Background: Epidemiological research has established sitting as a new risk factor for the development of non-communicable chronic disease. Sit-stand desks have been proposed as one strategy to reduce occupational sedentary time. This formative research study evaluated the acceptability and usability of manually and electrically operated sit-stand desks in a medium-sized government organisation located in Sydney, Australia. Methods. Sitting time pre- and three months post -installation of the sit-stand desks was measured using validated self-report measures. Additionally, three group interviews and one key-informant interview were conducted with staff regarding perceptions about ease of, and barriers to, use and satisfaction with the sit-stand desks. All interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed for themes regarding usability and acceptability. Results: Of 31 staff, 18 completed baseline questionnaires, and 13 completed follow-up questionnaires. The median proportion of sitting time for work was 85% (range 50%-95%) at baseline and 60% (range 10%-95%) at follow-up. Formal statistical testing of paired data (n=11) showed that the change from baseline to follow-up in time spent sitting (mean change=1.7 hours, p=.014) was statistically significant. From the qualitative data, reasons given for initiating use of the desks in the standing position were the potential health benefits, or a willingness to experiment or through external prompting. Factors influencing continued use included: concern for, and experience of, short and long term health impacts; perceived productivity whilst sitting and standing; practical accommodation of transitions between sitting and standing; electric or manual operation height adjustment. Several trajectories in patterns of initiation and continued use were identified that centered on the source and timing of commitment to using the desk in the standing position. Conclusions: Sit-stand desks had high usability and acceptability and reduced sitting time at work. Use could be promoted by emphasizing the health benefits, providing guidance on appropriate set-up and normalizing standing for work-related tasks. © 2013 Grunseit et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.