Monday meetings were a bother for HR professional Runu Mehta. Her team of 16 would sit for two hours and discuss what they did over the weekend. Deciding to do something different, she took away the chairs from the meeting room.
“I made these meetings standing-only and found that the meeting time reduced to 30 minutes!” said Mehta, now head of learning and development at music label Shemaroo.
Standing meetings and standing desks have become popular over the past few years, not just because they increase productivity, but especially because of the perceived health benefits. “Sitting is associated with the risk of hip, knee and neck pain as muscles in those areas are in a locked position,” said Dr Balvinder Rana, additional director at the Fortis Bone and Joint Institute in Gurgaon.
Gunasekaran Jayaraman, CEO of ergonomical furniture startup Purpleark, said 20% of his retail customers get standing desks because their doctors suggested it.
“Using a standing desk has helped me focus better and I’m also sleeping better,” said Ayush, a software engineer at an ecommerce company who stands and works for 4-5 hours a day.
A year-long study by Loughborough University and University of Leicester found that people using standing desks reported less anxiety than those who used regular desks. The researchers surveyed 146 officials in the UK’s National Health Services, 77 of whom were given sit-stand desks while the control group of 69 employees had regular desks.
In India, one of the major drivers of this trend is international exposure.
“An executive goes abroad and he sees offices there using standing desks and so he comes back and wants one,” said Jayaraman. He said that sales have gone up almost fourfold month-on-month for the past six months.
In India, multinational companies are driving the trend, according to Jayaraman and office furniture company Steelcase.
Microsoft procured these desks for all its offices in the country after studying how employees used workspaces and what they needed to become more productive, said Marianne Rathje, director of real estate and facilities (Asia Pacific) at the company.
“The idea is to increase collaboration, creativity and productivity and make employees feel like part of a more relaxed, creative enterprise,” said Rathje.
The company’s employees had an orientation programme to introduce them to the benefits of standing workstations. “These are extensively used and employees love the flexibility to use their spaces the way they need to,” she said.
IT Company Infosys has acquired these desks on an experimental basis, said HR head Richard Lobo. Companies that don’t want to disrupt their workplaces can “convert” their regular desks to sit-stand desks. Some companies place a few standing desks on each floor so that employees can occasionally work there.
The popularity of these desks outs ide the corporate environment is still in its nascent stages, although the trend seems to be picking up.
Co-working space Awfis has 50 such desks out of the 25,000 or so it has in total. Awfis CEO Amit Rarnani, who uses a standing desk, procured them after his customers asked for them. This year, he introduced standing-only meeting spaces in his office in Powai. “They’re very popular, especially with the young generation, as meetings are much quicker,” he said.
According to Rarnani. Standing meetings will become the order of the day in four or five years as mobiles replace laptops, making sitting in one place unnecessary.
Still, there is such a thing as too much standing.
“Standing for more than 5-6 hours a day can lead to blood pooling in your legs. This can cause swelling, ankle pain and varicose veins,” said Dr Rana.
That’s why engineer Sumit Chuttani uses a standing desk at his workplace only once in two weeks. “It’s good to stand and work, but only for a few hours. Not the whole day,” he said.
For those with sedentary jobs, the best strategy is to alternate between sitting and standing and doing back-strengthening exercises.
This article was published in The Economic Times on 4th December 2018