How to Get Your Employer to Pay for Your Treadmill Desk
Does your job require you to spend hours and hours sitting in a chair, staring at a computer screen? You are probably already suffering from sitting disease, and may even be thinking that it’s time to get a treadmill desk to avoid any further health impacts. But how do you get your employer to make the investment?
Until relatively recently, treadmill desks were so “on the fringe” that workers who wanted them often paid for them out of their own pocket. Getting permission to bring one into the office was difficult enough, presuming they even had the space to install one in their office (or else the gumption to ask for a larger office). But times have changed.
Thanks to progressive large enterprise employers like Intel, Microsoft, Google and hundreds of others who have given their employees sit-to-stand desks and treadmill desks, such a request has become routine. Intel has already installed tens of thousands of standing desks and treadmill desks. In fact, the company soon realized that an important side benefit of standardizing on adjustable-height standing desks is that they pay for themselves the first time an employee’s office has to be relocated (once a year, on average, in many large companies like Intel) just in reduced furniture moving costs.
In some European countries – where they are well ahead of the US on ergonomics issues – it is actually legally mandated that employees in sedentary jobs be given at least a sit-to-stand desk. While sitting disease isn’t as notorious for desk-sitters as “black lung” is for miners, the jury is already in on the terrible impact it has had on the obesity rate among sedentary workers.
Leading US employers aren’t waiting for Congress to get around to passing similar legislation because there’s plenty of documented evidence that standing desks and treadmill desks improve productivity at least 15%, so the ROI on worker output alone more than justifies the investment; and the reduction in health care costs from having healthier employees is the cherry on top.
If you’re not fortunate enough to work for one of these forward-thinking employers, here are ten tips on how to get your employer to approve a treadmill desk:
- Since treadmill desks are usually used for anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours at a time it often makes more sense to get one “treadmill hot desk” and divide its cost among several employees or an entire department. Heavier-duty treadmills like the LifeSpan TR5000-DT3 work extremely well in these applications.
- Get your boss tuned into the health benefits of treadmill desking, and gradually insert the idea into his or her mind that this might be a good thing for them to get for themselves since they have to sit for so many hours a day. Once you’ve helped your boss to come to the conclusion that they should get one start lobbying for your own or at least to get access to their unit when they’re out of the office.
- Offer your employer a challenge in the form of a personal health milestone. For example: if you achieve an important health goal within the first 90 or 180 days the company will reimburse the expense of your treadmill desk. Don’t just focus on weight loss… treadmill desking pays big dividends in reducing blood sugars (especially for diabetics), triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure while increasing stamina, improving circulation and reducing lower back pain.
- If you anticipate a lot of resistance to the idea then get advocates on your side first – co-workers, someone from Human Resources, your physician, even outside vendors – before making the ask; and let it be known that you’re not alone in thinking this is a good idea for the company to get behind.
- If the health argument doesn’t sway management then focus instead on the return-on-investment (ROI) in terms of work output. With plenty of documented evidence that even minor movement like you’ll get on a treadmill desk will produce a 15% or greater improvement in productivity, multiply your annual salary by 15% to compute the value returned, multiplied by the number of years you’ll continue to work at the company. Point out that employers who offer treadmill desks also enjoy higher retention rates.
- If you’re already a bit of a gym rat point out that going to the gym takes time away from work, whereas a treadmill desk improves your productivity when you’re at the office. Evidence has shown that getting aerobic and resistance exercise – while vitally important for overall fitness – doesn’t reduce the impact of sitting disease.
- A study by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute found that about 59 percent of private sector workers with health coverage were in self-insured plans in 2011, up from 41 percent in 1998. Self-insured employers have a much higher incentive to keep their employees healthy, so find out if your company is self-insured and if they are, tie the direct impact your treadmill desk will have on their bottom line to your request.
- If you happen to suffer from ADD (attention deficit disorder) and your employer knows it, make the point that working on a treadmill desk is a great way to improve your focus, and hence your productivity. If your ADD is severe you might even request it as an accommodation.
- If you’re a member of a union speak to your union representative about how to best lobby the company for treadmill desks, or at least sit-to-stand desks for sedentary workers.
- If all else fails you might get a group of employees together to each pitch in the money to buy a shared treadmill workstation. If presented to management as a group decision in which multiple employees have decided to plunk down their own cold hard cash, the company might just see it as a retention opportunity and opt to pay for the treadmill desk after all, or at least offer to reimburse the employee group after some documented evidence of its health benefit has been produced.