Standing desks are one of the biggest office furniture trends; prolonged sitting for hours has become “the new smoking” (regarded as generally unhealthy). And that’s created a wave of products for people who like the idea of standing, but aren’t necessarily fanatics about it. “Most people, 70 percent, leave the standing desk parked in a sitting position,” said J.P. Labrosse, founder and CEO of Stir (which has created a desk that can be programmed to prod users off their butts with soft vibrations).
There are two models, the F1, priced at $4, 190, and the M1, a curvier style, at $2,990. The desk’s technology gets to know its users in about 20 days; it then takes this collected data to pinpoint when users are more likely to respond to reminders and stay on track with goals for standing up. For example, users can program the desk to keep them up of half of their workday, but just for 20-minute intervals. The desk would do the math and send a reminder when it’s time to get up. Usage data is reported back to Stir, which then compiles the info without names and provides it to the employees’ companies, which they can use to check whether workers are actually standing. It’s intended for companies to use the data to try to lower health insurance costs, Labrosse said).
There are also office workers who like standing desks, but not the idea of standing. And that’s the niche target of Focal Upright; the company’s best-selling item is Mogo, a $100, one-legged stool (the seat cushion’s designed to accommodate the natural curves of the buttocks) that enables a person to lean back-not fully seated, yet not fully standing (the health benefits of this neutral position is intended to increase productivity). Since the Mogo’s release two years ago (2013), more than 7, 500 have been sold, according to Martin Keen, the company’s co-founder.
Office furniture makers generally agree that the biggest challenge to selling standing desks is persuading companies to buy them because the desks tend to be expensive-and the companies think that employees won’t use them. Some companies are selling out-of-the-box stations that sit atop regular desks; for example, Varidesk currently has four models priced between $275 and $400. The company grew out of the need to find a standing desk for an employee with back problems. An affordable, easy-to-install product wasn’t available. So the employee created an adjustable desk and about two years ago (2013), put it on the market, said Jason McCann, Varidesk’s chief executive (Source: “Desk makers take a stand against sitting at work,”-Chicago Tribune (TNS)-The (Sunday) Vindicator, June 28, 2015).
Tipping the Maid
Unlike hotel bellmen or bartenders, maids that work in these facilities are lucky if customers leave a few dollars twice or three times a month; some have gone six months without a tip. As a result, Marriott International adopted a tipping initiative (the program is the Envelope Please, which encourages hotel guests to leave tips ranging from $1 to $5 for housekeepers in special envelopes placed in more than 160,000 rooms throughout North America) spearheaded by former California first lady Maria Shriver. But the program, which was intended to provide recognition of maids’ hard work and appeal to guests’ generosity, has sparked a wider controversy about the lousy pay that hotel maids and other workers receive (as of 2014, maids in Los Angeles earn on average $11.46 an hour or $23, 830 a year-higher than the U.S. mean but less than most other hotel workers in the city and many peers nationwide).
If maids deserve more money, some critics ask, why doesn’t Marriott simply pay them more instead of shifting the burden to the guests? And others say that such efforts could be a plot to re-classify maids as tipped employees-which then enables employers to pay out a smaller base salary (and union organizers worry that creating a tipping culture at hotels could damage their prospects for negotiating for higher wages). Marriott spokesperson Angela Wiggins says this is not a strategy to pay maids differently: “Housekeepers are non-tipped workers and will continue to be,” she said. “There is no intent to change them to tipped workers.”
According to Patrick Burns, a senior researcher with the Economic Roundtable, a nonfit research group in Los Angeles, hotels, like any business, should take responsibility for paying workers a living wage: “When you start to divide workers into different classes, there’s more of an opportunity for inequities and for workers to be unfairly treated,” he said. “We shouldn’t see tipping as something workers can rely upon to stay above poverty.”
Hotel clients and patrons remain very divided on this issue. 3,700 Americans were surveyed by the travel site Trip Advisor; more than two-thirds said they did indeed tip hotel housekeeping employees. A third said they would prefer tips to be included in their bill; many consider the Marriott program as emotional blackmail (housekeepers have reported incidents of program envelopes torn up and left in the trash with just pennies inside. Some housekeepers appreciate the program but think it´s too pushy). (Source: “Tipping program for maids highlights pay issue” by Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times (TNS)-The (Sunday) Vindicator, October 19, 2014).