Why Tim Cook wants Apple employees to stand at work

Apple has given all its employees in its new headquarters standing desks which can be raised to a comfortable height when they want to stand and work


California-based tech company Apple has given all its employees in its new Apple Park headquarters desks which can be raised to a comfortable height when they want to stand and work. “We have given all of our employees, 100%, standing desks. If you can stand for a while, then sit, and so on and so forth, it’s much better for your lifestyle,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a Bloomberg interview last week. Back in 2015, Cook had quoted doctors while describing sitting as “the new cancer”.
Apple isn’t the first tech company to wake up to the benefits of standing desks. Google, Microsoft and Facebook have also issued adjustable standing desks to their employees.
Praveen Rawal, managing director, India and South-East Asia, Steelcase, a US-based workplace solutions provider, says these trendy new desks are gaining acceptance in the Indian workplace too. Companies like Goldman Sachs, Oracle, HP, Shell, Exxon, Mastercard, Cushman & Wakefield have all put in orders for standing desks, he says. “The mindset is changing across corporates, as wellness in office is a huge factor today. In India, however, offices are buying standing desks piecemeal right now. A few to begin with to test the waters before they put in repeat orders,” he says.
Most doctors generally agree with Cook’s statement. According to Ramneek Mahajan, director, orthopaedics and joint replacement, Max Smart Superspeciality Hospital, Saket, New Delhi, standing at work can help lower the risk of obesity, decrease the risk of diabetes and heart disease and keep the spine in good shape. “When you are sitting, you burn very few calories. This is why we can see people gain weight immediately after getting into work-life. Standing lowers your risk of getting a back pain as it improves your body posture,” says Chirag Thonse, orthopaedic surgeon and specialist in arthroscopy, sports injuries and joint replacement surgeries at Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru. “Further to this, standing also improves blood circulation and the digestive system,” he adds.
While there is no set proportion on how much time should be spent standing and sitting during a workday, doctors suggest that spending at least 30-40% of the time standing at work can help. However, “it varies from person to person, and also depends on the kind of job one has to do. Eventually you need to find your own equation,” says Rawal. “If you have a standing desk at your workplace, you can always switch between standing and sitting. Usually one spends 8-9 hours at the workplace. So you can chose to spend at least 2-3 hours for working at the standing desk, and the rest of the hours for sitting,” advises Dr Thonse. According to Dr Mahajan, splitting your time evenly between standing and sitting is an ideal scenario.
However, standing at work may not be as healthy as you think. “To prevent load on the knees one could intermittently walk and do some stretches. Also, if one is overweight, standing for long hours is not suggested,” says Dr Thonse. “Too much standing could increase chances of foot and ankle pain or muscle fatigue, so those who are facing it should not overdo it. Also, those with a high risk of deep vein thrombosis or varicose veins need to be careful as this may aggravate their condition,” says Dr Mahajan.


If you don’t have a standing desk, Dr Thonse suggests taking a break every 45 minutes to avoid sitting in the same position. Dr Mahajan says elevating the height of the computer monitor to the eye level can significantly take care of back-related issues.
Three things to keep in mind when buying a standing desk
Ease of operation: Seamless movement up and down is important. Opt for electric sit- to-stand desks compared to those that work with a crank handle. The latter can take multiple turns to go from sitting to standing, and multiple transitions through the day may get frustrating.
Privacy: Whether the standing desk should have a screen or not depends on the individual and also on the kind of work they do. If the work is confidential in nature, then this needs to be addressed.
The right chair: It should be a chair that compliments movement, is ergonomically apt and has passed the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association’s (Bifma’s) standards.
—Praveen Rawal



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