Google “Sitting Disease” or “Dangers of Sitting” and you will bring up more information than you could ever begin to read. The Ergonomics and Health & Wellness industries have figured out that our bodies are not designed to sit all day. It’s not speculation. The facts are clear that sitting in excess puts you at a greater risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, early death….and more.
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine:
- Low-back pain affects 80% of all adults
- Low-back pain to be predominant among workers in enclosed workspaces(offices), as well as people who sit for periods greater than 3 hours.
- More than 1/3 of all work related injuries involve the trunk, and of these, more than 60% involve the low back.
- These work-related injuries cost workers approximately 9 days per episode or, combined, more than 39 million days of restricted activity.
- In the United States, the annual costs attributable to low back pain are greater than $26 billion.
The Ergonomics and Furniture industry’s response to the challenge with sitting has been to introduce a wide variety of “sit to stand” solutions. The gold standard is the adjustable height desk or workcenter including the Crank and Pneumatic which require no added power. The third option is the Electric which is the premium solution offering the greatest range of flexibility and options tailored to the end user’s needs.
Adjustable height tables have been around for years with industry leader Workrite Ergonomics introducing their first single leg model back in the late 80’s. Now due to the increased attention being given to the dangers of sitting, their popularity is skyrocketing.
A secondary product that is gaining momentum due to the demand for sit to stand solutions is the “stack on unit”. They are generally less expensive than a full table and offer a quick and easy standing solution.
There are some challenges or shortcomings with these stack on units with the most significant being that they don’t provide a proper “seated” solution. The standard height desk or worksurface in the industry is 29″. I go into great detail in my post “Is a 29″ Desk Right for You” explaining how this standard came about.
Bottom line, if you’re less than 6’3″ sitting at a standard height desk with no keyboard tray, you can’t possibly approximate the recommended and ideal positions endorsed by the ergonomics industry. Statistically a man in the 95% percentile will be approximately 6’3″ which means 95% of all men will be shorter. A woman in the 95% percentile will be approximately 5’10” with 95% of all woman be shorter.
Here’s the key. The recommended keying height for a man 6’3″ is 29.4″ so he’s good to use a standard desk. Anyone shorter, male or female, will have to modify their body to fit a standard height desk which is simply too big for them. A quality keyboard platform system is the best line of offense to bridge the gap for the end user to fit their desk to their body.
With that background, let’s go back to the issue of the stack on desk unit. From my perspective, based on what is considered ideal in terms of ergonomic positions, most people don’t sit properly in the first place. Then comes along the sit to stand bandwagon with the stack on unit being the “budget” solution. We live in an instant gratification society and while the ease of simply adding the stack on unit looks good on paper, in reality it falls short of providing a complete sit to stand solution.
Remember, just as we are not designed to sit all day, we are not designed to stand all day either. To properly care for the body, a solution must be provided for both as the body craves movement and not static positions. The best way to use a stack on unit is to combine it with a quality keyboard platform.
In the photo above, the end user purchased her stack on desk unit through another source and then I came in and installed her keyboard platform system. As you can see in the photo, without the keyboard platform, her keyboard tray would have to sit on the shelf of her stack on unit…even when seated. The shelf makes her desk effectively 30.5″ tall which further emphasizes the point that she needs the keyboard platform. Only a fraction of the population at 6’4″ plus could use the desk properly while seated without a keyboard platform.
Closing Thoughts for My Readers:
Stack on desk units are a valid product for providing a sit to stand solution however in the vast majority of cases, they should be combined with a keyboard platform system. Unless the end user is 6’3″ or taller, the keyboard tray is vital for providing a proper seated solution.
When you stop to consider that part of the attraction of the stack on desk unit is the lower cost verses a full adjustable height table, and then add in the cost of the keyboard platform, your once budget solution becomes a little more expensive. In many cases, especially considering cubicles, an existing worksurface can be retro-fitted with adjustable height legs. This is a more budget oriented solution that still gives you the flexibility and advantages of a full adjustable height table.
If you have doubts or questions about your current ergonomic set up, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. As a Territory Sales Manager for Workrite Ergonomics and Certified Ergonomics Assessment Specialist, I do assessments for my clients on a regular basis and always welcome new opportunities to serve.