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I work in an office setting and as a result, need to be on my computer for extended periods throughout the day. Since before I started with my current company, I've had lower back pain issues, which are likely exacerbated by sitting on my duff all day. As such, I find myself going to a chiropractor with some regularity to get adjusted.

I have attempted things like trying to make it a point to walk around more often, but it hasn't really helped in reducing the frequency of my chiropractor visits.

Our office layout is unusual because I sit in an office on the periphery and my desk area is literally a combination of a folding table and another desk that's probably a good 20 years old. In the center, there's a cubicle farm which includes desks that have the ability to go up and down via a hydraulic mechanism. From discussion with a colleague, we apparently got those desks from a client that defaulted on a bill. I've not been able to find anything comparable on my own and those desks are pretty much built into the cubicle.

The layout is like this due to the company's hierarchy, so moving myself to a cubicle with one of the hydraulic desks is not likely to be received well.

Prior to Thanksgiving last year our office was expanding and thus purchasing additional furniture, so it seemed an appropriate time to ask my manager about getting an adjustable desk so that I could transition between standing and sitting when I wished like those in the cubicle area. I followed up on the matter prior to Christmas and still haven't gotten a response. Both times I was told he'd discuss it with the other managers and get back to me.

I don't want to tick off my manager on this, but I suspect the issue for management is the cost. From my own research, I could not find an adjustable desk that met the needs of my job for less than $500 since everything that does that is motorized. I haven't been able to find anything comparable to what's in the cubicle area.

Another person in the company actually purchased a motorized adjustable desk for himself, using his own money. From a discussion with him, he didn't ask anyone, he just did it.

I have considered re-phrasing the argument as a disability issue, though, my pain is not disabling; but on the same note I'm also not interested in letting it decline to the point that it becomes debilitating. Also, I'm not sure if presenting it in this way is likely to come off as overly forceful akin to threatening a lawsuit.

I very much like my company and am not interested in pissing anyone off. But I would like to have less back pain.

I've only really researched the cost and generally conveyed a preference to have the option to transition between sitting and standing (have not provided specifics on my particular health issues). Are there other arguments I could be putting forth on this type of issue which are likely to compel management to act?

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Present a specific solution with a yes/no answer

It's unclear if you only suggested the general idea of the adjustable desk to your manager but if so, the slow response may be because

  • They don't view the problem with the same importance you do
  • They're busy and think this decision will take a fair amount of time and effort

Hence they postponed dealing with this, putting other things ahead of it.

Go back to them and request a specific desk, from a specific vendor, with a specific price. Bullet-point your justifications, focusing on benefits to the company, and end with the yes/no question: will you sign off on this purchase?

This saves them a lot of time and effort in understanding your needs, researching and costing options, choosing between them, etc. It reduces the decision to a simple one that can be made very quickly. Also the fact you've done this upfront demonstrates this something you really care about, and know the exact solution to.

That makes a yes a lot easier, the only real question being if there's budget. Be prepared for the answer to that to be no, but at least you'll know then and can move forwards with alternative options.

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  • 1
    This might be a good next step. I've already done this legwork anyways, so it's no big deal to just compile and present. – Pyrotechnical Feb 19 at 14:19
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I have considered re-phrasing the argument as a disability issue, though, my pain is not disabling

It probably doesn't make sense to pose a "potential future disability" issue. If you haven't already done so, you should raise the point about medical visits. If you have a note from your doctor, it makes sense to bring it.

I've only really researched the cost and generally conveyed a preference to stand (have not provided specifics on my particular health issues). Are there other arguments I could be putting forth on this type of issue which are likely to compel management to act?

You might wish to note how much more productive you could be.

Since someone was already forced to purchase their own desk, it doesn't seem like you will be successful. But it's probably worth trying anyway.

The last company where I worked, the HR rep would stand at her desk when she chose to do so. Rather than attempting to require that the company purchase an expensive desk, she used some boxes to elevate her monitor and keyboard.

You may wish to take this approach - it publicly demonstrates how much you value standing. At the same time, you might wish to again broach the subject with your manager during your next one-on-one meeting.

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You have asked, and you have followed up. In the absence of a formally recognised medical condition that 'requires' special furniture you need to do something for yourself instead of waiting. Your health is one of your primary concerns. You can train yourself to mitigate against this problem.

No harm in keeping following up, but these things do not get better as you age, they deteriorate, the only difference is the speed of deterioration. Assuming you don't switch to another job requiring less sitting, you need to slow it down.

Joe's suggestion of standing sometimes is good. Also a higher chair works well. What I personally found helpful was to sit up straight. It's something we're told as kids, and it works. Chairs are too comfortable these days. My chair in my home office is just basic wood, no padding and a flat back which I can push back against if I feel uncomfortable slouching over this laptop. I only have issues when gaming as that is hours of constant sitting sometimes.

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Does your employer have a person whose job is specifically to look after employee health and safety? If so, talk directly to them.

A health and safety officer should have the authority to make things happen, outside of the normal management chain. It could cost the company a lot of money if you receive a permanent injury as a result of a poorly designed workplace.

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I am not answering the question you are asking for directly, but hopefully giving you an additional idea for a solution to your underlying issue.

Consider a “sit-stand converter”

The following link gives you an idea and is one of the first results on a google search for “sit-stand converter”: https://www.cnet.com/how-to/5-best-standing-desk-converters-for-2020/

With a little bit more research you might find better solutions.

Advantages (some of which might also help persuading your employer): - Cheaper - Your current desk does not need to go - Easier to install than replacing the complete desk - In case you buy on your own, also easier to take with you to your next job when leaving the company

Apart from that I also saw some quite affordable adjustable desks (with possibility to stand) in a big furniture selling shop - I think the shop has a yellow and blue logo, is from Sweden and a four-letter name.

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  • I appreciate the answer, and it might be helpful for others, but my work regularly necessitates a 3' wide and 4' long clear space to spread out large drawings. Hence why I can't find a price less than $500. – Pyrotechnical Feb 18 at 22:40
  • @Pyrotechnical I assume you’ve come accross: ikea.com/us/en/p/bekant-desk-sit-stand-white-s49022538 (not sure if the measures suit you) – dingalapadum Feb 18 at 22:46
  • I've seen that one, but the mixed reviews had me a bit iffy. Another I'd found had stellar reviews, but was in the $500 range. Given management's reticence to spend money, I want to make sure whatever I ask for is going to last. – Pyrotechnical Feb 19 at 14:18
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In Australia these sorts of expenses are tax deductible, so maybe that may help, I don't know about the US. I buy my own chair every two years and that helps my back a lot

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