Standing desks may seem a little odd for a practice management topic, but don’t quit reading just yet! If you’re a practice owner and/or manager who is continually searching for new ways to innovate the workplace and potentially improve the work experience for your staff then this is a topic you may want to consider.

The Standing Desk Revolution

If you’re not familiar with standing desks, they are pretty much what they sound like: a desk that is elevated where the user is able to stand and work as opposed to being seated. Standing desks have gained a lot of momentum in the past few years. What was once a trend in the tech industry has now found its way into almost every field. Healthcare is no exception.

Repetitive work sitting at a desk all day can take a toll on someone mentally and physically. Sometimes sitting in a chair for an hour during a CE lecture seems like cruel and unusual punishment! As a doctor or practice manager you may not ever sit for more than five minutes during the course of your day, but take a minute to consider areas of your office where people may be more confined to a desk & chair: Front Office, Call Center, Insurance Office and potentially Optical depending on duties performed. Might these staff members benefit from having the ability to perform their jobs with the option of standing?

Why Try Standing Desks in Your Practice

When you search for standing desk benefits you’ll likely find a lot of claims such as “get in shape by standing at work!” or “burn calories while you work”. While there is little evidence to support those claims, the general consensus seems to be it’s not so much what standing desks do for you but rather what they help you to avoid. Studies have linked negative health consequences to inactivity and prolonged sitting. Obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and even premature death are some of the more notable consequences. There are also the possible psychological side effects of being sedentary in the workplace (think anxiety and depression). Giving your staff an option to potentially improve their physical and mental health is a great way to add value to their employment experience.

Beyond potential health benefits, there are other ways that you may find standing desks adding value to your practice. You may find that productivity increases when you allow people the opportunity to perform their jobs in a more comfortable way. If you implement standing desks into your optical, it affords that same comfort option to your patients. Instead of having to sit at an optical desk to interact with an optician, patients can be given the option to shop in a way that’s ideal to them.

From personal experience, you may also find that your patient interaction times in optical decrease when patients are allowed to stand for their eyewear selection and measurements. Something about getting comfortable in a chair tends to make people linger in optical just a little longer.

Finally, consider the public perception that the use of standing desks can give. When a patient walks in the front door they can be greeted by someone visible, standing at eye-level and smiling at them. Compare that to the more common routine of entering an office and walking up to a counter where a front office team member is almost hidden from view. It also let’s your patients know that you are innovative in ways outside of just the exam room. It tells them that you are someone that strives to create a comfortable workspace for your staff.

A Few Considerations with Standing Desks

There are a few points to consider if you do decide to give standing desks a try:

– You still need to have the option to sit at all workstations. The use of standing desks doesn’t mean the elimination of chairs.

– Not everyone will want to stand and that’s ok. The purpose is to give your staff the option, not a mandate.

– Consider floor mats. A long day of standing on a hard surface can take a toll on someone, so having a standing desk floor mat is a great idea.

– Be conscious of the potential health hazards associated with standing desks and watch for signs. Prolonged standing can lead to knee or back strain, and standing on hard surfaces can lead to foot pain as well. Using an ergonomical setup/posture is also important whether sitting or standing.

– There are several types of standing desk options available. Desktop convertible units are a great option to place on existing countertops (such as at the front desk). They are typically easy to set up and easily adjust from sitting to standing option as desired. There are also free-standing desk options. These work really well in an area such as optical. If you go with a free-standing option, be sure you get one that raises and lowers (preferably electronically). There are free-standing options out there that are only at standing height, but those eliminate your option to sit when desired.

Implementing Standing Desks in an Optometric Practice

You can find standing desks a lot of places these days. A quick Google search will give you a whole list of companies that now specialize in them. You can also purchase them on Amazon if that’s more your jive. Speaking purely from personal experience here, I started with a convertible desktop unit from VariDesk. They offer free shipping and a 30-day money-back guarantee. The unit arrives completely assembled so all you have to do is unwrap it, place it on your existing work surface and you’re good to go. [*Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in VariDesk other than being a customer of theirs. There are many standing desk retailers out there, but VariDesk is the only one I have personal experience with.]

The idea of standing desks may seem like a waste of time to you. A common reaction I get is “Why would I spend money on that when I already have desks that work just fine?”. Keep in mind though that sometimes practice innovation is more about improving functionality rather than justifying function.

It’s the same idea behind investing in a digital phoropter when a manual phoropter ‘works just fine’. They both serve the same function, but one functionally improves both the doctor and patient experiences. Innovation often requires investment, but it can pay off tenfold for you in the long run. Standing desks may not work for every practice, and some staff members may not take to them as well as others. If you’re someone who is now curious though then take the plunge and give it a try. It might just change the way you work!