New research shows that treadmill desks improve employee performance and productivity — after a short period of adjusting to walking and working at the same time.
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“A yearlong study of finance workers at a company in St. Paul, Minn. found that the productivity of 40 treadmill users dropped at first as they struggled to master typing and manipulating a mouse while walking at speeds of up to two miles per hour,” writes Lauren Weber at The Wall Street Journal. “But within four to six months, all three measures of performance — quality and quantity of work, and quality of interactions with colleagues — rose steadily, according to weekly surveys of participants.”
Some Tasks Are Easier to Do on a Treadmill Than Others
Problem solving and conference calls lent themselves to working while walking, according to researchers, while anything requiring fine motor skills wasn’t suited to multitasking exercise and work.
Plus, speed is a factor: CNET‘s Danny Sullivan notes that he uses his treadmill desk while walking 2 miles per hour. At four to seven hours per day, that adds up to 500 to 1000 calories, but it’s a lot slower than most of us walk when we’re burned rubber at the gym, which might take some getting used to for some people.
Good Results in the Long Run
At the end of the survey period, the participants in the St. Paul study rated their performance 0.69 points higher than they did before engaging in the project. Their bosses, on the other hand, awarded them a full point.
Since the results were self-reported, it’s impossible to say if the participants’ performance really improved, or whether their perception of their performance improved. But since workers and their supervisors both perceived a possible correlation between treadmill desk use and improved performance, we can at least say that using these desks made them feel like they were doing better.
Sometimes, attitude is everything. And when treadmill desks come with a side of potentially improved cardiovascular health for workers and lower healthcare costs for companies, it’s hard to argue against them.
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