Can My Doctor Prescribe a Standing Desk?

June 30, 2019

Doctor writing a prescription.
Ben Eubanks

Do you need a doctor's note for standing desk requests? If you experience pain or other associated issues from sitting at a desk, there are legitimate medical reasons for standing desk usage. Below, we explore the medical benefits of a standing desk and how to build a solid business case to get your request approved.

The Anatomy of Reasonable Accommodation

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created in 1990 to help workers with disabilities find employment. In 2008, the law was updated to support anyone with a disability that affects a "major life activity," such as sitting, standing, breathing, etc.

The ADA helps workers who need a reasonable accommodation to get their job done. Two key components of the ADA are highly relevant to the standing desk discussion: reasonable accommodation and interactive dialogue.

The Reasonable Accommodation Threshold

The threshold for an accommodation is not fixed and can vary by employer, but a reasonable threshold exists. For example, asking a company located on the second floor of a building to install an elevator for a wheelchair-bound candidate is not a reasonable accommodation as it would cost tens of thousands of dollars at minimum. On the other hand, an employee with back or neck problems could request a standing desk for a few hundred dollars, and that request would not be considered out of line.

Interactive Dialogue

Employers are required by law to have an interactive dialogue with workers about their disability and their needs, according to Schwabe law firm. The employer must clearly respond to the employee's requests to comply with the law. They don't necessarily have to approve every request, but it does mean that they can't simply hide behind a policy and hope the situation goes away.

Building a Case for a Standing Desk

There are times when employers may push back on the need for a standing desk, citing the cost of the material or the challenge of retrofitting your work area. However, building a business case can help your leadership team see the request not just as a personal "favor" but as a legitimate business expense.

The benefits for a standing desk come in two categories:

  1. Medical benefits that primarily support the health objectives of the individual.
  2. Business benefits that primarily support the goals and objectives of the business.

Medical Reasons for Standing Desk Usage

If a standing desk is required, getting a doctor's note for standing desk purchases can strengthen your chances of approval. Approaching your doctor with your job description and a written summary of your work tasks for a common week could increase your chances of a prescription.

Standing desks can increase blood flow and burn more calories than sitting. However, it's important to start slowly and watch your posture so you don't aggravate or create new medical issues as a result of standing for long periods of time. By getting your doctor to sign off on the transition from sitting to standing at work, you lessen the risk of unforeseen issues.

Business Reasons for Standing Desk Usage

Employees today are looking for tools to support their overall wellness and well-being at work, and business leaders that prioritize those tools can attract, engage and retain the best talent. Additionally, workers that stand may actually perform better than their sitting peers. Each of these benefits, taken as a whole, are incredibly valuable for employers and key points in building a business case for a standing desk.

In the end, this isn't about manipulating the system: It's about using the laws currently in place to help you be the best worker you can be, and if that requires a standing desk to make it happen, so be it. Employers should be well aware of reasonable accommodation legislation as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a doctor's note for standing desk purchases can go a long way toward making this scenario a reality.

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