Standing desks may boost employee health, productivity

Last Updated 26 May 2016, 08:42 IST

Standing desks - which a person can raise or lower to stand or sit while working - may boost productivity in employees, as well as improve their health, a new study has found.

Researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Centre School of Public Health in US examined the productivity differences between two groups of call centre employees over the course of six months and found that those with stand-capable workstations were about 46 per cent more productive than those with traditional, seated desk configurations.

Productivity was measured by how many successful calls workers completed per hour at work. 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, associate professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health.

"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, doctoral student and 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," Garett said.

In addition to helping the bottom line of the company, standing during the day can improve worker health.

Nearly 75 per cent of those working at stand-capable workstations experienced decreased body discomfort after using these desks for the six-month duration of the study.

"We believe that decreases in body discomfort may account for some of the productivity differences between the two groups," Garrett said.

"However, standing desks may have an impact on cognitive performance, which is the focus of some of our research going forward," he said.

Benden cautioned that the research did not employ a random sample. All 74 employees with stand-capable workstations had been on the job for one to three months, while the 93 workers with more longevity - one year or more at the company - acted as the control group and remained seated throughout the day.

"Still, we believe that the fact the new employees had at least one full month on the job, in addition to 60 days of training, before we began measuring, was more than enough to minimise 'experience variation' between the groups," Benden said.

The study was published in the journal IIE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors.

(Published 26 May 2016, 08:42 IST)

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