When the Apple CEO speaks, people tend to listen, so it was great to hear Tim Cook announce last week that each of the 12,000 employees at the Cupertino state-of-the-art HQ would be given a standing desk, both as a perk to attract and retain their top talent, and also as a means for employees to live healthier lifestyles, both on and off the job. Here Betsey Banker, Wellness Expert at Ergotron, explains why standing, though a simple change, can make all the difference.
Creating comfortable, ergonomic workspaces for its employees has long been a part of Apple’s legacy, and encouraging employees and its customers to pursue healthy outcomes was evident in the introduction of the Apple Watch in 2015, with a stand-up alert that encourages wearers to stand and move each hour as a means to break up sedentary patterns during the day.
What companies can glean from Tim Cook’s announcement is three-fold. One, that workspaces designed to support employee health creates an optimal environment for employees to succeed. Distraction free, they can focus on the outcomes necessary to drive their businesses forward. Engagement studies show that productivity increases when employees have the right tools to do their work. Innovative companies are seeing that standing desks can be, and are critical business tools.
Second, with Apple’s thoughtful and hyper attention to detail, we can all believe that they have studied the impacts, plus and minus, on employee productivity, efficiency, creativity and innovation. Major studies have proven for companies that not only does investment in sit-stand, and ergonomic furniture increase productivity, learning and movement are also linked; employees demonstrate greater focus and engagement with introduction of stand-biased desks. The major takeaway here is that highly engaged employees are a competitive advantage for businesses of any size.
Thirdly, it is undeniably a corporate responsibility to care for its people. From the office lighting to onsite food services, Apple is providing an atmosphere for its employees to make healthier choices. People who work long hours require means to reduce sedentary time without sacrificing productivity. Sit-stand workstations are one of the easiest ways to introduce this non-disruptive low-level activity into the heart of the workday, with benefits at minimum of increased circulation, caloric burn, muscle tone maintenance and insulin effectiveness.
Thinking of metabolism like a battery is a useful analogy. Movement charges that battery and inactivity drains it. Drain the battery at work by sitting for eight hours, offers less “juice” for after work activities. Changing the work space to encourage movement can gradually charge employee batteries over the course of the day. Collectively, it’s this reduction in sedentary behaviour, by creating choice where it didn’t formerly exist and adopting new habits, that reduces risk of physical and mental health disorders.
Apple isn’t the first major brand to understand these principles and adopt them for employees, but as a brand leader, the first to make a challenge to the world in their bold announcement. What is less known? Employees have been interested in standing more for years. In 2010, an Ipsos Public Affairs “Just Stand in the Office” survey uncovered two–thirds (67 percent) of U.S. office workers wished their employers offered them desks that could be adjusted so they could work either seated or standing.
While we can celebrate when major brand leaders take a strong stand for employee health, we should also recognize the companies of all sizes that have been steadily adopting the sit-stand workstyle for close to a decade. By introducing more active working styles through good office design and innovative sit-stand desk solutions, they are driving real behaviour change in a way that positively impacts individuals and organisations. Like Apple, we can all choose to sit less. And if inspired, make it possible for every employee in our businesses too.