Sitting At Your Desk Not Good For Productivity?

from the telecommuters-unite! dept

There’s been plenty of back and forth on whether or not telecommuting is a good idea, but a new study in the UK seems to support a more flexible, mobile workforce — saying that employees who remain deskbound all the time have their productivity stifled and are much more prone to injury (found via the Raw Feed). The study wasn’t looking at telecommuting specifically, but the idea of sitting at a desk all the time vs. being able to walk around as you worked. Presumably, the same split would occur for telecommuters who station themselves at a desk vs. those who walk around as well. However, no matter what, it does seem to suggest that forcing people to constantly sit at a desk probably isn’t the best way to keep them productive. The thing is, most people know this intuitively. It’s why there are breaks during the day so that people can move around a bit. The difference here, though, is that the study didn’t just have people take breaks, but actually allow them to work while moving about the office. So perhaps we should go beyond the trend of office-spaces with no permanent offices — and move on to just making the office a big wandering area where people can walk while they work. It could serve to fight the obesity epidemic at the same time.

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Comments on “Sitting At Your Desk Not Good For Productivity?”

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Max Powers at (user link) says:

Another Study

Employee’s all walking around the office while they are working? Now that would be an interesting thing to see.

If my employee was not productive because he had a desk job, guess what? He won’t have a job any more then he can walk around submitting resumes and see if that makes him more productive.

mx_ (user link) says:

Take a look at Universities

This has been done, we’re just missing it. Anyone who has gone through a university and had to work with laptop knows that homeworks are usually done all over the place. One could park in an empty classroom, in a cafeteria, in a lounge, library, or many other places. I realize that usually offices cannot offer nearly as many facilities, however, if we approach an office from this university perspective, and make parallels between work and homework – the idea starts to brighten up.

To Max Powers:
– I’m sure you’ll keep yourself extremely productive and in shape looking for sophisticated employees with a website like that. Seriously – either it’s a joke, or a really really sad reality.

yangyang (profile) says:

raisable desks

I once saw a desk which could go up and down at the touch of a button. So, when you are tired of sitting down, you just hit that button and spend a couple of hours working standing up.
That’s a workeable alternative.

Max Powers
Damn man, that website hurts my head – too many colours – too many things moving around

Gotta go and get some painkillers…

wouter says:

not black and white

I think the main thing we should take away from this study is that it’s healthy to get up every now and then.

Rather than time all your little trips (get coffee- toilet-talk to coleague) to coincide, we should try to spread them out a bit. get up and go see a coleague instead of using the phone to talk to someone who is just a couple of meters away.

just my two cents

Evil Mike (profile) says:

At my company I program and I walk. Not quite all day long, there are several stretches of time at my desk; but my wandering the office while scribbling code notes or consulting an esoteric manual of hardware specs, perhaps hunting down one of our engineers to query the circuit/relay setup of a… you get the idea. Common sight.

Besides, if I sit there for too long, my brain starts to get numb; or is that my bottom?

Anonymous Coward says:

Poor supervisors evaluate using poor standards. Instead of evaluating productivity they evaluate on easily observed but often irrelevant standards such as whether a person is at their desk when they walk by or whether they are dressing appropriately.

The often used argument against telecommuting is that workers can’t be properly supervised if they are at home. In many cases that argument would go away if supervisors learned to use productivity as their primary standard.

Andrea says:

working remotely

I believe that working from home and coming to the office once or twice a week is very very productive. My sister who works for IBM has worked from home for years as do many IBM employees, it saves on office space, and she tends to work more hours as well. It allows for freedom and the company gets more work out of its employees. We are in 2007 and if we want to stop global warming, traffic, accidents wouldn’t that be the smartest way. So many people would save on gas also. It should be the wave of 2008.

Anonymous Coward says:

I agree that moving around helps clear the cobwebs from your brain. Sometimes when I’m working on a problem, I need to walk away for a bit and come back to it with a fresh thought pattern. Also, I just go nuts sitting in one place for too long.

However, I would not encourage such activity on a constant basis, meaning nobody is ever at their desk. That type of environment would be chaos, with people looking for other people all the time, thereby wasting time. Also, one needs to have some base of operations, so to speak. Being able to float around is nice, but coming down to earth once in a while is important too. I’m all for PDAs and wireless connectivity to allow people to move around without being disconnected, but it is important to maintain the proper balance, or semi-productive will turn into non-productive.

JS Beckerist (profile) says:

If you can't sit and think...

If you can’t do the job you were hired for, then find a new job. If you’re more productive while walking around, become a postman.

Don’t get me wrong. If you need to walk around occasionally to clear your head that’s called human nature. If you need to walk around constantly to focus, that’s called ADD and a desk job is probably not for you.

You never know says:

Perhaps some of you missed the point. Being forced to set at a desk for 8 to 10 hours has a stifling affect as well as being detrimental to health, (both I can personally attest to). By allowing the employee to stand and at least pace back and forth while using the phone, dictating or just reading from a larger display helps offset boredom and stimulate lower body circulation. Bluetooth headsets and larger displays that can be viewed from several feet away help, and the employee always set down and type what and when ever they need. Even opening up the work space thus allowing the employee to change the environment (IE move to another seat once in a while) will greatly improve creativity. All this can be achieved with out a huge investment by the employer and save some money in health bennies and attrition of the work force.

Max Powers at (user link) says:

Employee needs outside job.

Breaks and lunch should solve the need to move around. Some people can handle a desk job and others can’t. Some people need outside jobs, like my brother-in-law. He couldn’t last one day at a desk job.

Hey all, thanks for the comments on my website. I always get “hate it” or “love it” comments, nothing in between.

Matthew says:

Re: Employee needs outside job.

I didn’t want to look, but after your comment here I had to. There is WAY too much junk of there and it loads slowly (I have a 20mb trunk for upload/download so it ain’t my end) plus it looks like it was slapped together by elementary schoolers.

It’s time for some research into CSS.

Back to on point: I am blessed to work in a place where the employee is highly valued and given new levels of personal freedom and power to get what needs to be done, done. Our CEO is absolutely against all forms of telecomute, but in his case it is for the “enrichment of our social culture rather than worry about productivity.”

I’d still like to work from home once or twice a week, especially with gas prices going higher and higher, but certainly enjoy being in the office more han I have before.

Rod Woolley says:

Re: Re: Employee needs outside job.

A lot depends on the nature of the job. I am a senior engineer working in R&D. For 7 or 8 years I spent several days at a desk working out of my own small home-office for much of the time. Every week or two I had to travel away for a day or two. I am sure I was very productive especially as my time was not consumed by interminable pointless meetings. Now I work in a large company and am equally productive. Much of my work is done at a desk on a computer, but I also have to move around a lot to talk to people face-to-face (There is no substitute for “face time”), eg to attend the occasional meeting, to go to the test labs. or to the production areas. There is no denying that getting up frequently from the desk & moving around is better for the individual, but I don’t think it necessarily leads to greater productivity. With regard to the comment “So perhaps we should go beyond the trend of office-spaces with no permanent offices — and move on to just making the office a big wandering area where people can walk while they work. It could serve to fight the obesity epidemic at the same time”, that is just stupid and illogical! Even though it is true that sitting at a desk all day without breaks and exercise may not be the best, that does not mean you need to jump to the other extreme and toss the desks out of the window!

Utsav Chauhan (user link) says:

Productivity hampered

My job profile requires me to be online all the time and believe it or not, I was more than happy to take up this job which didnt require anything but sit on the laptop and answer calls and warm up your seat the entire day. But after a year here, I’ve started to feel the pain of ‘going out’ or not doing transactions only online and over the phone or going pitching, etc. (Yes, it is still possible in India). I’ve started to take ‘e-breaks’ by visiting my profile on Facebook or playing a quick game of poker or something refreshing. I think moving away from your desk while lunch/coffee helps too.

just knacked says:

taking breaks, tired, knackered

okay i’ve been working for 12 years now at a desk. initially in a callcentre environment and now just computer work. But both jobs involved sitting a a desk for 7 hours a day, taking breaks and lunch breaks was good. But when you commute by car to and from work. after 12 years its getting to me. i’m just tired. my body has a problem sitting and staying awake. its too much hard work. I have to lie down which is the only rest i get. in the past my body used to enjoy sitting down at a desk. but now i don’t want to look at a screen. i want to do something more active eg. stacking shelves. so then i think to myself whats the use of getting a degree and getting a good office job which you can’t tired from after 10 years. now having problems with food digestion and bowel movement etc. skin problems etc. If you got some ideas let me know i’ll visit again!!

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