Q&A: Student Standing Desks for SPED



During the recent live Standing Desks: How and Why Educators Are Using Them webinar, listeners had an opportunity to pose questions about how standing desks can help create a healthy, flexible, and personalized learning environment. (If you missed the webinar, access it online at edWeb and earn a CE credit!)

Here, co-presenter Bob Hill addresses an important question that a number of educators have on their minds.


A: Research at the ATTAIN Tech Lab in New Hope, MN, suggests it does. SPED students were encouraged to stand for at least five minutes every half hour. Simple movement may increase focus, concentration, work quality, and overall behavior for students with cerebral palsy, autism spectrum, developmental coordination, emotional and behavioral disorders. Watch a video of an interview with an ATTAIN educator or read the scientific journal article: Sit, Stand, Learn.

While Ergotron desks are not officially ADA-certified, educators find that both the LearnFit and TeachWell® mobile adjustable workstations help level the playing field for many students with physical challenges. For example, students in wheelchairs can wheel right up to the desk and engage more easily with peers while participating in group projects.

You can also access last year’s  School Moves! webinar on-demand – it focuses mainly on the metabolic health and engagement aspects of an active classroom. (CE credit is available.)

Bob Hill,
Education Manager at Ergotron

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Q&A: Follow up on Building a Business Case webinar


Q-A_purpleIt’s been a month since we presented our Building a Business Case for Sit-Stand at Work webinar (available on-demand). There was a lot of interest in the topic and we received several questions after the Q&A segment, so let’s address them here.

Q: When did Ergotron become involved with the sit-stand workstyle concept?

A:  In 1994 we introduced our first sit-stand monitor arms – back then for CRTs! But really the sit-stand concept started with healthcare. Nurses were spending too many hours on their feet, so Ergotron designed carts that would allow them to sit while charting. In 2009 we launched our first WorkFit® sit-stand desk and in 2010 we launched JustStand.org, as a hub and community for the latest research, tools and ideas about moving more. And we’re still innovating with products like the LearnFit® student standing desk for classrooms.

Q: I’d like to make a business case to my boss for a sit-stand desk. I’m not an HR professional. Where do I even start?

A: First of all, bravo! You’re not alone in being hesitant to request a workstation upgrade – only 16 percent of employees surveyed have asked for one. Begin with our “Ask Your Boss” letter template (part of a downloadable WorkFit Champion Toolkit). Then customize it based on your unique circumstances. If you have special health concerns that are exacerbated by sitting, talk to your doctor about using a sit-stand workstation. Most companies will try to accommodate an employee with a medical condition.

Or, if your boss will only be convinced by fiscal facts and figures, add an ROI angle to your letter, such as what this employee wrote to her manager:

“Outfitting our workplace with ergonomic sit-stand desks will affect the bottom line in a positive way. Let’s say every workplace injury costs the company $5,000, taking into account lost productivity, increased healthcare costs, etc. If an employee approaches you before becoming injured at the workplace from a chronic disease or repetitive strain injury, you save $5,000 (minus the cost of the desk). The return on investment is substantial. Not to mention all the other benefits: employees who sit and stand up during the workday are more comfortable and more alert, and as a result, more productive.”

Q: Do you recommend any small tools or gadgets to help me add more movement to my sit-stand routine?

A: Sure! Many of us have tried a variety of active-office gear with positive results. Your experience may vary, so listen to your body and have fun experimenting. Carrie, a certified ergonomic assessor, says her anti-fatigue mat gets a lot of use. When standing, it not only cushions her feet, but it encourages her to move. (One bonus: the cushioning in any one spot of a mat compresses and provides less padding after a while, so you naturally step to another spot.) Denise, a designer, uses a stand-up task stool with her sit-stand desk. She likes to adjust it to different heights, depending on her fatigue level, and “perch” on it throughout the day. When on a long phone call, for instance, she raises it high and rocks back and forth, which keeps her legs moving and engaged. Colette, a product manager, likes to use a footstool so she can alternate putting a leg up when standing, or a balance board when movement helps her stay more engaged and alert.

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Q&A: Does research prove value of sit-stand desks?


Q-A_purpleQ: What is your reaction to reports that there isnt good evidence supporting the use of sit-stand desks to reduce sitting time in the workplace? Melissa G., Project Manager

A: Hi Melissa. I think you may be referring to media buzz concerning the recently published  Cochrane review of 20 sit-stand studies. While the authors of this review no doubt meant to supply an objective analysis by which to guide readers, the unfortunate truth is that it has left some employers and workers feeling confused and alarmed by casting doubt on the health benefits of sit-stand interventions in general.

Several pilot investigations have been published indicating that sit-stand desks are both effective and feasible at reducing sitting time (research.juststand.org). And yet the scientific evidence reviewed in this meta-analysis was deemed “uncertain.”

“Based on what we know at the moment, the health benefits of standing at work are not very clear,” says  Jos Verbeek, study author and health researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. Indeed, one might suspect that sit-stand desks were meant to substitute the standing posture for sitting, but that is not the case. If one thing has become more obvious in our own research at Ergotron, it is that no single posture should be recommended as the one and only correct posture.

While a strict dose/response ratio is still up to debate, we feel that a postural rotation of 30 minute intervals is both safe and effective. In this case, the goal is not to prove that standing at work is more beneficial than sitting, but that any static posture is to be avoided.

Further, the review concludes that evidence for the health benefits of standing desks is limited, mainly because only a few large,  ongoing studies have been conducted, and more rigorous study is needed. While I support the call for further high-quality research (after all who wouldn’t?), I would hasten to point out that the data already collected is not wholly without value. In fact, it demonstrates  a responsible approach on the part of investigators who use small-scale pilot studies to pave the way for larger, long-term projects.

High caliber longitudinal studies require planning time, dependable funding source(s), and still more time for proper analysis – and all that before publication. All things considered, sedentary behavior research is in its early days as compared to similar research on say, interventions to eradicate tobacco use. Then too, the reviewers in question seem to have underestimated the impact that reductions in sitting time can have on an individual’s health. Consider the results of one study which show that the likelihood of dying from heart disease rises 14% for every hour spent sitting.  According to lead researcher, Dr. Katherine Kulinski, “reducing daily sitting time by even 1 or 2 hours could have a significant and positive impact on future cardiovascular health, and this really should be investigated in future studies,” said

Ergotron continues to support global researchers as they study the effects of sedentary behavior on metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular health, Type II diabetes prevention and so on. It is an exciting time in this research and there is so much more to be learned.

As companies begin to embrace a culture of movement, these reductions, coupled with other activities, like standing or walking meetings, begin to paint a brighter outlook for all.

To avoid established research being taken out of context, it is good to remember the goals of these studies, which often are centered on both reducing sedentary time and studying cumulative impact on health through standing desk use.

For details, read the full review  on the Cochrane Library or listen to a short podcast about updates since publication, or visit our research library on the site (research.juststand.org) for a broader view.

With any behavioral change, modest increases in standing are to be applauded. Employees may not need to stand for hours over the course of the day to enjoy benefits. For instance, a recent study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M  showed that an average decrease of 1.5 hours in workplace sedentariness correlated to impressive gains in employee performance and business results.

With a sit-stand desk, standing and staying active doesn’t have to hamper productivity. Employees can fidget, shift, take a few steps, stretch  –  without getting distracted from work or having to go outside the office to work out.

Keep moving!

carrie s_a-hrCarrie Schmitz, Ergotron Senior Manager,
Human Factors and Ergonomics Research,




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Q&A: Standing desks require training, like a marathon?


Q-A_purpleQ: I’ve seen news reports that say standing at a desk for long stretches can be a health hazard if you don’t build up to it gradually. Do I need to train to use my standing desk, like for a marathon? – Michael M., Graphic Designer

A: In light of recent warnings by the media on the risks of using standing desks for prolonged periods, I’d like to provide my perspective, which is based on years of experience and observation in ergonomics research.

The sad fact is that employees have traditionally had to stand — or sit — for prolonged periods, with no training in proper body mechanics. Early in my own career, I worked in the publishing industry as a photographer, production artist, technical illustrator, and so on. In those roles, I spent a lot of time on my feet. While stools were available, it turned out that sitting didn’t give me the mobility I needed to run back and forth between tasks.

No one suggested I get training on how to work standing up. In fact, now that I think about it, I wasn’t given training on standing before becoming a waitress, factory worker, or amusement park mascot either – and I spent most of one pregnancy hoofing it as a department store clerk. I didn’t suffer from all that standing, but I would certainly have benefited from training, during an employee safety orientation, say.

In contrast, when I had jobs that kept me sedentary, I was miserable with back pain. It was so bad for so long that I considered applying for disability if I couldn’t stay at my job. Can you guess if anyone trained me on the safe way to sit? Afraid not. I had to find the answers on my own, a process that led me into a career as a researcher in human factors and ergonomics.

As a responsible desk manufacturer, Ergotron is at the forefront of scientific research on workplace wellness. In future blog posts we will detail our guidelines for establishing a work routine that helps mitigate the risks of either sitting or standing for long periods.

carrie s_a-hrCarrie Schmitz
Ergotron Senior Manager,
Human Factors and Ergonomics Research,



Disclaimer: Ergotron devices are not intended to cure, treat, mitigate or prevent any disease.

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Q&A: Can school children stand for hours?



Q: Is it difficult for students to stand for hours, such as in a lab doing typing exercises? – “School Moves” webinar chat question

A: Studies show that introducing low-level activity into the classroom has a positive impact on student health, focus, and performance. So we know movement like standing during lab time can be a positive experience. We also know that kids like to move. However, since all kids are not created equal, it is unlikely that they could stand for very long periods without some distraction and discomfort creeping in if their legs started to fatigue.

Should we ask them to stand for hours? No. While individual tolerance for standing longevity may vary, giving kids options to rest periodically as needed is a wiser solution overall. Creating an environment where they can make the decision themselves to sit or stand would be ideal, as long as it wasn’t disruptive to sight lines or the overall flow of the lesson. Otherwise, directed sit or stand changes could be woven into the lesson plan, or offered from the teacher at regular intervals, i.e., every 30 minutes.

One of the benefits of the self-moderated sit or stand actions by students is that they get to gauge their energy levels in a more personal way. One student from a school we spoke with said when math class rolls around, she stands since she knows she might be tired after lunch and she wants to ensure she has increased concentration during a complex subject.

Depending on how the lab is structured, considering tall stools paired with standing height tables or an adjustable standing solution might be appropriate. Or, using height-adjustable sit-stand workstations with a standard chair. Other factors like creating workstations for variable height users may impact length of standing comfort as well. If a tall child has to use a shorter table, or a shorter student has to use a too tall table, comfort erodes.

Good or bad ergonomics can also play a part in overall comfort. If students are in a dedicated computer or typing lab for an entire class period, there are a different set of ergonomic guidelines that should be followed. Because of prolonged repetitive motion, you will need to be particularly attentive to wrist angles, elbow angles, and monitor height.

To find out more about the benefits of a sit-stand classroom, check out our “School Moves!” webinar at edWeb, a resource for educators.



Bob Hill
Education Manager at Ergotron

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Q&A: How do I remember to stand more?



Q: How do I remind myself to stand more at work? I made a New Year’s resolution to sit less and move more during the day, but I keep forgetting. I have good intentions but a poor memory. – Dianna

A: Glad you asked! Global studies show that, on average, we sit 7.7 hours a day, and some results estimate people sit up to an astounding 15 hours a day. In our modern sedentary culture, sitting is a necessary evil, and while sometimes you just have to bite the bullet, here are three easy ways to keep your resolve to move more at work.

1 – Strengthen your motivation.
By now, you know that sitting down all day is killing you, but maybe you haven’t seen all the cold hard facts that may help propel you up and off that chair. Ergotron has been a leader in supporting scientific research in this area. A growing body of evidence suggests an obvious remedy: Standing!

Next, calculate your daily sitting time. Once you know where you’re starting from, it’s easier to adjust your mindset and become more motivated to get going. Then once you see some improvement, those benefits will crank up your resolve. It’s a healthy feedback loop!

2 – Put in place a plan of action.
Take a look at your daily calendar and ask: How can I stand more today? What small change can I make to remain active? It might take some time and effort, but pretty soon using the stairs instead of the elevator will become automatic and won’t even require a decision on your part. It will feel like second nature to stand up during long conference calls, or to conduct walking meetings, or to walk over to the bathroom that’s farthest away from your desk.

3 – Get up, stand Up
Standing up for part of your workday is an easy way to stay active. You naturally fidget, move and sway when you’re standing. Throw on some headphones, enjoy your favorite tunes, and you might even find yourself dancing. If you’re feeling brave, try to convince your boss to invest in a sit-stand desk for you. Or, take matters into your own hands by fashioning a DIY standing desk.

Remember, standing all day may not be healthy or practical – people naturally want to sit at times to rest or when intensely concentrating.

How do you keep moving during the workday? Tell us in the comments!

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Q&A: Comfy standing meetings



Question: Our company has meetings for five to 100 people, and just got high-top tables so that you can stand. An employee expressed concerns about not feeling comfortable standing for 90 minutes straight. I figured you’d have some kind of guidelines. I’d like to provide these to our leadership staff.

Jessica D.

Answer: Terrific question! We have a few ideas. One place to start would be to consider having seating for only about one-half of the staff, up in front of the room. This is useful for anyone who may have any medical issues, hearing issues, wants to sit, or just likes to be near the action. Our experience finds that all the seats don’t tend to fill up, so this even gives the standers a chance to sit if they tire over the 90 minutes. Here are a few other ideas:

· Consider some kind of stand-up tables, grouped along the side or in back, or in the space behind the chairs. This gives people the chance to lean against something if they need a little rest, just as staff around the edges of the room will lean against the walls as needed. Chairs are a perfect alternate to tables along the edges of the room, as people are sometimes more likely to sit if the chair is close by versus having to walk in front of everyone to get there.

· Maybe you might want to break it up a little. At a 45 minute break, invite everyone who wants to change postures to switch: the sitters are probably getting tired at this point too.

· As your staff gets used to the idea of standing meetings they will develop a preference for sitting or standing the whole meeting. It may take time to build the muscle endurance, so perhaps weaning them off the chairs for several meetings will help you in this effort. Ramp-up time will vary, depending on overall fitness and whether the staff is already standing during the workday. How to best accommodate the smaller portion that want choice will be clearer over time.

· Place a large display cart at the front of the room and mid-way to effectively deliver your messages to the whole group, whether seated or standing.

There is no doubt that giving people permission to decide for themselves is really important in this process. Have other ideas to share?

Michelle Judd
Director of Global Communications at Ergotron

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Q&A: How much should I stand?   



“Obviously there should be a slow ramp up from 100% sitting to a ratio between sitting and standing. What is the optimal ratio? How long should the ramp up be (days, weeks, months)?” ~ Maurico C. 



Great question, Maurico, and an important one. No one has come up with the hard and fast rule yet, but many of the world’s leading researchers are weighing into the debate. From our perspective, part of this answer depends on how comfortable you are making changes and how hunched and crunched from prolonged sitting you are right now.

Good rule of thumb?

Change postures every 30 minutes. This seems to be an optimal length of time to stand before your body becomes too static, or to sit before your body overloads. This doesn’t work for everyone and some of it depends on the approach you are taking to standing and moving more in the first place. A first step might be to set some goals. If you did the calculations, you may discover you are sitting more than 14 hours during your day. It is an unrealistic goal to cut that number in half in the first week. It is more realistic to start sitting one hour less per day. This gives you some choice about where you begin and helps you achieve success over time as well.

Break up that sedentary slump.

Focus on the most sedentary times of your day. If you are tuning into your internal radio station, more than likely you’ve been hearing some grumbling from that hour of the show…Man, my back feels stiff right now…or…wait a minute, where did that pain come from?  If you haven’t been hearing anything, turn the volume up. Your body will tell you how much it can handle. Do you feel achy or fatigued? Is there any pain? Is it telling you that you feel good, maybe even energized and focused when standing? These are your clues about when to change your position.

You may experience some discomfort at the beginning when switching to sit-stand computing. Maybe after 10 minutes of standing, maybe after an hour. The key is to listen to the message and change postures when you hear it. You will hear it, whether seated or standing. Your body is that good.

One person’s experience – yours may be similar.

In the beginning, I could only stand for about 15 minute increments. I began to notice when I started feeling uncomfortable sitting, and then I would stand for a while. I did this for about a month. As I began to stand for longer periods, I started to do the same thing when I was standing. Were my legs feeling fatigued? Was I shifting around more? Feeling distracted? That was my sign it was time to sit for a while.”  ~ Rose J.

It will be different for everybody, and every body. Of course, consult a doctor if you have other health issues, too. It is important to take a safe approach to any physical change you make.

How long is it going to take to “feel” right?

It might happen as quick as a week, or it might take a few months. We have seen it vary a hundred different ways. The important thing is to maintain healthy posture and follow these sit-stand tips to help make the transition. Don’t give up if you don’t feel terrific right from the start. Over time you will.

In other words, be creative. Decide which activities you prefer doing sitting versus standing. Talking on the phone? Stand up. Write out a proposal? Sit down. Proof reading? Stand up. Filing? Stand up. You decide.

One note for anyone creating a standing only desk set up…be sure to build in rest periods, either by adding a tall stool to your workstation so you can sit periodically, or by exploring other chances to sit and rest, like in meetings or at lunch.

It is a balance that we are trying to reach. A balance personal to our workflow and how our body responds.

Thanks for the question, Mauricio! Anyone else? What’s on your mind?

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