Standing and Creativityss

We find ourselves deep inside the digital age, spending the majority of our time striving to stay electronically connected to others, plus seeking new ways to make this connection faster.

 

But do these electronic connections make us less productive?! With endless labour saving devices on the market is this digital age making us lazy or even shortening our lifespan?! There is one thing all of these devices have in common and that is the ability to sit down for hours on end whilst continuing to be “productive”. 

Sitting 

Sitting has become the social norm; have a look around you at this very moment and notice how many people are sitting down, including you?! On average we spend around 9 hours sitting every day and believe it or not sitting down for just 6 hours a day increases your risk of dying in the next 15 years by 40% as opposed to someone sitting for just 3 hours a day. The sitting epidemic is dangerously normal and while sitting itself is not a totally negative concept; the hours that are spent sitting per day can damage our productivity significantly.

As a result we have created our own perceptions that sitting is an act of relaxing and standing is associated with work. And therefore, productivity is more of a psychological process than physical generating a mental process of being in the right ‘frame of mind’ to be creative and productive. Sitting is mostly associated with rest and relaxation thereby making it less productive for work when compared to standing; for example, spending large amounts of time gaming, watching TV, using social media and so forth. We do all of these activities whilst sitting while the ‘hard work’ is perceived as being done standing. 

Standing Desk

Interestingly a study from the Texas A&M Health Science Centre School of Public Health (1) suggests that students with standing desks are more attentive than students who sit down to carry out their studies. They found a 12% increase on task engagement in classrooms with standing desks, which as a result evolves to an extra seven minutes per hour of engaged instruction time.

The findings based on 300 children were observed over the course of a school year. Engagement was measured by on-task behaviours such as answering a question, raising a hand or participating in active discussion and off-task behaviours like talking out of turn. They also found as a side note to the study that standing workstations ‘reduce disruptive behavior problems and increase students' attention or academic behavioral engagement by providing students with standing as a different method for completing academic tasks  which breaks up the monotony of seated work’.

The Workplace

From an employee point of view can we do more with our working day to be more creative and productive?! Well, of course work place environments do have their regulations and physical restrictions. But this doesn’t always stop you from taking charge of your own creative mindset. 

For example, the commute is a perfect opportunity to make a few small tweaks to your journey into the workplace that will really expose you to a lot more exercise, time to think, increase of endorphins, develop your social contact and productive mindset. Walking to work will keep you standing for longer during your morning, park further away or get off the bus one stop further away, then walk the rest of your journey. This will allow you to increase your aerobic capacity, feel the fresh air and clear your mind before you start your productive day at the office.

Meetings on the Move

Of course not every employer has or will introduce ‘standing desks’ so it’s down to you to manage this time away from the seat of your pants.  If you have a meetings that are not as formal as most, or you need to just catch up with a colleague or line manager then does it really need to be held at a large desk with way to many chairs to choose from!? “Wellbeing meetings” or “keeping in touch hours” can easily be held on the move. Suggest meeting with your colleagues and walk around the block or to the coffee shop on the other side of premises. Your meetings don’t have to be sedentary, catch up on the go and break up the time you spend sitting down. 

The idea of being more attentive, productive and creative doesn’t have to come at the detriment of our own health and wellbeing. You can get the best from standing while working within your work environment by creating rest intervals. You don’t have time unless you create time! 

Segmenting your work periods into smaller chunks of time allows for you to rest and recovery both physically and mentally. Standing up over various periods throughout the day will increase your blood flow, metabolism as well as your social and professional contact with others. This deliberate standing break can go a long way to enhance your productivity, so make sure you don’t exhaust yourself by working for prolonged hours. Furthermore knowing when to stand and when to sit is important. Sitting for a few minutes away from your workplace does allow you to rest your brain. You will then become more alert and attentive when you return to your job role. Making sure you alternate standing with sitting every once in a while throughout the day will give you optimal chance to stay productive and creative without exhausting mind or causing physical strain and discomfort.  

Tool Up!

A few slight changes to your office environment could be all you need to encourage the increase of your heart rate as well as your productivity. Could you swap your office chair for a large exercise ball for the majority of your day? The stability and core muscles required to do this would not only burn off lunchtime calories in no time but also promote your body and brain to stay alert and focus on the job at hand. Another popular change is adding ankle and wrist weights to your walks in and around work. This again increases your heart rate, your focus and metabolism to a healthy level and importantly gives you the excuse and reason to walk around and use them.

Water in Work

This is an easy one, keep a liter water bottle on you at all times in work. Aim to drink around 2 to 3 liters per day in work, and try and get into the habit that every time you look at your bottle if its empty fill it up and if its full drink some. This way water can be a key part of your day. Oh by the way drinking water not only hydrates you but maintains the balance of body fluids, improves skin, energizes you, stimulates your brain and improves your attention and focus. 

What’s next?

There have been major changes across work places over recent years; these include dramatic changes to open floor plans, large office spaces, ‘break out’ areas, inflatable seating areas, as well as some standing desks backed by scientific research. Online videos even suggest that the future of work place productivity is installing “treadmill desks” that encourages employees to work on a computer or conference while walking. There are of course pros and cons that can be associated with each evolving workplace change but, before we accept them as a more productive, creative or healthy way forward we do need to hold our judgement until we are in receipt of more experience and well-designed research.

Reference

1. Marianela Dornhecker, Jamilia J. Blake, Mark Benden, Hongwei Zhao, Monica Wendel. The effect of stand-biased desks on academic engagement: an exploratory study. International Journal of Health Promotion and Education, 2015; 1 DOI: 10.1080/14635240.2015.1029641