“Is sitting the new smoking?” asks a headline in Forbes. Martha Grogan, cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic and others think that too much sitting is as bad for your health. Standing desks may or may not be the cure, but these desks have other important benefits.
I spoke with Jennifer Carpenter, of Jennifer Carpenter Architect, who designs workspaces for corporations and institutions. Her goal is to make people happier. “Happier employees have a better day at work, which improves employee retention,” said Carpenter.
Interestingly, it isn’t the medical benefit that is driving Carpenter to incorporate sit-to-stand workstations in her designs. It is the feedback she gets from the field. It is the perceptual benefits of adjustable work stations.
Adjustability improves collaboration
Employees don’t want to be tethered to a desk, said Carpenter. They want to collaborate with different people throughout the day. As a result, some companies don’t assign workstations. Adjustable and sit-and-stand desks allow people who are short or tall to work from the same location. Each person can adjust both the desk and chair to his or her specific needs.
Flexibility compensates for less space
Even if you can’t change your location, you can change your workstation throughout the day with a sit-to-stand desk or sit-and-stand desk like turnstone’s Bivi. A desk that adjusts or provides a variety of postures allows the same location to be different throughout the day. It also allows workers to shift to a new posture based on the task at hand. “This has a mental benefit,” said Carpenter. Offering this kind of flexibility compensates for the reduced square footage workstations that companies are moving to. Being able to change from sitting to standing can allow people to manage back pain and/or release some energy.
Personalization increases happiness
“Allowing employees to control their space makes them happier,” said Carpenter. She has designed spaces for places like Converse and MediaMath. When she’s gone back to see how well the design is working, she’s been amazed by the wide range of heights of work surfaces. “I think this will become the new standard,” said Carpenter.
Perfection takes ingenuity
One of the things that comes with adjustability is that you can’t control what your neighbor does. If your neighbor’s worksurface is really high and yours is really low, you may feel like they are looming over you. Turnstone’s new Bivi High Sit is specifically designed to compensate for this with Privacy and Modesty Screens that protect sight lines and help create a sense of privacy and focus.
When putting teams together, think through who will be sitting next to and across from each other, advises Carpenter. If your team’s open to assigning seats, putting a name to the desk might help eliminate some problems up front. Carpenter’s philosophy is “have name plate will travel.” She goes the extra mile by designing magnetic name plates so when people relocate, others will know who they are.