There is a lot of “noise” in the Ergonomic world about Sit to Stand Portable Stands

There is a lot of “noise” these days in the world of Ergonomics about the need to use Sit to Stand workstations including the use of Portable Stands (see photo).

At Optimal Performance our consultants are being increasingly asked if these desk top sit to stand units are a good alternative to sit to stand workstations.

Without getting into detail for this Blog the quick answer based as always on the science of ergonomics is posed as a question:

1. Does the employee have to sit statically for at least 34-66% of each day. (by have to this means they work in a call centre or safety sensitive position (operating a crane, observing screens at a security desk, monitoring screens at a nuclear facility) whereby they truly must sit in place to interact with the public, safety sensitive equipment or customers?

2. Does the employee have a bona fide medical condition that will clearly benefit from changing from a seated to standing posture on a regular basis thru the day. Examples include a bona fide and properly diagnosed discogenic injury with sciatica; diabetes with diabetic neuropathy: a history of DVT/Deep Vein Thrombosis to name a few.

If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then we can more certain (based on this objective criteria) that the changing of postures using a sit-to-stand workstation is a sound recommendation. This becomes a more successful recommendation when it is combined with the correct training on how to adjust the workstation and  how often to adjust from sitting to standing & when to use the workstation. Couple this with supervision of employees on the proper and ongoing use of the workstations and your company will see objective improvements in the employee’s physical symptoms, function and productivity.

Now that we have established the objective conditions for where a sit to stand workstation is required, the next question we are being asked is; instead of a sit to stand workstation can we simply purchase a desk top unit for the employee.  The answer is “it depends”. Again we go to the data we have collected in workplaces across Canada who have trialed these units to properly answer this question.  The 5 questions that your Facility Management team and purchasing team need to ask are the following:

  1. When this desktop unit is in place what is the horizontal reach distance in both standing and sitting postures to access the keyboard and the mouse based on a 5th percentile female stature?
  2. Has the company who sells these units tested the equipment and been certified with BIFMA and the CSA. THis should include weight testing of the unit to guarantee the unit will not tip on the desk or person during its use (there are 2 documented cases of these desk top units tipping onto the floor of one client’s and onto the employee in another client’s case)
  3. Are there other items that need to be purchased outside of the unit’s base price that will actually make the price similar to a sit to stand workstation by the time this is all said and done? (many of the manufacturers of these desk top units cause you to purchase accessories to ensure the units work properly!). This quickly increases the real cost of these desk top units.
  4. Can the desk top sit-to-stand unit allow the keyboard and mouse section to be lowered to the 5th percentile female elbow height (between 25-27″). This is not possible to allow for unless the workstation upon which the unit will sit is lowered. The cost for your internal or external furniture dealer to lower the workstation needs to now be factored in when comparing these units costs to an actual sit to stand workstation.
  5. Does a certified installer from the sit to stand dealer need to come in to install the unit? How quickly are they able to have the certified installer at your workplace? What is the cost for the installer per unit installed?
  6. If the unit is installed internally by the client themselves does this void the warranty on the sit to stand unit?

At the end of the day the two lessons to come out of all the hype about sit to stand workstations in the workplace is two-fold A. Your Ergonomic consultant should review the job demands to determine if static sitting is truly a bona fide occupational requirement of the job for at least 34-66% of each day  + the Ergonomist should converse with the MD or Physiotherapist or other rehabilitation provider to determine the actual nature of the medical/physical diagnosis.  A simple sore back or a perception on the part of the employee that a sit to stand posture would be helpful is NOT a bona fide reason for these to be purchased  AND B. if Sit to Stand postures are indicated make sure the ACTUAL cost of a desk top unit is measured against the cost of a workstation (don’t forget companies such as Steelcase and Teknion will keep the desktop itself and add the sit to stand mechanism to the desktop for a lower cost and to ensure the workstation matches re furniture standards).

As you can see from this and the many Blogs we have written via OptimalPerformanceBlog, excellence in Ergonomics demands that your company contract with high level, science based Ergonomic firms who know about ergonomics, how to measure demands of work, have a clear understanding of medical conditions, and can work closely with your facility management, design and CRE teams.  This is the only way to guarantee compliance with each Province’s mandatory ergonomic standards and also ensure the right equipment is provided to the right employee at the right time.

Contact one of our experts at Optimal Performance to learn how we can help.

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