some useful indicators.
In the United States, there has been a strong move to 100% sit-stand in new installations. As a result, this has been reflected in many US-owned companies in Europe.
For other organisations, the picture is much more diverse.
Most large organisations have been using at least some sit-stand workstations for several years in cases where individuals are unable to sit for long periods (typically as a result of a workstation assessment or medical evidence). More widespread use is still comparatively uncommon in the UK. Beyond the (very small) minority who are adopting the 100% sit-stand approach, strategies fall broadly into these categories:
- Suck It and See – trying small numbers to test user feedback. Typically, these will be individual workstations (one per department or work group) or small clusters (2-4 units).
- End of the Aisle – a pair of face-to-face sit-stand workstations on the end of each bank of standard desks.
- Fixed Percentage – a specific proportion of all workstations to be sit-stand. Most commonly, this is 10-20%
End of the Aisle and Fixed Percentage programmes nearly always use complete desks but the Suck It and See fraternity often use sit-stand adaptors for rapid deployment and maximum flexibility. The adaptors are also popular where bench desking systems limit or eliminate the possibility of easy sit-stand desk replacements.
Sooner rather than later, employers should formulate a strategy – even if it is a ‘no sit-stand’ policy – to ensure there is a consistent approach to requests from individuals. This ensures the organisation is prepared for employee demands such as ‘My physio says I must have a sit-stand desk’ or ‘It says in the paper that the way I have to work is killing me’.
Most important, employers need to recognise that implementing any sort of sit-stand programme brings a culture change to the workplace because installing sit-stand is as much about the concept as it is about the product. As a result, proper training and education is essential. This should cover not just how to adjust a desk but why users should do that and what they should be trying to achieve.
Finally, and contrary to much of the publicity around this topic, this whole issue is not about standing more but about sitting less. To be fully effective, therefore, sit-stand should be part of a broader wellbeing initiative that encourages more movement.
You can find further information and more of my articles about sit-stand and related topics here. I would also love to know your own views.