Stand Up to Get ‘Er Done!

Stand Up to Get ‘Er Done! June 9, 2016

Megan McDonough:

[SMcK: Yes, I’m biased. Yes, I stand at my desk.]

Are standing desks as beneficial as they are trendy?

According to a new study by Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center School of Public Health, they are — but not just for workers’ health. The popular desks also improved their productivity – significantly.

The study, which monitored 167 employees in a Texan call center over a six-month period, found that employees using stand-capable desks were more productive than their colleagues in standard, seated desks. And the productivity of the standing-desk workers continued to increase over their seated colleagues steadily over time. In the first month, the stand-capable group had 23 percent more successful calls than their seated colleagues, and by the sixth month, they had 53 percent more successful calls.

The findings, which were gathered between fall 2013 and spring 2014, wererecently published in the journal IIE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors.

“When my doctoral student first came to me [with the numbers], I said, ‘You’ve made a mistake. This just isn’t possible,’ ” said Mark Benden, one of the report’s authors and the director of the university’s ergonomics center.

But he checked the raw data, and the stats checked out. In past studies of this type of intervention, the typical margins of improvement have been smaller, he said.

Productivity is a hard thing to determine in any workplace, let alone to define for an academic study. So productivity was defined by the employer as the number of successful calls in one hour of work. (A “successful” encounter, in this case, was defined as a phone call in which the participants — health and clinical advisers — reviewed and set new goals with their clients and scheduled a follow-up call.)

“Pretty much all of their work time is spent at their desks,” Benden said. “They are measured at every second of every day. . . . Every one of those successful phone calls in the call center has a dollar value associated with it.”

The report’s findings are consistent with Benden’s past research on productivity and standing desks in high school classrooms, where they have been found to increase students’ engagement and cognitive performance.

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