Daisy McCarty is the long-time office furniture blogger for San Diego based Cubicles Office Environments. She regularly covers topics ranging from office furniture news, design, and products, to refurbishing and sustainability in her blog. We are happy to have her connect with you on this topic.
There’s no shortage of sound medical research pointing to the health risks of prolonged sitting. You don’t have to look in a 3600 mirror to know that being an “office chair potato” can wreak havoc on the human body. Sit-to-stand workstations are the clear choice for a more ergonomic work experience. They should be the first option employers, designers, and facility managers consider rather than a novelty item that only a privileged few get to experience.
However, adjustable height worksurfaces add a new, vertical dimension to office design planning. They introduce a whole new array of questions about how to create a truly effective work environment. This doesn’t mean you should view sit-to-stand desks and worktables as obstacles in the office landscape. Instead, it’s time to spark off some discussion about how to integrate these modern work surfaces into the average open office plan. Let’s get started!
Can I Get Some Privacy Here?
Many top-of-the-line cubicles allow some customization of the worksurface height based on employee height. However, that’s a set it and forget it feature. Truly adjustable worksurfaces that are attached to a cubicle panel are few and far between. Many of the best sit-to-stand worktables and desks are designed to be freestanding. They aren’t meant to serve as a support structure for a panel. This doesn’t mean that cubicle panels can’t be incorporated into the office layout. Panel wall heights may actually need to increase to provide consistent acoustic shielding and reduce interruptions for workers whether they are sitting or standing.
However, panels may no longer be directly linked to the worksurface. Instead, you might start seeing more standalone panels with wide bases for stability. Or, panels with brackets attached to walls could make a comeback. With today’s blended office environments that feature both collaborative and private workspaces, this layout might be very beneficial. The individual workstations could line the perimeter of the office by the coveted window spots where employees can enjoy plenty of natural light. The central area of the room could be reserved for lounge style furnishings and “pods” for group work.
Where Should You Stow Stuff?
To date, most studies of repetitive motion injuries in cubicle workers assume that all movements are done from a seated position. This includes bending, twisting, and reaching to retrieve objects and files. When employees start standing at work, this is all going to change. They will have more mobility and a greater reach. It won’t seem like a huge chore for workers to heave themselves out of an office chair and walk across the room to a filing cabinet – they’ll already be standing up. At the same time, bending over from a standing position or squatting down to reach files in the very bottom drawer of a credenza may not be very comfortable.
Some storage options, such as overhead bins placed directly above the main worksurface may no longer be useful. In contrast, mobile storage pedestals may be a very popular addition (and they can be readily shared between two or more workers). Spine based storage solutions that place file drawers at about waist level could also address the new, variable height of work positions.
Put on Your Thinking Cap…
These are only a few factors to consider in designing a workspace that incorporates sit-to-stand desks and tables. You will also need to brainstorm about these topics:
- Streamlined cord management
- Adjustable monitor arms, keyboard trays and task lighting
- Where to put peripherals such as printers
- Whether employees need more or less square footage in your new layout
- If bridges and returns are still needed to provide adequate surface area, or if they can be replaced with other office furniture that isn’t attached to the main worksurface.
- Anti-fatigue flooring that still allows desk chairs to roll freely
There are no limits to the heights we can reach as we re-imagine the modern workplace! Share your ideas in the comments.