Dear Lifehacker, I know sitting all day is bad for me, even if I'm getting exercise, so I'd like to try a standing desk. How can I talk my boss into it? Everyone else here sits at their desks all day, but I know I'm not alone. We're even willing to make our own standing desks and bring them in. How can I convince him that it's a good idea? Signed, Tired of Sitting
Title photo by Justin Jackson.
Dear Tired of Sitting,
First of all, you don't know if you don't ask — your boss may already be open to the idea, you just have to talk to him about it! Even if you're worried he's not, you'll never get anywhere if you don't give it a shot, so lets walk through some ways you can bolster your case and some things to watch out for when you ask for permission to change your workspace into a standing one.
Step 1: Survey Your Surroundings
The first thing you need to do is figure out how you'll set up your standing desk in the first place. You mentioned that you're not alone, so if you have colleagues who are also interested in standing desks, talk with them about how you all want to build your desks, or whether you're looking for the company to foot the bill. Here are some things to remember:
- Who's paying for this? You'll probably get more mileage if you and your colleagues are willing to build your own desks, get your own extended cables, and set it all up yourself so your boss doesn't have to spend money to accommodate you. If you want the company to pay, be ready to present a much stronger case. Photo by Robert Simmons.
- Do you have high cubicle walls or low ones? If you have full-height cubicles, you may encounter less resistance to a standing desk — mostly because your seated colleagues won't have you standing over them all day. If you have low cubicle walls, you know the "open" kind that are supposed to "encourage collaboration", be ready for complaints about a standing desk violating what little privacy those types of cubes offer. Suggest to your boss that everyone who chooses to stand have desks near each other, so you draw less attention.
- How many people are with you? Even if you're alone, you can still make a strong case, but if there are other colleagues who want to try the same thing, bring them in on the conversation. After all, there's power in numbers.
Once you've done your initial survey, and have a plan for where your standing desk will be located in the office, how you're going to make it happen, and how many people are behind you on this, you're ready to start brainstorming what type of standing desk you want to make.
Step 2: Design Your Perfect Desk
You might think designing your standing desk before you even present your case to your boss is putting the cart before the horse, but it pays to be prepared. Your boss will likely ask how you plan to set up your desk, and what resources you'll need to do it. It'll help to have some affordable, inconspicuous standing desk ideas in mind. Your cubicle or office probably comes with a desk, so instead of replacing it entirely, try some of these standing desk mods that are affordable and get the job done.
- This model will set you back about $30 and uses some easily purchased IKEA components to turn a traditional workbench into a good-looking standing desk, with enough room for a laptop and a second display, and a keyboard on a second level. Photo by Colin Nederhorn.
- This model is a double-decker, but you can omit the lower table and just build the upper part to rest on top of the desk you already have.
- If your boss is OK with you putting a few holes in the wall, This collpsable standing desk that programmer Josh Earl made saves space, fits nicely in a corner or against a wall, and it gets the job done without sacrificing privacy.
- This model is similar to Josh's in that it's bolted to the wall. It offers a bit more space, but it's not collapsible.
- If you really do want to build something new, or have an office of your own, This adjustable-height model is a great option and looks wonderful. You probably won't get away with this in the middle of a cubicle farm though.
We'd suggest a model like the first three if you're just getting started with a standing desk. The more robust models might be better for home offices where you can drill into the wall and add furniture. Also, don't forget good shoes, a soft padded mat to make standing a little easier on your feet, and maybe a bar stool for occasional sitting. If you need more suggestions, check out how our own Gina Trapani made the switch to standing desk not too long ago, and which models inspired her change.
Step 3: Build Your Case
Before you go to your boss, you want to make sure you have the information required to convince him that it's a good idea. By now, you're aware of the social implications of standing all day in an office like yours, hopefully have suggestions for dealing with it, and you have a desk in mind. Now let's talk about health. For example, it shouldn't be news to anyone that sitting all day is bad for you, but make sure to arm yourself with some information about how bad it really is. There have been multiple studies that discuss the dangers of sitting all day, even if you're getting regular exercise. If you need even more ammo, check out The Wirecutter's exhaustive guide to standing desks, which is packed with articles and studies to back up your position. Photo by John O'Nolan.
Step 4: Present Your Case
By now, you (may) have some colleagues willing to stand behind you, you have your ideal standing desk all drawn up (and you know how much you're willing to spend on it), and you're well versed in the health issues involved with sitting all day — and the benefits of standing. It's time to chat with your boss. Take your colleagues with you if you think that'll help — it really depends on the type of manager you have. If they're the formal presentation type, book a meeting with them and present your evidence. If they're the informal type, ask them out to lunch so you can chat. Whatever works.
Present all of your data, and bolster your case by offering to do the work yourself, buy whatever cables you need to stretch your phone, computer equipment, or other gear up to the standing part of your desk. If perception is an issue, offer to work with your boss so you can stand, but you're standing somewhere that doesn't draw attention or too many questions (you'd be surprised how often great ideas in workspace changes get nixed because managers are "worried about the way it looks to others"). Ideally, your boss will go along with you, or at least let you give standing while working a trial run. Keep in mind, the first few days will be awkward and difficult, and some of your coworkers may not stick with it. Push through those first few days, and you'll be fine.
Brace for Rejection
While we hope your boss will let you give it a try, it's possible that for whatever reason they turn you down. That's OK — don't press the issue. Instead, ask what it would take to change their mind and see if you can accommodate it. If there's nothing you can do to change their decision, you're not out of luck completely.
You can always try to convince your boss to let you work remotely, at least a few days a week. We also have some great exercises to start and end your day with to stave off the negative effects of sitting.
We hope that helps you build and make your case. Good luck!
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