Do ‘Active’ Workstations Impair Performance?

Why is this important?

We all know that sedentary positions that are maintained for the duration of the workday can have negative health consequences for us. In the media today, it seems like we have reached an all time high in gleaning relevant health information. A frequent target is the fact that we sit for far too long in the office and we must do something about it immediately (or perhaps should have done something about it yesterday). In fact, last week I wrote about a method to increase activity in the workplace. Other than trying to reach 10,000 steps per day, as documented by our trendy activity tracking wristbands, it can often seem daunting to add more physical activity into our daily routines. This is especially true with overbearing deadlines that never seem to diminish in importance. The comment that I regularly hear is something along the lines of: ‘how do you expect me to add physical activity into my day when I have these deadlines that must be met?’

How familiar does this sound to you? We’ve all been here before. Around 4PM on the last day that a major project is due to a prized client, I bet that 10,000 steps are the farthest thing from being on a person’s mind. But what if these sorts of days become more and more the norm for you and your colleagues? In other words, what are some viable pro-health solutions that you can implement today to change your health for the better, regardless of your increasingly demanding schedule?

Well, the good news is that today there are so many viable options for non-traditional workstations available.  Ergonomics And Treadmill

Examples of non-traditional workstations:

  • Standing workstation
  • Sit-to-stand workstation
  • Treadmill workstation
  • Cycle workstation

 

If you are serious about implementing some of these non-traditional workstations then you should not have to sacrifice productivity for the benefit of increased physical activity. For ‘active’ workstations to be a good return-on-investment in business, you would want to see productivity results that at least match a sitting workstation.

The research findings support that for low activity, non-traditional workstations do not have any negative implications on a person’s cognitive performance, determined via short-term usage.

Interesting fact: Past research had assumed that using an ‘active’ workstation (i.e.: like walking on a treadmill while completing computer work) would negatively affect performance, due to what researchers called ‘interference.’ But after a person gets used to working while being active, performance in an active workstation surpassed that of a sitting workstation surprisingly.

What you can do to implement today

The results of this research are amazing – along with improving phsysical activity in the workplace, ‘active’ workstaitons also show no determimental affects to cognitive performance!

If you are you interested in implementing ‘active’ workstations for your staff, here is an action plan to start with:

  1. The most important aspect of implementing this type of workstation is to first determine consensus amongst staff.
    • In my experience, for ‘active’ workstations to be successful, staff must be fully engaged and excited about the process.
    • Most excitement is usually from staff with a history of lower back pain or chronic discomfort.
    • I have found that those who are ambivalent to the process will unlikely use alternative workstations.
    • What are the demographics of your staff? This may affect buy-in, usage, and even resultant injuries.
  2. If unsure that your staff would use standing/active workstations, purchase one unit and use it as a ‘hotel’.
    • If laptops are the primary computing source, an ergonomically designed docking system would be most attractive for staff to try. Ensure that there is an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse for optimal working posture during use.
  3. The workstation must be fully adjustable for each employee to allow for optimal ergonomics.
    • Height adjustability in the desk and monitor is suggested.

 

Source

Bantoft, C., Summers., M, Tranent, P., Palmer, M., Cooley, P. & Pedersen, S. (2016). Effect of Standing or Walking at a Workstation on Cognitive Function: A Randomized Counterbalanced Trial. Human Factors. 58(1): 140-149

Through the administration of countless assessments in both private and public sectors, Darcie has gained a wealth of knowledge and built a successful practice in the field of ergonomics. She has extensive expertise in conducting office ergonomics assessments in large scale workplaces for all different types of scenarios, from simple adjustments to incredibly complex cases. Darcie also has vast experience in delivering training presentations on the various aspects of ergonomics “best practices” in the workplace. Darcie is a Certified Professional Ergonomist through the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics, as recognized by the International Ergonomics Association. She also has a Masters of Science, specializing in ergonomics. A little known fact about Darcie is that she once scored from half, off a free kick, in a university varsity soccer (football) match!

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