Study Finds that Standing Desks May Improve Workers’ Productivity

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One way to address the impact of excessive sitting on the health of office workers is by giving them sit-stand desks. For example, one study recommended that office workers use such desks for a minimum of two hours a day during working hours.

But the health benefits of sit-stand desks may not be enough to persuade senior management to invest in them. However, a new study has found that standing desks may improve not only workers’ health but also their productivity.

Researchers from Texas A&M’s Health Science Center School of Public Health examined the productivity differences between two groups of call center employees over the course of six months. They found that those employees with workstations that workers could raise or lower to stand or sit as they wished throughout the day were about 46% more productive than those with traditional, seated desk configurations.

Productivity was measured by how many successful calls workers completed per hour at work. Based on work related to this study in a previous publication, workers in the stand-capable desks sat for about 1.6 hours less per day than the seated desk workers.

“We hope this work will show companies that although there might be some costs involved in providing stand-capable workstations, increased employee productivity over time will more than offset these initial expenses,” said Mark Benden, Ph.D., C.P.E., associate professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, director of the Texas A&M Ergonomics Center and member of the Center for Remote Health Technologies and Systems, and one of the authors of the study.

“One interesting result of the study is that the productivity differences between the stand-capable and seated groups were not as large during the first month,” said Gregory Garrett, M.A., a public health doctoral student and a lead author of the study. “Starting with the second month, we began to see larger increases in productivity with the stand-capable groups as they became habituated to their standing desks.”

In addition to helping the company’s bottom line, standing during the day improved worker health. Nearly 75% of those working at stand-capable desks experienced decreased body discomfort after using the desks for the six-month duration of the study.

To encourage workers—office and otherwise—to move more at work and not stay sedentary:

  • Download and post this infographic of exercises for office workers to do during the day.
  • Give workers time off to exercise. For example, enable them to take an additional 30 minutes on top of their normal lunch break and be flexible about when they take this time during the day.
  • Implement a wellness program that helps workers exercise more, eat better, etc. and rewards them for accomplishing wellness-related goals.