Taiwanese CEOs jump on the standing desk bandwagon

by Ko Lin, Sophia Yang

The growing popularity of stand-up office desks is a trend that shows no signs of relenting. Following Australia’s prime minister, the White House also jumped on the bandwagon in late September by officially requesting up to US$700,000 worth of standing desks for its office staff.

But the highest office in Washington D.C. is far from being alone. Tech corporations based in the United States, including Google, AOL, Twitter and Facebook were also quick to join in on the standing desk frenzy in an effort to help stimulate work efficiency amongst their in-house employees. The claim is that standing at work can reduce the risk of obesity, reduce metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, and more importantly, increase productivity.

Taiwan was also not spared from this new-fangled notion, as health-conscious corporate executives in Taiwan like I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko even started to promulgate the idea of working while standing, who now reads and write while standing up.

According to Alpa Patel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, tracked the health of 123,000 Americans between 1992 and 2006. In his study, he discovered that men who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate that was about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. On the other hand, the death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher. Patel estimates that on average, people who sit too much shave a few years off of their lives.

In a recent report published by Business Insider, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s “standing” initiation also caught on with the nation’s academic institutions, as several schools have begun considering the use of standing desks to help boost students’ learning curve. Also, the White House issued a public solicitation in late September, which is seeking up to US$700,000 worth of standing desks, while Gregory Ferenstein, a contributing writer at Forbes, was quick to point out the controversy surrounding standing desks that an adjustable tray as cheap as US$40 can instead be purchased on Amazon.com in lieu of the huge chunk of taxpayers’ money carved out by the White House for the purchase of spanking new standing desks.

In Taiwan, quick-minded businesses were quick to catch on the trend by unveiling two variations of locally-built standing desks (hydraulic-assisted and manually-adjustable), where a single unit can fetch more than NT$10,000 for the hydraulic-assisted ones. A cheaper alternative is also available – a mini tray which can be added onto any regular office tabletop to give the function of a standing desk. According to an undisclosed I-Mei employee, Ko went for the economic version, and so far the results have proven to be satisfactory.

I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko has also adopted stand-up meetings recently

Standing at work is not for everyone

Although standing at work has its health benefits, the new-fangled notion is not suited for everyone, as pointed out by Cornell University’s Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Group. The department said pregnant women and those with knee problems have been advised against standing too long.

“Sitting all day isn’t good for us, but neither is standing all day” it said, recommending everyone to take frequent breaks from a seated position at office, and go for short paces or strolls if conditions permit.

Dr. Tsai Kai-jow, a renowned physician specializing in bone disease in Taiwan, said in an interview with Taiwan News that standing in a straight upright position is good for health otherwise it would lead to back or waist pains if not standing up properly. The doctor also advised those using a standing desk to bend the knees slightly and interchangeably for 15 to 30 seconds each time in order to avoid deterioration to the knee and to maximize the benefit of working while standing.

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