Spoiler alert: people have a love/hate relationship with standing desks. Some people swear by them, others can’t stand the thought of standing all day long on top of their otherwise demanding job.
But this is a real issue that HR teams are dealing with almost every day. Managers are bringing up the question: do I have to buy this standing desk just because the employee wants it? What about more nuanced questions, like “do you need a doctor’s note for standing desk requests?”
Well, if you experience pain or other associated issues from sitting at a desk, there are legitimate medical reasons for standing desk usage. Below, I talk about some of the medical benefits of a standing desk and how to build a solid business case to get your (or your employee’s) request approved.
The Anatomy of Reasonable Accommodation
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created in 1990 to help workers with disabilities find employment. In 2008, the law was updated to support anyone with a disability that affects a “major life activity,” such as sitting, standing, breathing, etc.
The ADA helps workers who need a reasonable accommodation to get their job done. Two key components of the ADA are highly relevant to the standing desk discussion: reasonable accommodation and interactive dialogue.
The Reasonable Accommodation Threshold
The threshold for an accommodation is not fixed and can vary by employer, but a reasonable threshold exists. For example, asking a company located on the second floor of a building to install an elevator for a wheelchair-bound candidate is not a reasonable accommodation as it would cost tens of thousands of dollars at minimum. On the other hand, an employee with back or neck problems could request a standing desk for a few hundred dollars, and that request would not be considered out of line.
Employers are required by law to have an interactive dialogue with workers about their disability and their needs, according to Schwabe law firm. The employer must clearly respond to the employee’s requests to comply with the law. They don’t necessarily have to approve every request, but it does mean that they can’t simply hide behind a policy and hope the situation goes away.