Sitting Kills. What Your HR Department Can Do About It.

by Jennifer Miller on April 13, 2011

in Human Resources, Workplace Issues

If you sit for most of the day for your job, you’re 54% more likely to die of a heart attack.  This statistic appeared in the article The Most Dangerous Thing You’ll Do All Day. Written by Bill Phillips, the Editor of, the article describes research that points to sitting as a defining factor in determining one’s risk for a heart attack.  According to the research, this statistic holds true across all segments of the population—men, women, smokers versus non-smokers, those who exercise and those who don’t.

From a personal health standpoint, that’s scary stuff.   Phillips offers four strategies for employees to avoid becoming a statistic, including “Ask HR for a standup desk”.   It’s great advice. The problem is, for most employees, I’d imagine that asking Human Resources for a new desk might even be scarier than the possibility of keeling over at their desk. Think for a moment, of an employee who works in a call center: all those rows and rows (acres of them!) of cubicles, all neatly lined up, with hundreds of call-center employees, sitting there typing away efficiently. What employee in his or her right mind would swim against the current of Facilities Management and demand something as outlandish as a stand up desk?

Though it may seem somewhat exotic, stand-up desks have been around a long time.  Nearly 20 years ago, I worked for Herman Miller, an office furniture manufacturer who at the time offered a stand up desk.  They’re still coming out with variations of the stand up/sit down desk solution, as shown this article on the site “” featuring the Herman Miller’s “Thrive” series of office furniture.  

The ability to provide this type of office desk is readily available. It begs the question: would the request be readily granted?  I’m not so sure. From an employer’s standpoint, it’s costly to retrofit an employee workstation.  Just ask any number of HR professionals who’ve had to do so to accommodate people’s repetitive motion injuries. Now, with science pointing to the ubiquitous act of workplace sitting as a possible major health risk, it seems that human resource professionals have no choice but to sit up and take notice.

Discussion questions:

If you are in human resources, would you have the authority to grant the use of a stand up desk to an employee?  How many “hoops” would that person have to jump through to make it happen?

If you are a professional who sits for the majority of the day, what reaction do you have to this research?

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