Get Up, Stand Up, Collaborate

6/24/2014 in Blog Categories, News

We have previously reported on a study that found sitting less is independently "associated with excellent health and excellent quality of life."  Apparently sitting is not just good for the body, but it is also good for the mind according to a study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.  In the study, researchers from the Washington University’s Olin Business School found that standing during business meetings led to greater collaboration and more openness to the ideas of others among participants.  The report notes, “in addition to the physiological benefits of non-sedentary work designs, getting people out of their chairs at work may increase their capacity for collaborative knowledge work.”  According to the authors, the reasons for the findings are two-fold:  increased arousal of the sympathetic nervous system (which prepares a person to act on her environment) and reduction in territoriality.    

The authors acknowledge that there are limitations to the study in that the findings have not been replicated and the meeting length in the study was limited to 30 minutes (which represents the average meeting length for 75% of organizations).  Nevertheless, one of the lead authors, Andrew Knight, PhD, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Olin Business School, recommends that, “organizations should design office spaces that facilitate nonsedentary work.”  In addition to fighting the negative health effects of being sedentary, “Removing chairs and adding whiteboards are low-cost options that encourage brainstorming and collaboration.”  In a knowledge economy, any move to encourage brainstorming and collaboration should provide tangible benefits to an organization’s bottom line.  To the extent that a minor tweak to the working environment can also decrease the amount of time workers spend sitting is a double bonus. 

The trend in medical research suggests that modifying work spaces to limit the amount of time we spend sitting can have significant effects on the physical health of workers.  It only makes sense that the same effects would translate to workers’ cognitive health and abilities.  From a claims perspective, these findings represent an opportunity to work with employers to encourage workplace designs that foster both physical health and mental acuity (and hopefully fewer claims).

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