The NYU Dispatch

America’s adoption of the standing desk


Standing, or even better yet, convertible desks, are rapidly becoming a common scene in the corporate realm. While some companies like Google have been ahead of the curve and were early-adopters of standing desks, this was easily predictable or even shunned by skeptics: since companies like Google typically allocate a significantly higher budget to employee experience and benefits. This is no longer the case, as the science becomes more clear.

What is a standing desk? Standing desks were born from the identified negative aspects of conventional ‘sitting’ desks. In the earliest of standing desk adoption stages, standing desks were typically either not convertible to a sitting desk, or the convertible types were extremely high-priced. Building your own was still extremely spendy and required a high level of technical finesse. The prebuilt, commercially-available standing desks were often clumsy and required extensive maintenance costs.

Another option born in the early stage that still exists are typically referred to as ‘risers’ which typically provide a lower cost, but at the expense of less ‘desk space’ contingent with the setup. Risers, much like convertible desks, are often DIYed by the thrifty or creative. Interestingly, many of the components these DIYers are using are similar; many DIYers gathering components for a riser or convertible desk would be hitting Actuator Zone. Many core components, such as actuators, monitor lifts, and columns, are common between both leading methodologies.

A motorized, convertible standing desk provides the most seamless transition from a sitting to a standing desk, with all of the desk space, yet at the highest cost. Since many want to have the best of all worlds, building your own motorized standing desk has become a go-to for those inclined to take the leap.

Some critics of standing desks claim that standing desks open the door to new health problems, such as foot pain/soreness. There is a well-known way to mitigate this via mats that can spare your feet. If you’re utilizing a motorized, convertible standing desk, you can transition from sitting to standing within seconds, and simply ‘do what feels best.’ Unfortunately, the rise of sitting has been directly correlated to a rise in obesity, and a large percentile of the workforce is presently obese, which may foster hesitance in adoption or utilization of standing desks. Luckily, these employees can treat standing desks like an exercise program: start small and grow in frequency and duration. Much like one would begin running two or three times per week and only for a distance of one to two miles, subsequently increasing the frequency of run sessions or increasing run mileage, one would increase how often or for how long they utilize their standing desk.

As science and data have proven over the past few decades, health has become directly correlated to employee performance. There is quantifiable data that backs that healthy employees are productive employees, and equally interesting, data that shows the inverse of the aforementioned. No longer is investing in standing desks seen as a mere ‘work perk,’ but as an investment in the productivity and longevity of the employer’s workforce.

Accessibility and providing reasonable accommodations are a critical planning aspect for major businesses that must be within legal compliance of these considerations. Standing desks can provide a key plug into what might be a gaping hole in your disability management program, and set you up for success in hiring future candidates. Even if your firm is not quite financially ready to phase in standing desks, allocating the time to procure a couple of standing desks, or having someone gain experience setting one up themselves, can set you up for future success.

The continuing boom of technology has seen a rapid and continually compounding increase of innovation over the past two decades, and this will only continue into even more accelerated research, development, and rollout of amazing new products. Standing desks are going to become more and more accessible to a wider consumer base over the next decade, and it is becoming a staple of startup culture or companies with a brand image of cutting-edge workspaces. As technology grows and job duties shift, productivity becomes increasingly important, and the major sell point to corporate will be the productivity boost that standing desks yield.

As the fields of technology and corporate life continue to marry and yield interesting children of innovation, we’ll continue to see more adoption of even more exciting and unique platforms for the workspace. Many standing desks can enable utilization of things like treadmills or other even more highly active innovations, some of which can directly plug into the standing desks’ mini computer for data collection. Par for the course, the data behind correlation of these innovations and productivity is there, which will only further catalyze the market and demand for new desks. It’s an exciting time to be working in the professional world.

This article was contributed by fellow NYU students. If you would like to make a contribution to the NYU Dispatch, please email us.

One thought on “America’s adoption of the standing desk”

  1. Productivity is a bit tricky to measure, but I have been standing at work for 6 years (60% of the day) so I will give it a try. I think you will find that Standup desks make you more alert providing you with more energy throughout the day. Sitting sends a signal to your body, “time to relax”, and standing up, even in not moving much sends the signal “time to get busy.” When you stand up, blood flows better, and your brain gets more oxygen, so it is know wonder you can “think better on your feet.” So for jobs that you tax your brain, try standing up. You end up doing more in less time and likely be more creative. So YES, you can be more productive standing up because of the natural energy boost.

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