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(BenefitsPro)   Company finds that walking on a treadmill while working at your desk improves your productivity, makes for interesting workplace injury claims   ( divider line
    More: Unlikely, treadmill desks, knowledge workers, Sami Salo, productivity, boosting  
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1184 clicks; posted to Main » on 06 Mar 2014 at 8:10 AM (3 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2014-03-06 12:12:46 PM  
2 votes:
I'm really keen on the whole productivity thing, so I looked into this, and the standing desks.  I actually like standing - my wife always thinks I'm weird because I like to eat my cereal standing up, for example.  I was ready to dive in head first, and was looking at models and considering motorized elevating legs for my desk.

Turns out, it's all junk science.  That is, there's no actual scientific studies (that is, applying proper rigour) that confirm any of the claimed benefits of a standing desk.  That doesn't discount the benefits, but it also doesn't confirm those benefits or indicate that sitting doesn't have those.

There are studies, for example, that do show prolonged sitting is bad for you.  What proponents of standing desks won't tell you is that there's actually ~more~ studies that show prolonged standing is bad for you!  The severe pains that retail salesfolks and cashiers experience from literally being on their feet all day?  That's exacerbated when you have a fixed desk and have no need to leave it.  (The best voices in the industry say that for both physical and mental health, we should take at least  5 minute walk every hour or so to avoid the problems with both prolonged sitting AND standing)

When we get to the studies that focus on working while on a treadmill, we do tend to at least show consistent health benefits.  However, the efficiency claim is up in the air.  There's certainly no scientific basis for the concept of increasing efficiency - walking doesn't make you better at - for example - creating power points, signing sales contracts, doing budgets, or responding to emails.  In fact, studies show that your typing speed and error rate skyrockets, so if your job relies on typing more than short disconnected sentences, you will be less efficient.  This makes sense; you have to divide your concentration, even if minimally.

In my own non-scientific testing, I've found it fairly difficult to play video games while going at any reasonable speed on a treadmill or stepper, and writing software is pretty much impossible; I end up working at less than 1/20'th of my normal speed.  Basically anything that requires dedicated concentration like juggling seven items plus or minus two in your head is going to be disrupted by the use of a treadmill.

My opinion then, is that if your job does not require your dedicated concentration - for example, if it involves reading a script, answering phones, and following a by-and-large rote procedure, such as phone workers at an insurance company in the cited article - then it should have at best, no impact.  I can't see any reason it could increase efficiency, but then again, the article doesn't define 'efficiency'.  It could be how fast they get people off the phones, and that could be related to the perceived competence of a distracted worker by a customer.

It also is suspect that the alternatives were standing, or sitting on an exercise ball.  Sitting was not an option - there was no control group to compare against - so the claims of 10% efficiency boost are also suspect.  10% vs what?  Their previous, 1 year less experience, output?

This sort of questionable methodology is apparently the defacto standard when it comes to the ergonomics and fitness-worklife world.  Best to watch out for it.
2014-03-06 10:34:08 AM  
1 vote:
Standing is reasonable. Treadmill is multitasking, no greater sin in diminishing human ability.
2014-03-06 08:49:59 AM  
1 vote:
Can you imagine the whining? It's bad enough with the chairs.  How come the boss gets the fancy treadmill?  His treadmill is nicer than my treadmill.  My treadmill is noisy.  Can you send the treadmill repair person by?  My doctor says I should have an elliptical machine.  I wasn't hired because I'm too fat/too old to use the treadmills.  Steve in accounting reeks of sweat by the end of the day.  It's too hot in here, I'm walking you know, it's freezing in here, I'm sitting today!
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