Teknion introduces the first science-based guidelines for sit-to-stand desks

It’s a Wild West out there for sit-to-stand desks, which adjust height quickly and easily to allow a user to do the same task whether seated or standing. Sit-to-stand desks are all the rage now, thanks to their health benefits and improved worker productivity. Those who change positions throughout the workday are at lower risk of developing lower-back pain, cardiovascular disease and even cancer than their sedentary peers.

But – here’s the rub – how often should sit-to-stand users adjust their desk height? The conventional wisdom is: sit to stand in a three-to-one ratio. Sit for three hours and stand for one hour, for instance. The Occupational Health and Safety Council of Ontario advises against sitting for more than six hours or standing for more than four hours. A Dutch workplace study concluded that one hour of standing without a change in posture poses a health risk. Yet another study suggests a two-hour limit for sitting per day, along with breaks for standing, or moving after 30 minutes of sitting.

Trouble is, all these pronouncements are based on anecdotal information, with researchers asking users in the field to describe their experiences.

Teknion, designer and manufacturer of the new Livello Counterbalance workstation table, is proud to have sponsored the groundbreaking first laboratory-controlled study on the implementation of sit-stand workstations, conducted by Canada’s most eminent kinesiologist, Jack P. Callaghan, PhD, professor and Canada research chair in Spine Biomechanics and Injury Prevention, Department of Kinesiology, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo.

Says Dannion Smith, director, Ergonomic Initiatives at Teknion, “Many office-furniture manufacturers offer sit-to-stand products, but we’re the only one with a great research team behind us providing guidelines that tell the client, ‘You should use it like this,’ No one else provides this now. That’s our home run, that’s the win. What facility manager or procurement team doesn’t want an employee to get better value out of the products provided to them?”

Teknion funded a longitudinal study, an observational research method in which data is gathered for the same subjects repeatedly over a period of time. In this case, the individuals were observed over multiple four-hour time periods while working at a sit-to-stand desk performing a variety of typical office tasks. They were wired with infrared light-emitting diodes (IREDs) on their thighs, feet, pelvis, spine, trunk and head; these were tracked by cameras in four corners of the room to record their posture and movement. Electrodes attached to their bodies recorded muscle activity. The subjects were constrained so that they couldn’t move around at will, but had to either sit or stand.

“By combining the data from the IREDs and electrodes, our computer can build our subject’s skeleton as it moves in three-dimensional space,” Dr. Callaghan says.“There are subjective scores, so we know when an individual reports feeling clinically relevant pain. Then we can look back at the measurements and see what was driving that pain: Was it due to increased muscle activity or was it posturally driven?”

The big revelation of Teknion’s new study is to reverse the conventional sit-stand wisdom of a three-to-one sit-to-stand ratio. Instead, Dr. Callaghan’s team found, you should stand for three and sit for one. So, if you sit for five minutes, try standing for 15 minutes. For an eight-hour workday this would break down to two hours of sitting and six hours of standing.

Dr. Callaghan advises that you change position often and not wait until you feel pain or discomfort before changing positions. (It’s like drinking water: If you wait until you’re thirsty, you’re already on your way to becoming dehydrated.) A good starting frequency, he suggests, would be 15 minutes standing to five minutes sitting. Then you can lengthen both exposures as you discover what feels best. If you develop lower-back pain, you may need to start with more time sitting and build up to longer periods of standing.

The optimal setup of your computer, keyboard and other peripheral devices may change when you’re standing. Having an adjustable monitor arm will allow quick and easy changes in worksurface-to-monitor height that may be needed when moving between the two postures. Even if you can’t reduce your total sitting time, you will gain health benefits from changing regularly from sitting to standing.

For more information, see Dr. Callaghan’s “White Paper on Implementation of Sit-Stand Workstations,” available from Teknion.


Sitting is the new smoking: the sedentary nature of office work can be hazardous to one’s health and productivity. An emerging strategy to maintain health and comfort at work is to alternate frequently between sitting and standing postures. The Livello Counterbalance table facilitates this activity by adjusting from sit-to-stand in seconds. Its patented, spring-driven counterbalance mechanism provides a consistent user experience, independent of the weight on the table surface, that is unique in the industry.

“We wanted the table to move up and down so quickly, easily and simply that the operation would be intuitive,” says Dannion Smith, director, Ergonomic Initiatives. “With Livello, the amount of force required to lift the worksurface will be consistent as you move from a seated to standing posture, whether the load is zero or 20 pounds or 80 pounds, as long as the table is balanced. With the competition, the user has to put in more effort to achieve the same range of motion, which may cause injury.”

For the table to do the heavy lifting, the load on top of the table has to equal the load in the mechanism. So when you add significantly more weight to a Livello table, you manually “charge” the mechanism by turning a crank. This winds the spring in the mechanism to give it enough stored energy to equal the added weight. An indicator window built into the product shows if you are adding or subtracting charge.

The table has a safety mechanism. When you hit the release handle, the table won’t move unless the table is balanced to within 15 pounds. “We are the only manufacturer with this clutch mechanism,” says Smith.

The handle’s newly designed soft grip accommodates the position your hand takes when you move the table from seated to standing posture and back. “The last thing you want to worry about is whether your hand will slip,” adds Smith.

Livello Counterbalance offers a height adjustment range of 20 inches (51 cm) up/down and a load-balancing range up to 150 pounds (including worksurface).

Livello is user-friendly in other ways. “Gone is the common lower support brace, which increases knee clearance to exceed current industry standards,” Smith says. “The new Livello Counterbalance table does this while maintaining a clean, linear aesthetic that allows the Livello line to integrate easily with all Teknion systems furniture.”

In addition, the lack of the support brace, which acts as a barrier to one side, allows Livello to function as a meeting table, with folks gathering on both sides.

The wire-management system eliminates the visual clutter of unmanaged wires under the worksurface, promoting safety. An optional e-Chain, or electronic chain for flexible vertical wire management, provides a safe pass-through for cabling, from surface to floor.

“We take wire management very seriously with sit-stand tables,” says Smith. “Unmanaged wires create clutter and stress the user. And when something goes wrong, dissecting the issue creates a mess. e-Chain is streamlined and no wider than the leg, so that from the front, you don’t see it. We all know wires ar
e there, we just don’t want to see them.”


Teknion creates furniture that connects people, technology and spaces. The company holds to a simple yet powerful principle: design does matter. Teknion offices and facilities are located in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., India, Russia and Malaysia. Clients are served through a network of authorized dealers worldwide. Through its 30 years of dedication to innovative and sustainable design, Teknion offers a diverse portfolio of award-winning office systems, office furniture, ergonomic accessories and architectural products.

For more info, visit http://www.teknion.ca/