Sit/Stand – a personal experience

Just back from three years working in Copenhagen and thought I’d share a few thoughts on sit/stand desks in the workplace.

First, in Denmark, all office workplaces are required to be sit/stand.  This, and the right to have a certain level of daylight in the office, is what you’d expect of the Scandi work ethos.

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My desk in Copenhagen

So how does this bobbing up and down work in practice?   Well, unsurprisingly most of the movement around the office comprises the usual trips to the water cooler or coffee machine, picking up the odd follow-me printout, attending meetings and going to colleague’s desks for the work discussions.  Oh, and then going to the toilet and to the water cooler/coffee machine.

Emailing or phoning colleagues in the same building  is considered bad form.  So, when your co-worker/client/contractor comes and talks to me, my first action is to raise the desk so that we both stand and talk. In this position, the awkwardness of one person sitting another standing is avoided and both can look at and see documents on screen and discuss in a natural peer way.  On one occasion, a posse of people approached (they have been in a meeting and have an unresolved question for me) and I had four people in discussion round my desk.

Due to an extremely good office canteen, concentration can present a problem post-lunch, so I crank up the desk height and productivity is maintained.

And another thing, a funny thing happens when some of the desks are raised position and the others in the sitting position.  It is as if you suddenly have much more space and better view.  The Oslo ferry leaves at 1630 and it is nice to stand up and see it depart.

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Leaving at the end of the day or more likely dashing late out of the office to get to Kastrup Airport, up goes the desk height and in I go to retrieve my laptop and phone power adaptors. Much easier than scrabbling underneath on the floor.

In all, I reckon I spent 90 minutes a day standing, and I felt better for it.  There are certain tasks that work well with standing –drawing, direct manipulation with a mouse etc, and some things that don’t – such as typing War and Peace.

So what about Health and Safety and the actuators failing mid-way between stand and sit?  Well on the latter question, I don’t know; it never happened on my floor.   What about trapping and guillotining fingers or it falling over and crushing me?  To avoid crushing, regulations specify that the gap between desks has to be 25mm. Also the desks have an intelligent sensor so that if any resistance stops the motor. The really clever ones reverse the movement 5mm to free the offending appendage.  For our project work on the designs of Control Room desks, we tested them at full height with 200kg weight on the front edge and they were completely solid.

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The price of these desks is often thought prohibitive.  I was pleasantly surprised that our local Danish suppliers produced our bespoke workplaces with capability for 2 rows of 5 displays very reasonably when compared to the equivalent fixed model.

Back in my London office, I miss my sit/stand desk (and the canteen too).

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Ged is an Associate Director at CCD

Ged has over 25 years of experience in ergonomics with a specialism in railway systems. Ged spent nine years as Principal Consultant in the Network Rail Ergonomics Team where he specialised in the implementation of ERTMS systems in the UK. Ged is currently leading the CCD team supporting in the Banedanmark re-signalling scheme in Copenhagen and on a number of UK ETCS programmes.

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