Increase Productivity, Increase Health: Will a Standing Desk Make the Difference?

“Oh, I’ve been burning more calories- I just stand at my desk at work now.”

“I try to get a 20-minute run in during lunch, but work is so crazy I can’t always make it out.”

How do you stay healthy at a desk job? The argument against sitting all day has become commonplace- it increases risk of heart failure and shortens life expectancy. As the “standing” solution becomes more and more prevalent, however, a counter-argument emerges:  standing all day comes with its own problems. What’s a health-conscious Idealist to do?

Another option that has been making the rounds is the “sit-stand desk,” which allows office workers to transition back and forth between sitting and standing. We talked to Farah Killidar, CEO of the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston about their mission, work, and recent switch to sit-stand desks, as well as the benefits they are already seeing as a result of the change.

Tell us a little bit about your organization- what does the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston do?

In service to Greater Houston as a Global City, the mission of the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston is to promote understanding of the world – its people, politics, economies, and cultures – to enable the Houston community to participate more effectively in a global environment.

How do you fulfill that mission?

Our International Programs Department offers balanced, informative, and thought-provoking programs, bringing renowned international leaders and experts to the city of Houston. The Council organizes over 100 general events each year for over 7,000 members. These events include lectures, panel discussions, luncheons, trivia nights, and networking events.

Our International Education Department connects students to the global leaders of our time and provides them the opportunity and avenue to become culturally sensitive, globally competent, citizens. In addition, we offer teachers personal and professional development opportunities, including workshops and international travel.

Founded on the tradition of intellectual exploration at our mission’s core, our International Travel Department offers international travel that is memorable, educational, and highly affordable. We specialize in small group travel of 10-20 travelers, exploring locations chosen for their geopolitical interest and providing a unique travel experience that exceeds the opportunities available to most tourists.

Wow, sounds like quite a bit of exciting work! How many staff members work at the organization?

The World Affairs Council of Greater Houston has 16 employees. We also have a varying number of interns in the fall and summer.

What prompted the decision to equip the office with standing desks?

I had talked to friends who used standing desks in their workplaces and felt it greatly improved their personal health and productivity. I had also read various articles and seen news reports discussing the benefits of using standing desks.

One of our staff members began using a standing desk, and her feedback was very enthusiastic, so as we began to think about reorganizing our office space, I asked all of our employees whether they would be interested in using standing desks. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so when we were notified that VARIDESK was donating 20 desks to our organization, we were thrilled.

What were you looking for in a standing desk?

We wanted the following qualities:

  • Made to sit on top of our existing office furniture (some standing desk options are free-standing)
  • Easily moveable from standing to sitting height and back again
  • Wide range of adjustment to accommodate different individuals’ heights and sizes
  • Attractive look and design that would fit well into our office scheme

During the research process, we received positive reviews of the VARIDESK from friends. Also, one of our staff members was already using one and loved it.

Overall, we were drawn to its functionality. It is easy to adjust — the desk pops up and down easily using two levers attached to the top platform. Many other available desks simply aren’t as easy to use or are locked to the office furniture, making the desk difficult to move.

As a Texas-proud nonprofit organization, we were also thrilled that VARIDESK’s United States headquarters is located in Texas!

Are all staff members’ work stations outfitted with a standing desk?

We received 20 standing desks, so all staff members will have the opportunity to use the VARIDESK. There will also be stations available for interns.

What improvements or benefits have staff members experienced so far?

We received our desks in June and have been reorganizing our office setup at the same time. The change to the office is inspiring our employees and helping to increase their energy. Even though they have just started to use them, they are experiencing the positive effects. They are already reporting increased energy, better mood and better posture, and say that it is inspiring them to be more active, keeping them moving more throughout the office day and in general. We expect that we will see additional health benefits in our staff over time.

One of our staff members is working to lose weight and is using the VARIDESK as a part of her plan to increase her fitness. She volunteered to track her progress and we are looking forward to seeing the results!

We greatly appreciate VARIDESK’s investment in the nonprofit community through this generous donation to the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston.

I believe that using the VARIDESKS also contributes to an increased atmosphere of problem-solving at work.

How else do you expect this change to your office improve work performance?

I believe that it will encourage collaboration among our team. Our current open office structure, which utilizes the desks so that staff can alternate between sitting and standing, results in staff having a more inviting posture, so that communication and greater creativity is encouraged. I believe that using the VARIDESKS also contributes to an increased atmosphere of problem-solving at work.

So I know your organization uses to post job opportunities (and find more candidates to work at those standing desks). What has been your experience using our site?

The World Affairs Council of Greater Houston uses to post opportunities for jobs, internships, and volunteer activities. We have been very pleased with the connections has helped us to make in the community, and we continue to expand on the ways in which we use the site.

As our world has become increasingly interconnected, it’s wonderful to have a resource like Idealist that helps us to access all of the knowledge and energy that’s out there and to connect with individuals and organizations who want to be involved with our mission.


Idealist Community:
Tell us about your (current or former) office! Do you sit or stand at work? Post in the comments below, or send us an image of your workspace! 

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I became acquainted with Idealist in late 2000 while working in the career development office at a private liberal arts college in NYC. I used it almost daily to help students and alumni find meaningful careers. After a 12-year stint in higher education, I worked as a career coach for professionals in various industries (and still used Idealist). During one of those many searches, a listing really caught my eye- the one for the newly-created position, Careers Program Coordinator. So... I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, I took on the role of Manager of Career Content for Idealist Careers, creating career content for job seekers, leaders, and other nonprofit professionals. Understanding the roles that a positive outlook and holistic self-care play in career success, I've shared with our readers time-honored methods for improving confidence and productivity. Now, as Manager of College and Professional Development, my focus is on lifting the advice from Idealist Careers "off the page". Drawing from my experience in career development, I propel job seekers and career changers towards taking control of their searches with confidence and removing fear, uncertainty, and other blocks to success via in-person workshops and seminars, webinars, and conference programming. My great loves are cooking (preferably without a recipe, otherwise I doctor it up), dancing, live cultural performances, identifying the tasting notes in a good cup of coffee, exploring neighborhoods for hidden gems, and anything else that sparks the senses and allows me to experience all the beauty, dynamism, and intrigue that vivaciously living in a remarkable world offers.
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  1. Nice article Victoria.
    I came across you article when trying to research the health benefits of a standing desk.
    I recently got a standing desk from VARIDESK at work. I like the adjustability and the Darkwood top looks great. I’m working my way up to trying to stand 4 hrs per day, alternating thorough the day. So far it has been working great, I feel like I have more energy.
    Kudos to VARIDESK for donating to your organization.

  2. Standing desk has an increase in your focus, alertness and activity level. When standing, it is easier to release restless energy. Combine that with the good circulation, stable blood sugar and an active metabolism, and it is easier to focus on the task at hand.

  3. Pingback: 10 Extraordinary Time Management and Productivity Articles, 8/1/16 - TimeCamp

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