A new study suggests standing during meetings indirectly benefits work performance in organizations where knowledge working is key to productivity. It found that compared with sitting, groups who held meetings standing up were more excited and less territorial about ideas, both of which lead to better elaboration of information, indirectly benefitting group performance.
The study researchers, both from Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, report their findings in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
First author Andrew Knight, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Olin, says:
"Organizations should design office spaces that facilitate nonsedentary work. Our study shows that even a small tweak to a physical space can alter how people work with one another."
He and co-author Markus Baer, associate professor of organizational behavior at Olin, suggest removing chairs could be a low-cost way to redesign office space and tackle the health effects of prolonged sitting. There is growing evidence that sitting for long periods increases risk of chronic diseases.
Researchers wondered how standing affects group working
The researchers became interested in studying the effect of standing versus sitting on productivity because of changes to the workspace that were going on in the university.
Prof. Knight says they were particularly interested because standing desks were being offered
Standing meetings reduce "territoriality" and lead to more information sharing, researchers found.
For their study, they invited participants to work in teams for 30 minutes, to develop and record a recruitment video for the university. The teams worked either in a room with chairs and a table or in a room with no seating.
Performance was assessed in a number of ways. Research assistants who observed the groups rated their teamworking and also the quality of the videos they produced. The researchers also asked the participants themselves to rate how protective their team members were about their ideas in the meeting.
The researchers also measured how excited the participants became during the meeting. This was captured via wearable technology - sensors worn around the wrist - that measures the amount of sweat produced, an indicator of "physiological arousal."
Standing teams were more aroused and produced better work
The results showed that groups that stood for their meetings had more physiological arousal than those who sat. Members of standing groups also reported individuals were less protective about their ideas.
The researchers say this reduces "territoriality" and leads to more information sharing, which accounted for the better quality videos produced by the standing groups, compared with the sitting groups.
Prof. Knight says it was "very exciting" to see how the physical space people work in can affect how they think about their work and how they relate to each other.
He says the study is an example of a small, but growing field of research that uses wearable technology to study organizational behavior:
"We think that the future holds great promise for integrating wearable technology into research; our study is one example of how doing so can enrich a study."
In April 2014, Medical News Today learned how researchers from Stanford University in California also found walking boosts creative thinking. Writing in Science Translational Medicine, they describe how they compared creativity in people while they walked with while they sat and found creative output went up by an average of 60% while walking.
However, the Stanford study also showed that not all thinking is the same. Creative, divergent, brainstorm thinking is different to convergent, focused thinking that requires single, correct answers. For the latter it seems, we are more productive sitting than walking.
Written by Catharine Paddock PhD