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Eagan-Based Company Cashes In On Sit-Stand Desks

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Warning: White-collar work could be hazardous to your health.

Actually, sitting at your desk is the problem. The American Cancer Society says inactive women who sit for six-plus hours a day are 94 percent more likely to die from problems like heart disease.  For men who sit that long, the risk jumped to 48 percent.  Now, a new study shows just how much better workers feel when they stand instead of sit, and a Twin Cities company is making moves to cash in on it.

Chris Schermer runs a marketing firm in downtown Minneapolis, and although he’s known for his energy, he spends plenty of time behind his desk.

“My body after doing this job for years and years was in this position all the time,” he said, while moving into a crouch. “And I just was really tired of that. It hurt.”

So, Chris decided to make a change, switching to an adjustable desk that lets him sit or stand.

“If I’m going to sit for a while,” he said, “and I’m going to type on something or read something or whatever and I get tired of it, you just stand up, and you feel different, get reinvigorated.”

He switched over about eight months ago, and now stands about half the time. His back does feel better, he’s even lost a few pounds, and can’t imagine going back.

“I did this for the health benefit of it,” he said, “and what I realized is it’s also a more efficient way to work.”

And that’s what HealthPartners found in a study of sit-stand desks. Users said they felt more comfortable, energized, healthier, focused and productive.

“You’re able to be active versus in a sedentary position,” said HealthPartners Vice President Sharon Stein. “And I think you’re able to move, and still do your job when you’re standing, and I think that had a lot to do with it for people.”

During the five week test, people stood an extra 67 minutes a day. More than half of them reported less back and neck pain, and all of them said they either felt better, or a lot better. So, when the study ended, Stein ordered one for herself, and for everybody else in her department.

“This one was an easy decision,” she said. “It supports the whole notion of a healthier workplace for us.”

“I like to burn the extra 150 calories per hour,” said Ergotron CEO Joel Hazzard, who uses a sit-stand desk. “I think it matters. I don’t want to be in the high mortality group, so I feel I’m much more productive.”

Hazzard isn’t just a convert, though, he’s now banking on sit-stand.  About two years ago, Eagan-based Ergotron, which makes ergonomic products like the computer carts you see at hospitals, started investing in sit-stand.  Hazzard says Ergotron’s $350 units are cheaper and better than the competition, and they’re used by about fifteen Fortune 500 companies.

“If we were Apple, we’d be selling millions of them already,” he said, “because you know that name brand, but we just fight for every nickel and every inch, and the upside is tremendous.”

If you don’t have a sit-stand desk, Stein has a few tips:

– Make sure to standup up at least once an hour.

– Walk down the hall to talk to a colleague instead of sending an email.

– And walk to lunch instead of eating at your desk.

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