Standing desks. Love 'em or hate 'em, there are plenty of articles to back up whatever opinion you have.
On the one hand, studies have shown that standing desks could help reduce your risk of obesity and diabetes. On the other, experts have said standing desks don’t help with weight loss and could give you back problems, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Now, another study has come out, this one in favor of standing desks. Researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center found that standing desks helped employees get more done during the day. Though the results might not translate for all types of work environments, they should give standing desk proponents reason to rejoice.
Published last week in the journal IIE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors, the study followed 167 employees in a call center over six months. Seventy-four of them used standing desks, and researchers found that they were 46 percent more productive than those who sat at their desks.
The participants' employer, a health services company that's not named in the paper, commissioned the study to better understand the returns on the standing desks it had bought for the office.
Productivity was determined by the number of successful calls to clients that the health and clinical advisors made per hour. The company earned revenue for each successful call, during which an advisor checked in on a client’s progress in an exercise program, for example, or verified to see that a client was taking proper medication.
Employees typically made between 400 and 500 calls a month, and the company wanted them to average around two successful calls each hour. Those who had standing desks met that quota, while those who remained seated averaged 1.5 successful calls per hour, Gregory Garrett, a public health doctoral student and lead author on the study, told The Huffington Post. If an advisor was unable to reach a client over the phone, that was counted as an unsuccessful call.
Interestingly, the people who stood actually made more phone calls than the ones who sat, Garrett said.
The results almost seem too good to be true -- after all, who wouldn’t want a nearly 50 percent boost in productivity just from using a standing desk?
Even the researchers were a little baffled by what they saw.
“My first thought was, ‘This couldn’t be right,’” Mark Benden, who leads the Ergonomics Center at Texas A&M and was a co-author of the study, told HuffPost. “I would expect the public to raise an eyebrow, and that’s okay. But this wasn’t a snapshot. This was every day, every call, every worker for six months.”
While these results might be unique to a call center or other types of offices where employee productivity is easily quantifiable, the researchers say that cognitive performance can still benefit from less sedentary behavior.
“Standing has a positive impact on an individual’s cognition, and that could be transferable” to other types of work environments, Garrett said.
The researchers add that their findings could help give companies more concrete evidence of the value of their investments in standing desks.
“How do you justify ‘this desk makes me feel happier, and I feel better’? That’s not going to pay the bills,” Benden said.
But, he continued, the study shows that standing desks can in fact "affect a company’s bottom line. That’s really significant.”