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Smart Plant for Employee Vitality

About this project

My Bachelor graduation thesis & internship at Ahrend. A research project to discover how design & technology could stimulate users of sit-standing-desks to maintain a non-sedentary (healthier) workstyle. The result was a ‘smart plant’ concept that goes limp when users sit too long or move too little. This reminds users to often switch between sitting & standing.

Project Brief / Challenge

According to research organisation TNO (2016) the Dutch working population spents on average 7 hours of their work time sitting, each day. Long consecutive time spent sitting (a sedentary lifestyle) causes a significant contribution to common health issues. Desks with the possibility to switch between sitting and standing, like the ‘Ahrend Balance’, offer a solution. Frequently changing between sitting and standing behind the desk increases brain activity, concentration, creativity, and an overall healthier feeling and higher vitality (CBRE, 2017).

However, it turns out that in reality many users of these ‘sit-standing-desks’ yet rarely work while standing. To live up to the promise these desks make, an innovative solution has to be found to stimulate users to stand more and switch frequently.

Project Details

Client(Royal) Ahrend
Main StakeholdersAhrend & concerning company’s: Employees (working behind a sit-standing-desk), Human Resource Department, Management Board, and Facility Manager. 
RolesContext Research, Project Scope, Field Research, Literature Research, Value Proposition, Ideation, User Research, Concept Development.
Period20 weeks, 5 days a week
(Royal) Ahrend

Main Stakeholders
Ahrend & concerning company’s: Employees (working behind sit-standing-desks), Human Resource Department, Management Board, and Facility Manager.


Context Research, Project Scope, Field Research, Literature Research, Value Proposition, Ideation, Concept Development.


20 weeks, 5 days a week

Final Product | concept

Play Video

Smart Plant

A simple, elegant desk plant to nudge employees to frequently switch between a sitting and standing work position.
How it works
Using a sensor module beneath the desk, the presence and work position of the employee is measured. When the employee sits too long or moves too little, the smart plant goes limp. The limp plant reminds users of the unhealthy effects of a sedentary work style and nudges them to switch to a standing position or move around.
Optionally, The timing for going limp can be personalised and improved over time using a learning algorithm in the Ahrend App. Employees can ‘login’ to the desk with the Ahrend Puck, to sync their app profile with the Smart Plant.

The technology for controlling the plant movement has yet to be further investigated by testing a prototype. This was not part of the project due to time constraints. Two potential options were suggested: using an air pump, or piezoelectric layered strips.

Intrinsic Motivation
In order to make a lasting impact, employees need to be intrinsically motivated. The nudging smart plant stimulates employees on a short-term daily basis. To ensure long-term engagement, an app was proposed to track the personal progress towards a healthier non-sedentary workstyle. The app concept development was not in scope of this particular project.

Watch the animation video to get a sense of the smart plant in use.

The scheme above is an attempt to visualise the process as clear as possible.
In practice however, it was less linear and full of iterations.

Design Process


Presentation of thesis


Complete thesis & appendix material