Originally published on HR Technologist, August 21, 2018
Get insights into the benefits of sit-stand desk solutions, including three delivery models that can deliver return on investment and potentially lower healthcare and workers’ compensation costs
In 1995, I was on my belly, dragging a body through the sand for 25 yards under an 18-inch “ceiling” of barbed wire when I wrenched my back. I was training to become a Medical Service Corps officer and had to learn how to carry a wounded soldier while crawling on the ground.
After serving my country, I entered civilian life with a corporate job. To combat my back pain, I started standing at my workstation. I found that I had more energy, so I stood more. My employer saw me standing and got me a height-adjustable desk. Using it, I felt focused, alert and productive, and my back pain subsided. I was hooked.
Today, employers have evolved into three camps related to sit-stand solutions: those who see the value and provide sit-stand desks to virtually everyone; those who offer sit-stand desks and provide them to those who request it; and those who only provide sit-stand desks to employees based on medical accommodation, typically requiring a doctor’s note.
Go “All In” Like Apple, Google and Facebook
Apple, Google and Facebook, three of the most valuable companies of all-time, provide height-adjustable desks to all or most of their employees, subscribing to the “all in” strategy for several reasons:
- Compelling medical evidence. Studies have proven that transitioning between sitting and standing throughout the day improves your health. In fact, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently stated that he’s convinced that sitting all day increases the incidence of cancer.
- Higher-energy employees. Transitioning between sitting and standing throughout the day improves posture, which improves blood flow and expands the rib cage for easier, deeper breathing. The increase in oxygenated blood also reaches the brain, improving brain function. Talk about a competitive advantage in ideas and execution. Sign me up for improved brain function!
- More engaged and productive workers. Studies have proven that workers with sit-stand solutions are significantly more engaged and productive at their jobs.
- Attraction and retention. As our world becomes more competitive, our quest to thrive requires hiring and retaining the best and brightest workers. A height-adjustable desk is an affordable perk that matters to today’s top talent.
- An ounce of prevention. The Ohio State University Spine Research Institute has reported that the average cost of a back-injury-related worker’s comp claim can be $40,000–$80,000 per employee. Since the average one-time cost of a sit-stand solution is just $500, it is a no-brainer to invest in sit-stand solutions to help reduce healthcare costs and time away from the office.
- Reduced Health Insurance and Worker’s Compensation Claims. A healthy workforce means lower healthcare and worker’s comp costs.
The Key to Great Results: Proper Usage
To gain the best results, the sit-stand solution must be used correctly. The device must be programmed for the proper ergonomic settings for sitting and standing based on each employee’s height. Users also need to know how often to transition between sitting and standing throughout the day.
Unfortunately, in most cases, little or no training is given to employees about how to properly use their new height-adjustable devices, which could result in the device going unused, being used ineffectively or possibly causing even further injury. Even if the employer hires an ergonomist to work with employees, the device won’t be effective if the employees cannot recall the instructions, such as the correct sitting and standing heights based on their personal needs.
Making it easy for your employees to properly use sit-stand desks will help ensure that your company will reap the financial and injury-prevention benefits. There’s no easier or more effective adjustable-height device than a set of electric legs that slide under an existing work surface. The electric operation puts no physical strain on the user’s neck, shoulder and back muscles, unlike desk-on-desk devices, which require the user to bend over and lift the device up to raise it and push it down to lower it. This exposes the lower back and other muscles to a possible pull or a strain. These are the areas you are trying to protect from injury. Starting at around $400, a set of electric legs has become quite affordable.
An added benefit of electric height-adjustable devices is that most of them have the ability to store each user’s proper height settings for sitting and standing. Users simply push the button or use a mobile app (if available) to adjust their desks to the proper heights. Using the built-in settings and a mobile app makes transitioning to the user’s proper sitting and standing heights faster and easier, which helps ensure appropriate usage. Proper usage helps reap wellness and productivity benefits while helping to prevent potentially wasted costs of the device going unused.
Ways to Ensure Proper Usage
Smartphone or Desktop App
A smartphone or desktop app teaches employees how to properly use their sit-stand devices, including:
- How to use the controls;
- How to determine their personal ergonomic seated and standing desk heights;
- How to store those seated and standing work settings in the device’s memory;
- Pop-up reminders to let the user know when it’s time to transition between sitting and standing;
- Estimated calorie burning results; and
- The ability to gamify the user’s sit-stand experience by showing interactive goal progress for daily, weekly and monthly results.
Potential results: Employees become engaged in their sit-stand progress and gain the benefits of their sit-stand solutions.
Gamification Encourages Usage and Lets You Track It
Measuring employee usage of sit-stand devices is critical to determining the overall benefits. Organizing friendly competitions will give you insights as to which employees are properly using their sit-stand desks. Is it 90 percent? Is it only 30 percent? You don’t know unless you track and measure. The best sit-stand solutions make it easy for you by automating this task.
Friendly competitions using group gamification can boost employee morale while increasing the effectiveness of the sit-stand devices for each user. For example, set up a competition to see which department’s workers can come closest to the desired target of 10 sitting-standing daily transitions for one month. Alternatively, departments can compete for the most calories burned in total in a week. Offering rewards makes the competition more fun.
Reduce Health Insurance and Worker’s Comp Costs
Utilize the usage data you’ve collected as a tool to lower your company’s health insurance premiums and/or worker’s compensation costs.
Analyze your employee data by sorting it into groups: those with the sit-stand devices and those without. Compare to determine if the sit-stand group has seen a reduction in healthcare and worker’s compensation costs. If the sit-stand group shows lower costs in those categories than the other, then you have a case to request lower insurance premiums. Utilizing a solution that does the measurement for you makes it quick and efficient.
Potential Results: Statistical data can help you fight for lower healthcare premiums and worker’s compensation costs.
Tips for Choosing the Right Sit-Stand Desk
- Consider the heights of your users to ensure the solution will accommodate all of them. If your workers are taller than 6’3” or shorter than 5’4”, the standard solutions may not be a fit.
- Choose an under-desk solution, such as telescoping legs that replace the desk’s original legs, which gives users the full use of their desktops rather than a desktop unit that takes up desk space.
- Select a sit-stand device that is easy to use. Electric models require the least effort to move.
- Teach people how to use them ergonomically. This is critical. There are free apps available now that do this. If your users aren’t using their sit-stand devices at all or aren’t using them correctly, you will not see a positive return on your investment.