Sit-stand desks in the Malaysian workplace. A novel idea or the answer to sedentary behaviour?

Sitting is not the new smoking, despite the clickbait headlines and countless news articles that are peddling this misinformation. Prolonged sitting is more than just comparable to a pack a day habit. It's an independent risk factor for disease development and premature mortality. Most people spend the largest portion of their day engaging in sedentary behaviour, most of which is accumulated during working hours. Whether if you're back in the office lately or if you're working from home on your dining table or stationary desks, the long hours and a lack of energy expenditure is cause for major health concerns.

The National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2015 reported that approximately 33.5% adults were physically inactive, with 38.3% of females and 28.9% of males categorized as inactive from aged 18 years to 59 years old. The vast majority of these workers are those in the private sector with longer working hours; about a quarter of an hour to five hours more compared to public sector workers, thus posing a greater health risk among this population. 

Although the concept of the sit-stand desk or a motorised desk is not new, it’s an idea that is radically different to the kind of work set up that we are so used to. Everyone is built differently, yet we are confined to furniture and spaces that are created with the majority in mind...or what is perceived to be what is suitable for the majority of workers. I’m all for open concept offices and clever uses of small spaces. But being confined and restricted does not equal great design. It’s an afterthought and an excuse for poor planning. 

Frank Lloyd Wright would be aghast at the state of open concept offices today. What was created with productivity in mind with the use of modular furniture and no walls in an effort to bring in natural light, has turned to pen benching workstations and less space per person. So much so one can barely move without bumping into their colleague next to them. Truly ghastly and not at all what the vision behind the open concept is about. 

The Malaysian workforce is split, with some still working from home and others who have re-entered the office. Organizations are anxious to get employees back to the workplace despite strict guidelines that are enforced. Seating and floor plans have to be reconfigured to meet social distancing rules. A key factor to note is that within this time, mindsets and work patterns have shifted. It’s safe to say that the regular confined open concept office is not here to stay, at least for the time being. Besides social distancing, cleaning protocols, modified work schedules as well as changes to the office layout. Traditional stationary desks are not conducive for long hours of work or employee morale. 


Endesk in Ebony & Black

Our very own Endesk in Ebony & Black


A standing desk is more than just a novel idea, it is a shift of one's perspective towards health in the workplace and designing the office with your employees in mind. The implementation of sit-stand desks as a workplace health initiative that might reduce and break up the time office-based employees spend sitting in the workplace. Ergonomics and the right to effective and proper furniture has a place in all industries, across the board, not just tech start-ups.


Main image credit: Corinne Kutz. 

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