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Stand Up for Health!


You’ve heard this before: “Sitting is the new smoking.” Article after article warns of the health risks of sitting all day at the office. Even The Economist weighed in recently with an article entitled “Standing Orders:  Real science lies behind the fad for standing up at work”.

Unlike other issues in the workplace, no one is debating the benefits of periodic standing while at work. But as I survey the landscape of corporate offices across the North America, I see very few examples of companies that have provided workspaces for seated and standing postures. Given the level of interest and press on this topic one has to ask “Why haven’t we seen broad based adoption?”


The most frequent objection to providing sit/stand for all employees is the cost per workstation.  A fixed height work surface is the least expensive component in a typical workspace. Storage and panels usually make up more than 80% of the cost. The decision to add a top that adjusts for seated or standing work can add $1000 or more, a significant expense especially on large projects for thousands of workers.  Inscape has introduced products that substantially reduce this cost, but organizations should realize that the hidden cost of not acting is many times larger. The Economist cites a recent study in Great Britain which found that individuals who were least active were twice as likely to develop diabetes, and 2.5 times as likely to have cardiovascular problems as their more active counterparts. Given the staggering cost of health care and the cost of absenteeism due to illness, you could assume companies who embrace employee well-being actually save money.


Fixed height work surfaces are easy to wire but tops that move require more planning and ingenuity to manage the power and data for the equipment on desks. While this sounds obvious, it’s more difficult than you might think — especially when tops are being retrofitted and adequate slack in the wires hasn’t been built in. In order to accommodate the full range of employees, tops should be designed to adjust from 26”-52”, which means you’ll need more than two feet of additional cable length if the outlets are below the seated desk height. We recommend mocking up the proposed solution complete with equipment so that the movement of wires and tension of the tops can be evaluated and adjusted as needed.


Newton’s first law of motion states that an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. The impact of this simple rule of the universe isn’t limited to high school physics labs; it’s also hard at work at your desk. In spite of all the evidence of the benefits of standing, we’ve grown accustomed to sitting and it’s hard to change that behavior. Mark Benden, author of Stand to Lose, understands the problem. For years he designed seating products that were in his words, “so comfortable nobody wanted to get out of them.” In researching the book, he did the math and found that standing for two and one half hours per day burns an additional half pound per week.

For those workers whose companies haven’t provided an adjustable work surface, he recommends putting your phone or laptop on a box. In addition to receiving the benefits of standing right away, it may provide the nudge your company needs to make these desks available before you need a doctor’s excuse.  I’ve developed a practice of doing all of my email and conference calls from a standing position and record how much I stand each day.

At Inscape we’re working hard to provide functional and affordable sit/stand desks. And the best news about inertia is that all you have to do to overcome it is get up!

| By Michael Fazio

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“A mega-trend is sharing instead of ownership of workspaces. We can either all ride in coach or we can share a private jet.”

Chris Blackadder
Principal, Woods Bagot