ANCHORAGE, Alaska—There is a trend in offices across the nation, that has a lot of people getting out of their chairs: alternative work stations, like a treadmill or standing desk.
Employees who use them say they have significantly less back pain, and employers are starting to realize that could save them thousands of dollars in the long run.
Amy Cockerham at the public relations firm Thompson and Co. has a new desk. But it's what she put under it that grabs your attention -- an old treadmill from her garage.
“Well, I ordered it on Amazon.com,” Miller Cockerham said. “It’s been about seven, eight hours a day and I’m averaging about eight hours a day.”
“As I mentioned I sit on my butt nearly 10 hours a day, and I had a little bit of sciatica which is low-back pain, and I just got tired of being sedentary all the time,” Cockerham said.
Cockerham likes the treadmill-desk combination so far, and says it keeps her more focused and productive.
“I can type just fine, I can talk on the phone, I've had conversations with people and they have no idea -- even when I have it on speakerphone, it's pretty quiet,” Cockerham said.
At GCI headquarters in Midtown, David Morris is also working on his feet due to a compressed nerve.
“I've had this set up six to seven months, and I can honestly say since I've been using this arrangement I feel better at the end of the day,” Morris said. “Because I'm standing more, not sitting more, and I just feel a whole lot less back pain than I ever have.”
Morris's desk moves up and down with the push of a button.
“This one has three different settings; it's all electrical, I can set it for regular, meeting or me standing,” Morris said. “What's made it fun is that you come up here and start talking and you get like this, you know, and it creates a whole different dynamic.”
It's a dynamic Bryan Quinn, the co-owner of Capital Office Systems in Anchorage knows all about.
“Companies are starting to embrace the change because it's saving a tremendous amount of money on workman's comp claims, and they are trying to be proactive with their employees,” Quinn said.
Capital Office’s standing-desk clients include BP, the State of Alaska and Chevron, to name a few.
“What we are starting to find with height-adjustable surfaces is that you are finally starting to move your monitor freely, you want to have tools how to customize how (the) worker wants their space,” Quinn said.
He says companies also like the idea that the desk can adjust to a new employee if need be. The cost can range anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000, but healthy employees save companies money in the long run.
“So prior to 2001, when we started to look at this thing, we lost work days,” Morris said. “Since then, we really started looking, customizing the workplace for the employee: we've, in those nine year,s have had only 120 lost work days due to the same type of thing, so it's been a dramatic decrease in lost work days.”
For a lot of companies and their employees, the investment is well worth it.
As with any type of physical adjustment at your job, if you are having significant back problem see a doctor and make sure this is an option that would work for you. It may not be for everyone.
The prices for standing desks are coming down, but you can also do what Cockerham did, searching online and buying a used version then sliding a treadmill underneath it.
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