Great Career “Moves” – Treadmills in the Office Boost Productivity

In the non-stop business world, many employees struggle to find time to exercise.  Yet, some employers encourage physical fitness as a means of boosting the health and productivity of their teams.  A recent study suggests that a new double-tasking combination – exercising while working – might be a good business “move”. 

A recent study found that walking while working might boost productivity, with the added benefit of ameliorating overall employee health.  In the study, 40 employees of a financial services company regularly walked on treadmills, set to go no faster than 2 miles per hour, at their desks rather than chairs.  Headsets, standing desks, running shoes, and a conference room with a pod of treadmills were also available to encourage employees to engage in activity while working.

The result?  The initial findings were not encouraging.  After an initial increase in productivity upon receipt of the treadmills, gains began to decline, which researchers believe represented a period of adjustment as employees learned how to focus on their computer screens while walking or type while standing.  After this period of adjustment, employees’ performance increased again.  All told, treadmills resulted in a “substantial” (10%) increase in productivity.  Similar studies have also found that exercising improved mood and employee relations. 

Will spending $1000-$2000 to equip each workstation at your office in a similar fashion pay-off?  Consider the following.  First, moving creates better workers, especially those whose roles require increased cognition.  Anyone with a stagnant, desk job knows that sitting for long periods can lead to a loss of focus.  On the other hand, physical activity, however slight, causes increased blood flow to the brain.  Also, don’t worry that implementing treadmills in your office may create a literal “hamster on the wheel” atmosphere.  To the contrary, though participation in this study was voluntary, it seemed to create a more active workplace culture.  Workers were permitted to sit all day, but most did opted not to.  Further, the study found an overall positive effect on physical activity, both during and after work.  In the long run, such a culture could result in reduced healthcare costs, fewer sick days, better attendance, and a happier workforce.

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