Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Public Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

“Thinking on your feet”: A qualitative evaluation of sit-stand desks in an Australian workplace

Anne Carolyn Grunseit1*, Josephine Yuk-Yin Chau1, Hidde Pieter van der Ploeg12 and Adrian Bauman1

Author Affiliations

1 Prevention Research Collaboration, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Level 2, Medical Foundation Building K25, 92 Parramatta Rd, Camperdown, NSW, 2006, Australia

2 Department of Public and Occupational Health, VU University Medical Center, van der Boechorststraat 7, Amsterdam, 1081BT, Netherlands

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:365  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-365

Published: 18 April 2013

Abstract

Background

Epidemiological research has established sitting as a new risk factor for the development of non-communicable chronic disease. Sit-stand desks have been proposed as one strategy to reduce occupational sedentary time. This formative research study evaluated the acceptability and usability of manually and electrically operated sit-stand desks in a medium-sized government organisation located in Sydney, Australia.

Methods

Sitting time pre- and three months post -installation of the sit-stand desks was measured using validated self-report measures. Additionally, three group interviews and one key-informant interview were conducted with staff regarding perceptions about ease of, and barriers to, use and satisfaction with the sit-stand desks. All interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed for themes regarding usability and acceptability.

Results

Of 31 staff, 18 completed baseline questionnaires, and 13 completed follow-up questionnaires. The median proportion of sitting time for work was 85% (range 50%-95%) at baseline and 60% (range 10%-95%) at follow-up. Formal statistical testing of paired data (n=11) showed that the change from baseline to follow-up in time spent sitting (mean change=1.7 hours, p=.014) was statistically significant. From the qualitative data, reasons given for initiating use of the desks in the standing position were the potential health benefits, or a willingness to experiment or through external prompting. Factors influencing continued use included: concern for, and experience of, short and long term health impacts; perceived productivity whilst sitting and standing; practical accommodation of transitions between sitting and standing; electric or manual operation height adjustment. Several trajectories in patterns of initiation and continued use were identified that centered on the source and timing of commitment to using the desk in the standing position.

Conclusions

Sit-stand desks had high usability and acceptability and reduced sitting time at work. Use could be promoted by emphasizing the health benefits, providing guidance on appropriate set-up and normalizing standing for work-related tasks.