Getting your company to invest in standing desks can seem like pushing a boulder uphill or a pursuit destined for failure. Don’t despair, we’ve done it before at past companies we’ve worked for and have learned some important lessons.
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Here are 9 things that we’ve learned along our journey to convince HR to invest in standing desks:
It rarely hurts you to ask your HR team for something that you think would benefit the company. Asking early on in your push for standing desks will help you build your case and understand how HR will evaluate the decision. It can also expose many details that can help you make a solid argument. Start the conversation with an open-ended question like “What does your team/department think about standing desks?” Chances are you’ll gain valuable insight into their state of mind on standing desks and learn what the key issues or roadblocks would be. In our experience it usually breaks down into three elements of decision making:
- Cost: This is a big issue for companies. Having even 50 commercial grade standing desks can eclipse nearly $100,000 depending on the quality of the desk, not to mention the costs for removing the old furniture. For some companies this is affordable and for some, it just isn’t. Hitting financial goals will likely come at a higher priority for many companies both big and small.
- Understanding the benefits: Many HR teams simply are unaware of the benefits of standing desks. Having employees stand rather than sit has been proven to increase productivity and lead to improved health. Some companies have even reported that it increases collaboration as well since it feels far less of an interruption to talk to someone when you are both standing, vs one person sitting and the other standing. The benefits here are great for the employee and can lead to real business benefits for the company as well as reduced healthcare costs.
- Company valuing their people: The mindset of HR and leadership can vary a lot from company to company and sometimes it can be hard to break a mindset issue. Has your company figured out that taking care of their employees' financial health and physical health leads to better outcomes for the business? If they haven’t this may be tough to overcome, however, you may have bigger issues in your workplace.
Find out if your co-workers would support your mission of getting standing desks. Having the support of your peers will give you the confidence to push forward through roadblocks, knowing you’re asking for something that everyone wants. Talking with or surveying your co-workers will also help uncover additional arguments for getting standing desks that you may not have thought of. Ultimately this will help build your case representing the needs of other employees and not just your personal desires.
Even though HR focuses on people, they do serve the financial needs of the business. Making a business case will help them get buy-in from senior leaders in the company when making their pitch. There is a fair amount of research and numerous white papers available on companies that have transitioned to standing desks with positive results in improved productivity, health, and a more dynamic and positive working environment. Reduced healthcare costs will directly resonate with HR since healthcare costs often represent upwards of 20% of an employee's total compensation.
Carefully consider the timing of your pitch. A company is not likely to pull the trigger on new office furniture at the end of a financial calendar when hitting goals and getting evaluated on bonuses are likely to be the main focus. This doesn’t mean you have to wait for a new year to start working with HR. It is important that you start before the budgeting period of the following year so that budget allocations can be made for spending on standing desks. When there is budgeted capital available, the decision will be much easier to make because it will be a planned expense.The first question a C level leader will ask is "Is this budgeted?" You want the answer to be "Yes, it is." Another angle here is to position standing desks as a reward after your company has had a good year or quarter.
You should learn about any other planned investments like new conference tables, TVs, furniture, etc. If you find that getting standing desks is the top desire of your co-workers you can argue to HR that standing desks will be a more effective investment for the office. This can be very effective if you know that most co-workers prefer standing desks over something that has already been prioritized and decided on. We find that sometimes HR teams misunderstand which workplace changes are most important to their employees.
Although running a business isn’t a democracy, it certainly helps to have others speaking out with you. If you find that some of your co-workers are very passionate about getting standing desks, ask them to talk to HR, or at least mention it to their manager. HR will be much more convinced of the benefits and desires of their employees when more than one person is speaking out. Along with this, be persistent and follow up. Many HR teams are dealing with serious people problems on a daily basis and something like investing in standing desks can easily slip through the cracks. Politely following up and reiterating the need and benefits of standing desks in the office will ensure it is always top of mind.
One of the best ways we’ve seen companies transition is by having a senior leader with influence represent you. Having someone like this act on your behalf will exponentially speed up the decision and increase the chances of it becoming a reality. Senior leaders are constantly discussing employee productivity and culture as well as presenting ideas on how to improve. Having someone senior pitch standing desks to their peers will be a home run in making the change.
If you’ve tried all options and you’re hitting significant roadblocks related to the actual benefits of standing, suggest a pilot with one team or an office (if you have multiple locations). This will evaluate the reception and benefits of standing desks and provide real feedback to the company on how standing could impact their entire organization.
If a decision has been reached that investing in standing desks is too expensive or something the company just can’t afford, then suggest an alternative solution like a standing desk converter. Standing desk converters are great options for companies since they allow you to keep existing furniture, there is minimal to no assembly required, and they are typically less than 50% of the cost of a business grade full standing desk.
All in all, the key here is to make a solid argument that sells the business benefits of standing desks. Put yourself in the CEO’s or Head of HR’s shoes and build your case from their point of view. Once you have this, share with others, partner with like-minded people and be persistent.