Should You Have to Sign a Release to Use Your Office Chair?

As the CEO of a company that designs and sells treadmill desks and standing desks, I often hear from people who are facing a difficult situation: They want to stop using their office chair all day, but their boss/supervisor/office manager won’t allow it.

Often these people are told they will need formal approval, a doctors-note, or to sign a release before being allowed to use a standing desk or treadmill desk. I’ve heard from people waiting over one year to receive their standing desk, despite debilitating back pain. I recently spoke with a prospective customer who was scheming about how to hide her walking treadmill from supervisors on certain days. Another customer, who purchased a treadmill desk with her own money, was made to remove it because too many other employees were asking for one. Back to the chair for her!

I cringe for these people who are trying to make healthy changes in their lives only to be thwarted by red tape and misconceptions. If an employee told her employer that she wanted to stop smoking, the employer would be thrilled and probably offer to assist in finding a smoking cessation program. Siting in chairs all day has been called “the new smoking” yet some businesses are not giving employees looking for a change the same support.

Imagine turning the tables on this situation. What if you had to sign a release to use your office chair? Something along these lines:

I,  [name of the chair-bound individual], understand and accept the risks associated with sitting in the office chair that has been assigned to me. I understand that sitting for long periods of time may increase my risk of experiencing a major cardiovascular event or a stroke. I understand that prolonged sitting raises my risk of developing diabetes and certain cancers. I even understand that all of this sitting may cause me to experience early death.

I agree not to complain about the back pain, muscle fatigue, or blood clots that I may suffer because of the hours I spend in my office chair. I understand that I may gain weight once I start sitting all day and fully accept that I may need to invest in a new work wardrobe as a result. I further understand that I may have to incur sick days, medical costs, and even unpaid leave due to health problems resulting from prolonged sitting.

I hereby release my employer of any liability that may arise from the above mentioned risks and consequences or others not specified but arising from the use of my office chair.

[Reluctant Signature Here]

While this release may be a bit dramatic, the facts contained in it are not. Before businesses put up barriers for employees interested in kicking their sitting habit, they should consider the consequences of asking that employee to remain sedentary all day.

Although there can be challenges to bringing in new furniture to an office, those challenges often are not as significant as first thought. Low-cost options for converting existing desks into standing desks are abundant these days. Most full-sized standing desks also adjust to sitting height for maximum flexibility. Walking treadmills typically are designed to be quiet and not disruptive. Shared active-working solutions are a great option to give all employees a choice to work away from their chair.

Just as today it seems unbelievable that people used to be allowed to smoke in offices, one day it will seem remarkable that people were not allowed to have standing desks or other alternatives to chairs. I just hope – for the sake of everyone trying to push their chair aside – that day arrives sooner rather than later.

* This article was originally written by Rebel Desk Founder, Kathleen Hale on LinkedIn. 

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