How to Make a Case for Standing Desks to Upper Management
November 16, 2018
You’ve read the articles and done the research. You know that sitting too much during the workday is detrimental to your health and that in the battle for well-being, your office chair is your #1 enemy. You’re convinced that a height-adjustable sit-stand desk is the way to go—now you just have to convince your boss.
If you work for yourself or work from home, getting a sit-stand desk might be as simple as shopping around and making a choice. But if you work for a larger company, you typically have to get office-related purchases approved, which means you need to make a persuasive case to the people who control the budget that standing desks are a worthwhile investment.
Before you go marching into your boss’s office to announce that you need a standing desk, you need to think through what your approach will be and how you’re going to make your case.
Speak Their Language
The first thing to understand is that you and upper management have different priorities. You’re motivated to get a standing desk to improve your health and wellness. Maybe you want to increase your energy levels, or maybe you want to lose a few pounds. Upper management, on the other hand, is thinking about the business—not you as an individual. It’s not that management doesn’t care about your health, but they care about it in different terms.
What upper management doesn’t care about:
- The health benefits you hope to enjoy
- How many pounds you want to lose
- The bells and whistles of the desk you chose
- How challenging it is to find time to exercise
- Why you think a standing desk will make you a happier employee
What upper management does care about:
- How your health impacts overall healthcare costs for the company
- Your daily, weekly, and monthly productivity output
- Whether purchasing a standing desk will ultimately save or earn money
Your goal is not to convince upper management that a standing desk will improve your life and make your workday more fulfilling. Your goal is to convince them that purchasing a standing desk for you is a good investment for the company.
This may sound harsh. Our intention is not to make upper management seem heartless. They’re not. But it’s their job to think in business terms, so if you want to make a persuasive case, you have to think in business terms too.
Prepare Your Case
Now that you’re thinking in business terms, it’s time to prepare your case. You don’t need to create a full PowerPrint deck or come armed with printouts, but you’ll want to outline your argument so that your ideas are clear, succinct, and persuasive when you present them to management.
Your argument should explain how a standing desk will make a positive impact in each of these three areas:
- Company finances
- Employee engagement
While each of these areas stands alone, they’re also interconnected. Illustrating the net positive impact of their combined benefits will strengthen your case. For example, boosting productivity enhances revenue, which has a positive impact on company finances.
Let’s take a look at each of those areas in more detail.
Upper management is all about the bottom line. The first number they’ll see when you show them the standing desk is the price tag. Your task is to help them look past that number to see how the investment will pay itself back down the line.
Chronic diseases—such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, and depression—are a drain on company resources. Not only do they result in higher healthcare costs for employees, but they contribute to unscheduled absenteeism.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Productivity losses linked to absenteeism cost employers $225.8 billion annually in the United States, or $1,685 per employee.”
Standing desks can help prevent employees from developing four of the top ten costliest chronic health conditions: chest pain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart attack. Compare the cost of one standing desk per employee to the costs of absenteeism and medical expenses, and the math is clearly in favor of standing desks.
Countless studies have found a link between productivity and standing at work. In fact, one now-seminal study by the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health found that call center employees were 46% more productive when they switched to sit-stand desks.
That statistic alone could be enough to make the case in favor of investing in standing desks—but there’s plenty more.
A recent study focused on university students found that standing enhanced task engagement “without undermining work performance.” Essentially, standing allows you to be more deeply focused—and hence more productive—without affecting quality of output.
If stats and figures don’t win management over, hit them with the science.
Ten minutes is all it takes to boost your focus—or ruin your concentration. After just ten minutes of sitting, your circulation will start to slow down, reducing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to your brain. Meanwhile, standing for as little as ten minutes will boost your mental focus. Over 70% of employees who decreased their sitting time by one hour reported improved mental focus throughout the day.
Standing also provides a jolt of natural energy that can help sustain stable energy levels and prevent the afternoon slump. In one study, 87% of employees reported feeling more energetic as a direct result of using standing desks.
Physical activity even stimulates neurogenesis, or the creation of new brain cells, concentrated in the part of the brain responsible for critical thinking.
The correlation between employee engagement and company performance is taken as a given in the business world these days. What isn’t as clear-cut is the relationship between employee wellness programs (such as standing desks) and employee engagement.
Think about it like this: Like any relationship, the relationship between employee and employer is a two-way street. When an employee feels their employer is investing in their well-being—both in and out of the office—they are more inclined to reciprocate, becoming more invested in their employer’s well-being (i.e., the success of the company). Their commitment to the company grows, along with their morale.
Not only do employees with high morale work harder and perform better, they also stay at a company longer. Recruiting, hiring, and training new employees is expensive—much more expensive than a one-time investment in a standing desk. Providing wellness benefits such as standing desks helps companies both retain and attract top talent.
Tie It All Together
By outlining how an investment in standing desks impacts each of the areas above, you will naturally illustrate how the benefits are interconnected. Now it’s time to tie it up in a bow.
Here’s a doozy for you to end on: The cost savings and extra revenue generated by improvements in the areas above add up. By some estimates, employers can expect a $3-7 return on investment for every $1 spent on standing desks and other ergonomic office furniture.
Now that’s an argument upper management can take straight to the bank.