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Why Are American Workers Made to Stand All Day?

Updated on July 7, 2012
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Unemployment could be halved...

With rising unemployment rates and poor working conditions for many of those fortunate to have jobs, the overall morale of many working class, and middle class, American citizens and residents, is at an all time low. While it could be said that spending on all levels of budgets has decreased dramatically due to economic crisis, how much of this lack of faith people have in their country, and rising unemployment, could have been prevented by simply bettering the conditions of the workplace? Perhaps the millions of unemployed could be halved if certain restrictions on employment law within individual corporations were amended, or even lifted.

Each year, companies fork out millions of dollars to employees taking paid time off, (PTO) - many of those days being taken due to illnesses that could have actually been prevented by the employer/company. Back pain, knee pain, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, foot pain - even certain heart problems; every single one of these could be better managed, and cost companies far less in PTO plans, and health insurance premiums, by simply allowing for more comfortable working conditions.

"Employees should stand because it 'looks' better..."

How many times have you been in the grocery store, the supermarket, or some other kind of retail outlet, and noticed the distinct lack of seating for the employees that work there? If you were brought up in America, then chances are it's not something you've ever really given much thought to - unless you are one of the thousands of people every day who suffer with chronic back pain, knee pain, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and even certain heart problems, all because of the job they're in.

It is an antiquated belief that workers are not as productive when sitting down to do their job - if that were true, then administrative staff, receptionists, and all other variables of officer workers, would be lazy and incompetent. And do YOU personally care whether the person serving you at the cash register is sitting or standing, as long as they're quick at doing their job? In Britain, and other parts of Europe, it is law that employees be given the option to sit to perform their job, and companies across the pond are certainly no less profitable just because their cashiers have a stool to rest on when they need to!

Europe is more civilized!

In European supermarkets and grocery stores, the people at the cash registers/checkouts have swivel chairs on wheels, allowing them freedom to continue their work whilst sitting, (ironic considering that ASDA in the UK is owned by Walmart!). They are still perfectly capable in swiping your purchases across the scanner, and helping you bag your items (something else in Europe that is not mandatory - employees may offer to help you if you are struggling with packing your bags, but as a rule, it is not their job to pack your groceries for you, and quite rightly so!)

The mind set of corporate America is one that is very difficult to understand or tap into. One has to wonder whether those responsible for making the decisions about store workers, have ever actually been in a job of that type themselves, where you are forced to stand for hours at a time. It isn't too difficult to see that an employee whose back, legs and feet are hurting , is much less likely to be attentive to customers than the employee who isn't as tired and isn't in as much pain, because they were allowed to sit if they chose to.

The lack of unions, especially in 'at-will' employment States such as Texas, could be to blame for this unfair treatment of lower-end workers. With no one to speak out for the workforce, there is little than can be done to bring corporate America's attention to the 'little people' - or more accordingly, the people who work for the money that is in the 'big people's' wallets and paying for the big, comfy leather chairs that seat their lazy bottoms!

A tired employee is an unproductive employee!

Perhaps it is time for the government to look closer at the unskilled working environments, and actually pay attention to how much money would be saved each year on things like, workers comp, unemployment benefits, Medicaid, and other health insurance claims, if there was a law to protect those of us who aren't fortunate to work for a company that cares about its employees well-being. And someone should point out to some of the managers and presidents of supermarkets and grocery stores such as H-E-B, and Walmart, that by providing their staff a chair or stool to sit on, in the long run, the staff will be less tired, less likely to take days off sick, and certainly more attentive towards their customer's needs, than someone who has been standing all day, and can think only of how long is left until their shift ends.

Companies make no exceptions, either - not even for heavily pregnant employees or those with disabilities, so compared to their European counterparts, it would appear that employment in the US is somewhat uncivilised to say the least. No one is suggesting that we all spend 8 or so hours per day on our keisters, though! A job which involves sitting all day can prove to be just as damaging to your health as standing for hours at a time, but it would be nice to be given a choice, wouldn't it?


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    • cathylynn99 profile image

      cathylynn99 4 years ago from northeastern US

      i have often thought that supermarket checkers should be allowed to sit. thanks for shining a light on the situation .

    • profile image

      Sooner28 4 years ago

      "The mind set of corporate America is one that is very difficult to understand or tap into. One has to wonder whether those responsible for making the decisions about store workers, have ever actually been in a job of that type themselves, where you are forced to stand for hours at a time. It isn't too difficult to see that an employee whose back, legs and feet are hurting , is much less likely to be attentive to customers than the employee who isn't as tired and isn't in as much pain, because they were allowed to sit if they chose to."

      If you've ever seen the show undercover boss, chances are they couldn't do most of the jobs in their own damn companies. Our current economic organization is entirely corrupt. Bosses (not leaders) of organizations have no care for the workers. All they want is more for less. American productivity is at an all time high, but wages are not rising with productivity. It sickens me.

      I'm glad you pointed this issue out, and how it's different than the United Corporations of America. Great hub and you have a new follower!

    • BritInTexas profile image
      Author

      BritInTexas 4 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      Thank you so much for your great comments, CathyLynn and Sooner! Sooner, yes, I've caught a few episodes of Undercover Boss, and it sickens me too just how out of touch those in charge are. I don't know what is wrong with American society - I've found a number of discussion forums about this very topic, and you wouldn't believe how many 'customers' think that store workers should be made to stand in order to 'serve' them properly. I feel so very sorry for those employees, and I count myself in that bracket, because I am unable to stand for hours at a time, and therefore, am stuck for the number of job choices I can apply for. It's disgraceful.

    • profile image

      Sooner28 4 years ago

      Many many Americans believe that employees are an appendage to a large machine that exists solely to satisfy their wants and needs, regardless of how the workers are treated. Look at how waiters and waitresses are treated. I'm always nice and leave a tip just because of that.

    • BritInTexas profile image
      Author

      BritInTexas 4 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      Same here. I don't mean to sound as though I'm bad-mouthing America, but my God, considering the States is meant to be the leading nation in so many ways, it really is third-world in much of its thinking.

    • Daddy Paul profile image

      Daddy Paul 4 years ago from Michigan

      I have to agree with you. Standing all day is hard on your joints. Sitting all day is not the answer either.

      I have seen a company take away stools to get older workers to retire.

    • BritInTexas profile image
      Author

      BritInTexas 4 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      Daddy Paul, that is absolutely DISGRACEFUL. The problem is that there's too many jobs being taken by kids that are just out of school, or are in college and want to earn 'beer money'. They are young, sprite, and healthy, and standing doesn't bother them as much. So when working environments are looked at as a whole, the percentage of workers actually complaining about being made to stand is significantly less than you'd expect - because only the young, part-timers are the ones whose voices seem to get heard. I am truly disgusted.

    • Pkittock profile image

      Pkittock 4 years ago from Minnesota

      Boo-hoo.. I feel SO bad for american workers who have to stand around in air conditioned/heated retail environments making 7.50+/hour.. if you want to complain about working environments look outside of the US and find something really worth complaining about...

    • CHRIS57 profile image

      CHRIS57 4 years ago from Northern Germany

      A sad story.

      To give it an academic touch: This all goes back to Frederick Taylor , who in 1911 published his landmark book: The Principles of Scientific Management.

      He divided organizations into thinkers (management) and doers (workers). While this may have been revolutionary 100 years ago, today it is outdated. But still many organizations, companies follow the principles.

      With Taylorism actually what happens is that management and workers are separated and don´t interact. The outcome is poor working conditions and the ignorance of the management on how efficiency and working conditions are interacting.

      A little hint (may be off topic): Companies who feel uneasy about the pure Tayloristic approach often create an artificial event to bring management and workers together: "The employee of the week".

    • Mazzy Bolero profile image

      Mazzy Bolero 4 years ago from the U.K.

      I think there are rules setting the maximum time that standing can be required, but they are often ignored. As a student I had a summer job in the US in a warehouse packing shoes. We were allowed to sit down part of the time and that helped a lot. Then we got a new manager who insisted we stand up all day. We got less work done because we were so tired. We could work just as quickly seated on stools, but it was more about his ego than about productivity. He was breaking the law but no-one dared complain as they feared losing their jobs. Employers in the US or UK should not be following the example of the Third World in their treatment of employees, but when people are desperate for work, they get away with it.

    • BritInTexas profile image
      Author

      BritInTexas 4 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      Thank you for the great comments, although Pkittock, $7.50+ per hour to work in a store? You're living in cloud cuckoo land, love!

    • Pkittock profile image

      Pkittock 4 years ago from Minnesota

      Minimum wage is 7.25 everywhere in the USA except Wyoming, Arkansas, and Georgia.. I was making 7.50 in one place, 9.50 now at another. If The only way you can make less legally is if you are on commission or tips.. @chris57 that is the source of so many issues in retail environments whether it be workplace inefficiencies or stupid policies that work in theory but not in practice.

    • BritInTexas profile image
      Author

      BritInTexas 4 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      Pkittock, the point of my article was to to question what the big deal is about allowing workers a chair to sit on in certain jobs. It's not about making it 'too cushy' or 'too easy' - I'm far from lazy, in fact, I am a bloody hard worker, but right now, my husband and I are financially struggling because I'm out of work. I have a slipped disc in my lower back which sadly prevents me from being able to stand all day. If an optional chair/stool was allowed, I wouldn't be as restricted in my job search, and neither, I'm sure, would millions of others who are unemployed.

    • Pkittock profile image

      Pkittock 4 years ago from Minnesota

      I can definitely see your point there, that employers should be indifferent as to whether people sit for certain jobs, especially if there is a medical reason for this. In all honesty, I'd probably be less of a hard-ass on the seating thing if I was restricted in my employment options, so I totally understand your viewpoint. I wish you the best in finding a job that'll work for you!

    • BritInTexas profile image
      Author

      BritInTexas 4 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      Thanks, Pkittock, me too! Who knows, maybe I'll become the next president of Walmart, and dole out soft leather recliners to all the checkout staff, hehehhehe.

    • Pkittock profile image

      Pkittock 4 years ago from Minnesota

      You'd be the most popular boss EVER!

    • BritInTexas profile image
      Author

      BritInTexas 4 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      I'd also allow 4 weeks PAID leave per year, like we're entitled to in Britain... I'd better stop now before I'm lynched by corporate America, LOL ;o)

    • Pkittock profile image

      Pkittock 4 years ago from Minnesota

      not to plug your political correctness hub but......... probably "can't" say lynched anymore either!

    • BritInTexas profile image
      Author

      BritInTexas 4 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      Bwwwhahahahah you're probably right there!!

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