Stepping away from typical office furniture

Even as studies from the Obesity journal to the Journal of Applied Physiology have shown that sitting is bad for your health, many employers – even healthcare-related ones – balk at the costs of non-traditional office furniture like treadmill desks.

However, as more non-traditional office and workstation furniture options become available, the long-term health benefits for employees and patients could be more attractive than the higher price tag they carry.

According to Daryl Dunn, vice president of healthcare at Interior Design Services Inc., a healthcare furniture supplier, non-traditional furniture often requires more initial out-of-pocket costs.

“If you look at long-term cost, and consider the variables, many of these [non-traditional] items show exceptional value,” said Dunn. “For example, a walkstation definitely costs more than a standard desk. But, there's added value that if employees are happy and healthy, they'll be more productive for you.”

Mollie Everett, senior marketing manager at Herman Miller Healthcare, a furniture design company, said in some areas of healthcare facilities, such as patient care areas, non-traditional workstations (like treadmill desks) probably would not be feasible. 

“Because adjustable height work surfaces aren’t generally found in nurse stations, we don’t have any data on their affect on HCAHPS scores,” Everett said. “Adjustable work surfaces and stations do provide flexibility and give people an opportunity to change positions a number of times during a day. One of our adjustable-height work tables is approximately $300 more than a comparable fixed-height work table.” 

Blair Sadler, PhD, senior fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, said hospitals have been implementing more comfortable seating options in outpatient settings for years so it’s not a stretch for hospitals to migrate that thinking to their employees. “What was unheard of 10 years ago now costs about $100 to $200 more [than traditional furniture] …,” he said.