Earlier this week, I read a post on The Wall Street Journal's "At Work" blog about the treadmill desk. I will come back to the article shortly, but for those that haven't seen or heard about this product, it's a treadmill that only goes up to two miles-per-hour and has a desk surface that allows you to work while walking.
I first saw one in person when touring a new office suite environment about two years ago and dismissed it immediately as a gimmick. When touring CBRE's new Downtown LA office last year, I saw another one. I asked Lew Horne, the leader of the LA region and driving force behind the new office, if anyone used it. His answer shocked me. "All the time," he said.
He then went on to tell me that there is a growing consensus among health professionals that sitting is the new smoking and since a healthier workforce is a more efficient workforce, the new space was designed to encourage people not to sit. In addition to the treadmill station, there were several other standing stations. I even saw one woman standing on a piece of foam that is designed to keep you moving, even while standing in place. And the more people move around, the more opportunity there is for collaboration, idea sharing, etc.
Back to The Wall Street Journal blog. A recent study by the University of Minnesota showed that workers who worked at the treadmill stations were more productive than their counterparts who sat all day. While there is an initial adjustment period, and it is certainly not recommended for the clumsy (people can fall) or those using fine motor skills, once people get acclimated, it works. Productivity, as scored by both the employees and their supervisors, increased significantly over a six month period.
I Googled "sitting is unhealthy" and there are over 7.3 million results. "Smoking is unhealthy" yielded 8.3 million results. "Workplace efficiency" yielded over 35 million results. I will let you draw your own conclusions.
Coincidentally, Tuesday a friend asked me if I was using the pedometer function in my watch. I went on a bit of a rant saying I didn't care how many steps I took in a day. After reading about the productivity increase brought about by the treadmill desk, I not only want one for our office when it's redesigned, but I also turned on the pedometer function on my watch. Over 2700 steps so far today...and so many more to go.