Sick of Sitting Around?

Don't be surprised if HR won't buy into office furniture fads

Back Article Dec 4, 2014 By Suzanne Lucas

I know sitting all day is bad for me, even if I’m getting exercise, so I’d like to try a standing desk. Some of my coworkers would, too. How do I approach my boss about potentially making a change to the way his employees do their work? I have the same question for getting new chairs. I know they’re expensive, but many of us are uncomfortable. How can I convince him that it’s a good idea to spend the money?

You know, I’m on your side here. In fact, not only would I like a standing desk, I’d really like to try a treadmill desk. I actually wear a Fitbit and compete with my friends. Boy could I kick their heinies if I did all my work while walking! Then I would be insufferable as I bragged about my achievements.

Also, I visited an office supply store a few days ago. They had all sorts of chairs and balance balls and these interesting kneeling things that are supposed to save your back while writing. I would totally love to try those out as well. So many cool things are out there.

But, the reality is, I’m writing this while sitting at a very normal desk. Actually, I guess it’s technically not a desk because it doesn’t have any drawers. It’s simply a glass table, with my inboxes on one side and my microphone (for podcasting) on the other. My printer is on another little table, and my chair is a normal, boring chair. It doesn’t even have wheels. When we have dinner guests, it gets appropriated as a dining room chair.

Why don’t  I  have any of the cool stuff? Well, you’ve already pointed out the first reason: cost. These things are expensive. But the second reason is probably the one you need to conquer if you want your boss to buy one for you — they’re fads. I can’t say whether they are going to help or hinder your productivity or whether they’ll keep you healthier. There’s also a possibility that a new standing desk will be the coolest thing ever for about three days and then just take up space in the office. Expensive space. And if he buys one of the adjustable ones, he’ll have that great reminder of money wasted.

It’s pretty normal for employers to ask for their employees’ opinions when ordering new office furniture, but it’s not normal for employers to buy new furniture when the stuff they’ve got is perfectly good. (Unless, of course, the employee asking is a highly paid executive. Then all bets are off.) Furthermore, you’re not entitled to the latest and greatest, so it’s going to be a hard thing to crack if your boss is resistant. It’s very different from asking for something that you need to do your job — like a functioning computer or a color printer. You’re perfectly capable of doing your job while sitting down.

If you want to make a strong argument for a standing desk, you’ll need to do your research and demonstrate how it will make you more productive. It’s this increased productivity that is key to getting your boss to open his checkbook. However, be aware, the reviews on such things are mixed. Some people love them, and others report terrible knee problems from excessive standing.

But, if after doing your research, you’re convinced that this standing desk will bring you happiness and health, ask the boss if he can buy one — just one — and let everyone try it out. You may find out that you love it, and you may find out that you hate it. If everyone retains their regular desks, there’s no need to buy a fancy one that goes up and down. If the boss says no to this, you can offer to pay for one yourself and have it brought to the office. If it works and everyone (or at least someone) loves it, then it’s possible that the boss will consider buying one or even reimbursing you.

It’s kind of weird to buy your own work furniture, but when you’re asking for something that is out of the ordinary, it’s a great solution. If your reaction to my suggestion is a roll of the eyes, then consider that your boss may think it’s ridiculous to buy new office furniture when what you have is perfectly functional.

Don’t be offended or upset if the boss ends up saying no. It’s not personal, it’s financial. It’s not like asking for an accommodation for a disability or something. (Although, if your doctor recommends less sitting and it qualifies under the Americans With Disabilities Act, it could be considered a reasonable accommodation.) If your boss does end up buying one, know that you’re extra lucky. And let me know how it works out. I still want one.


Do you have a DIY standing desk? Let us know in the comments!


Kamron (not verified)December 4, 2014 - 11:09am


Standing desks are definitely not a fad as they've been around for centuries. In fact, several early influential people were known to use them on a regular basis (Hemingway, Jefferson, Churchill, Dickens, etc).

The most important thing to keep in mind when considering either a static (non-moving) or height-adjustable standing desk is overall movement. Anything in excess can be harmful to the body (including standing), so it's important to find a balance of both.

Personally, I alternate sitting/standing every hour at my UpDesk. This keeps me active and I gain extra strength/productivity benefits. Most companies will actually consider purchasing a standing desk for their employees; however, you have to be prepared.

Here are 3 ways to be prepared in asking for a standing desk:

1) Visit your doctor and/or chiropractor to talk about the benefits of standing throughout the day. He or she will more than likely provide you with a doctor's note you can then present to your employer. This is a preventative measure that really goes a long way with employers.

2) Research the articles/studies about the ill effects of prolonged sitting and have those ready to show your employer. There's a reason doctors have created the "sitting is the new smoking" statement...

3) Get the permission to build a DIY standing desk approach in your space before having your employer commit to purchasing a permanent solution. This will give both you and your employer a general idea of the concept and how it can potentially boost your focus/productivity/energy-levels.

jdgalt (not verified)December 5, 2014 - 12:13pm

Ask for one for yourself if you want one, but don't ask that everyone be made to switch. Having to constantly stand when doing sit-down type work would be torture for most of us (and the practice of requiring it, for cashiers for example, needs to be banned).

Brooks Erickson (not verified)December 10, 2014 - 1:42pm

Why not try before you buy. I did this with $22 in IKEA parts and worked with it for 6-months before going ahead with something more interesting. What parts, you ask? One LACK end table, a shelf, and two shelf brackets. This trial time was crucial as it allowed me to prove to myself that this just might make really good sense. When it does come for you to request the big buy, you will be well able to say that it works well for you because you have spent time working that way. For my next step, I found an old drafting table on craigslist, then stripped and refinished it. I use an articulating arm for my monitor and love the wide full work space this approach provides. I keep the computer up top which gives me good reason to stand about 60% of the day, and the phone at my old desk--down and to the left. So, its been two years now and I have grown quite appreciative of this approach. Cheers

Allison JoyDecember 10, 2014 - 2:56pm

I agree, Brooks. I did something very similar with two Ikea tables that can be repurposed around the office if standing doesn't work out for me. There's lots of DIY resources online for people interested in exploring standing options but don't want a huge financial commitment.

Cecily Hastings (not verified)December 14, 2014 - 4:43pm

For less than $300 varidesk.com has a great adjustable height desktop that fits right on your existing desk with no attachments or screws. With a simple lift it raises to standing height and then lowers again when you want to sit down. I'm surprised you did not find this in your research for the article.

Kella (not verified)June 5, 2015 - 3:37pm

We can help employers with task chairs or sit/stand-desk options should you see the need to procure furniture for yourself, or for your staff in order to encourage healthier lifestyles within the office. A healthier office can mean an increase in productivity for your company. There are many products available now that can help with the more sedentary work life created by being an an employee inside all day. As with all things there are less expensive, moderately priced, and top of the line options available. Several lines we work with have products for the office that is transitioning, but also, many lines are constantly doing research into what will help the most - or what will make the most positive impact on health. Sometimes new equipment/ furniture isn't needed such as just moving around for a few minutes out of every hour. Let us help should you find yourself in need. By the way we love Comstock Magazine. Such an elegant publication our office enjoys immensely.

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