22 February 2014

Install a treadmill at your desk to get more productive

A study published in research journal Plos One in February has shown that walking on a treadmill at your desk may make you more productive than if you are at a standard desk and chair arrangement. 

Source: Plos One
Authors of "Treadmill Workstations: The Effects of Walking while Working on Physical Activity and Work Performance" Avner Ben-Ner and Chimnay Manohar from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Darla Hamann from the School of Urban and Public Affairs, University of Texas-Arlington, and Gabriel Koepp and James Levine from the Obesity Solutions department, Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University, conducted an experiment at a financial services company over 12 months to study how the availability of treadmill workstations would affect physical activity and work performance of employees. 

Half of a group of sedentary volunteers received treadmill workstations during the first two months of the study and the rest in the seventh month of the study. They could walk on the treadmills at speeds of 0 to 2 mph (0 to 3.2 km per hour), if they wished, in place of a chair-desk arrangement. 

According to weekly online performance surveys from participants, their supervisors, as well as sedentary colleagues, overall work performance, quality and quantity of performance, and interactions with co-workers all improved as a result of the treadmill workstations. Specifically, the treadmill workstation led to about 77 fewer sedentary minutes per day, out of about 600 ‘discretionary’ minutes for non-sedentary activity, including approximately 500 minutes at work during a weekday. This accounted for an increase in total average daily activity caloric expenditure of more than 74 calories. 

Management will wonder if participants did less work as a result of walking on the treadmill, but the researchers say no. Both participants and supervisors rated the volunteers as more productive over time, especially after "an early decline in performance" as participants had to learn how to handle walking on the treadmill while working on various tasks. 

The researchers caution that while the volunteers have been found to be similar to their colleagues, they might have been motivated to be more active in the first place. They also suggested that the complexity of the work tasks might also affect the results.