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Being A Desk Jockey Makes You Sick. Design, To The Rescue!

There's a growing body of work showing that our office life leads to disease. Can something as simple as an adjustable-height table help solve the problem?


We've all known that a couch potato lifestyle puts you at risk for a variety of ailments, but evidence is piling up that the mere act of sitting can also be hazardous. The American Cancer Society recently released the results of a 14-year study of 123,216 people, and found that women who sit for more than six hours a day were about 37% more likely to die during the course of the study than those who sat fewer than three hours per day. Men were 18% more likely to die.

Even more alarming, a daily run before work, or a swim after you leave the office is apparently not enough to offset the effects of eight hours of being a desk jockey. Jobs where you have to stand, or move around are, apparently, more healthful than those where workers spend their days hunched over a computer screen. That means that the woman behind the counter at Walmart is likely getting greater health benefits from her job than a coder at Facebook.

Naturally, this dilemma presents a wonderful business opportunity for enterprising companies. Enter Float, Humanscale's new adjustable table that lets you set the height you prefer. Over the course of the day, you can easily raise it from a seating level to a standing one and down again. At the end of the day, it can rise to just the right height for serving drinks.

Recent research has linked brain activity to movement.

While Float isn’t the first height-adjustable table on the market, it comes with a few improvements over current models. Instead of being operated by a hand crank, or an energy-guzzling electric motor, it has a patented counter-balance mechanism that enables easy adjustment. And it has a safety feature that keeps the table in balance as its load varies, to prevent it from springing up and clocking you in the chin as you adjust it. Naturally, the Northern Europeans are way ahead of us on this. According to Mark McKenna, design director at Humanscale, various Scandinavian countries have mandated that all new workplaces have height-adjustable tables.

But the benefits for installing these tables potentially goes way beyond just preventing heart attacks and obesity. Recent ergonomic research has also linked brain activity to movement. As you move around, more spinal fluid is pumped into the brain, making you more alert, more able to learn, and more receptive to knowledge. In 2008, Dr. John J. Ratey’s book, Spark, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, documented how exercise can alleviate everything from depression to ADD, as well as enhance cognition. It’s why you have your best ideas not when you’re sitting at your desk, but when you’re out for a run.

That study launched a flurry of "health positive" chairs that claimed to enhance the body's ability to fidget while seated. More recently, the kids at The School at Columbia, researching the attributes of the best classroom chair, made the same discovery. One student accidentally dropped a bunch of balls from a science project on his chair at home, sat down, and discovered they were actually comfortable. His suggestion: "Our chair could be made with wooden balls like in taxi seats. Then you could move around so you wouldn't be distracted in class."

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  • jimmy

    These things are damn expensive, costly to make too!

    Contract furniture manufacturers typically offer between 5-10 year warranties on their products that are designed for institutional use... which means all day every day use by people who don't give a sh*t about taking care of their furniture.
    This is what increases the cost of this stuff over your Ikea level products.

    On a side note, Ikea used to sell an electric table using Linak legs.
    It was going for $900 ish (approx. 5 years ago).
    They stopped selling it because... nobody bought it!

    Anyways, this is a beautiful table, and I'd love to work at it.
    Nice job Humanscale!

  • Carol S

    I sit on a vintage solid oak Windsor bowback chair (like a Governor Carver chair) at my desk. On the wide seat I have placed a cushion and a rolled-up crocheted blanket to reduce contact with the hardwood seat.  Despite these measures, this chair still enhances my ability to fidget!  Because it has two sturdy arms, is not on wheels and has no tilt mechanism, it also keeps me from toppling to the floor while I fidget.  Having had two spinal cord injuries, I find sitting on a rolling chair to be incredibly painful, stiffening my spine quickly. I can sit for 4-5 hours at a time in my Windsor bowback and be able to run upstairs as soon as I get off it. That's why it's my preferred desk chair.

  • Amhall

    Not all electric systems are "energy-guzzling."  The LINAK systems, which are on the majority of U.S. electric adjustable desks, have a standby power consumption of 0.1W, which is less than half of a phone charger.

  • hihohiho

    Were we supposed to have assumed that working for Walmart negatively effects a person's health prior to reading this article? People who work in cubicles and at desks don't necessarily make more money, work longer hours, or stress more than people who work on their feet, Walmart employees included.

  • Turner Washington

    Looks like a great product and just what I've been looking for—a standing desk that doesn't look like the furniture version of orthopedic shoes. These contract companies don't make it easy for individuals to buy their stuff, though, or to find out how much it costs. 

  • Jeffreymspencer

    Is the health risk really linked
    directly to sitting instead of the sitting/lack of movement that is usually
    accompanied with higher stress jobs, longer works hours, etc.?

  • David Kaiser

    So, is it about standing? or movement? If I were to use a variable height desk, would that give me the same health benefit as getting a job at WalMart? ;-)  

    This is cool, thank you!
    David Kaiser, PhD
    Time Coach

    "Time to be Extraordinary!"

  • David Kaiser

    So, is it about standing? or movement? If I were to use a variable height desk, would that give me the same health benefit as getting a job at WalMart? ;-)  

    This is cool, thank you!David Kaiser, PhDTime Coachwww.DarkMatterConsulting...."Time to be Extraordinary!"